DREW VO: Cloth Map came to Brazil with onegoal in mind: to understand the country’s parallel video game universe.
Numerous political and economic conditionsover the decades have resulted in a unique and often challenging environment for thosewho make and enjoy video games.
To help unravel this complex web, we startedin what is perhaps the best physical expression of Brazil’s game industry: a so-called “graymarket, ” in the middle of São Paulo.
André Campos and the crew from Jogabilidade, a video game website based in São Paulo, led us through the hectic streets of SantaIfigênia Market, your one-stop shop for hacked cable TV boxes, bootleg copies of CorelDRAW, and other electronic odds and ends.
I love that there’s cell phones and batteriesover here, and then, immediately, croissants and coffee.
It’s got everything you need! DREW VO: Electronics cost a lot in Brazil, but if you’rewilling to forego things like warranties, you can find lower prices at a place likethis.
ANDRÉ: Yeah, lower here than if you buy atwhat would be a Best Buy or something similar.
But still pretty high.
The PlayStation 4 produced in Brazil cost4000 reais.
DREW: Produced in Brazil?ANDRÉ: Produced in Brazil.
DREW: Not even importing it.
ANDRÉ: Not even.
That was 100% legal.
So, 4000, market retail.
What about at a place like this? ANDRÉ: At a place like this, they would importit and sell.
Like I said, they buy a lot of them, takethem out of the cases, the boxes, so they can fit as much as possible in a container ortruck or something like that.
Bring them over, and you will be able to buythem for 2000 reais or 3000, so that's how I bought mine in early 2014.
The Xbox One and the PS4 are still here, but Nintendo got out like two years ago.
They were saying the market wasn't good andthey simply abandoned Brazil pretty much.
DREW: So would you find a Nintendo Switchat a gray market like this? ANDRÉ: Yes, you would find it like around 1700 reais or something like that.
It's a pretty expensive hobby to have herein Brazil.
Because of that, the PS2 is still pretty strong.
The PS3 and Xbox 360, especially the Xbox360, because it was easier to pirate.
It was leagues ahead of the PS3 in sales becauseof the pirated games.
DREW: Wow, so the prevalence of piracy drovehardware sales.
Since the beginning, since the NES days–sincethe Atari, even–we had a lot of clones of the Atari, a lot of clones of the NES.
That's how video games became popular herein the first place.
Not by importing the real, legal ones butwith the pirated clones and so on.
DREW VO: Brazil’s game-hardware landscapeis a patchwork quilt of clones and officially-licensed hardware that, due to Brazilianlaw, had to be manufactured in Brazil.
This resulted in official, but totally different, consoles than I was used to.
Telling the difference between licensed andunlicensed hardware, however, is something I left to André.
ANDRÉ: A Brazilian Odyssey, manufacturedby Philips, with Brazilian games, Brazilian versions of the games.
So, this would be a Pac-Man clone, it camehere like Come-Come, which means Eat-Eat.
And, for a long while in pop culture, we referredto Pac-Man as Come-Come.
A Master System clone down there, which isprobably a DynaVision.
Turbo Game, around here.
An NES clone that runs only on the smallerJapanese Famicom cartridge.
If you needed to play an American cartridge, you would need to buy an adapter.
There was a lot of confusion back then.
You would buy a magazine that said “Nintendogames, ” but your console didn't say anything about Nintendo.
People were very confusedso they started putting “Compatible with Nintendo.
” DREW VO: For more on Brazil’s game hardware anomalies, we chatted with Gus Lanzetta, who, among many other things, helps run the SHVB, a game preservation project dedicated to Brazilian games.
DREW: So what is this? GUS: This is actually our first locallyproduced game console.
GUS: This is a Telejogo.
So this is a Pong machine.
You have Game or Practice.
This is what channel it's going to transmit over, because it's RF.
Channel three or channel four.
DREW: You've got your nice RF cable here.
GUS: Oh yeah, let me show you that.
It's PAL-M, which is our video standard.
During the dictatorship they didn't want peopleimporting stuff.
They wanted the industry here to thrive.
So they would go “you can't import US equipmentfor your TV station because it's going to be the wrong color standard.
” So manufacturers had to import the stuff, adapt it, and then sell it.
So we have the Telejogo II.
DREW: In what year were these two produced? GUS: The first one is, like, late 70s.
And I think this one is still late 70s.
But they did this well through the 80s.
Oh and this is multi-voltage.
DREW: Hey look at that.
GUS: Because we have different voltages in differentregions of the country here.
So this is prepared for any region.
But then we move ahead in time to the Atari2600.
DREW: Light years.
GUS: Which was licensed by a company calledMilmar here, and they did the Dactar.
Which is this.
DREW: They officially licensed it from Atari? To produce it in Brazil? GUS: Yes.
See this? “Atari is a trademark of Atari Incorporated.
” DREW: Why wouldn't Atari just sell it in Brazil? Sell the Atari in Brazil? GUS: Since we were going through a time, itwas a military dictatorship, it was a very protectionist economy, you know, they wantedthe industry here to thrive.
I guess it was similar to what Korea wentthrough, where you couldn't really sell imported electronics.
You needed to have a local representative, so you had JVC and other companies like that manufacturing the Saturn in Korea in the 90s.
So I think it's kind of like that.
DREW: They licensed it to another company.
GUS: Yeah, to a Brazilian company.
DREW: Gave them the technology, basically, to then produce in Brazil and be able to sell it.
GUS: And sometimes they would import the boards, completely ready, just done, and they would make the carcasses and stuff like that.
That still happens now.
The PS4 kind of started out that way, andI think it still is that way.
But yeah, it helps you get around some taxstuff.
Just assembling it here was already– DREW: So you can say “Made in Brazil.
”GUS: Made in Brazil, yeah.
GUS: This was our Atari joystick.
DREW: It looks more like a flight stick, whichis way cooler.
GUS: It's way more.
it fits your handbetter.
It's kinda like a copy of the VCS.
DREW: It looks very similar.
And because it's licensed Atari hardware, Atari games will work on this? GUS: Yeah.
We have, like I showed you, a cartridge righthere.
DREW: Yeah, this is amazing.
GUS: This was a regular box.
You can find a lot of Atari games with thislogo.
DREW: Just in case there was any confusion.
GUS: It's a “cartridge with advanced technology.
” DREW: Oh! That's cool.
GUS: And you see.
DREW: That's very advanced.
GUS: That is very advanced, because you havefour games.
So like this you have game one, then gametwo is like this, and then game three is this, and game four is like that.
DREW: Got it.
Are these again, officially licensed? And sold by Dactar? GUS: Yeah.
GUS: They were.
Because, since Atari didn't publish all of thesegames, they didn't care.
And even stuff like Gradiente, which wouldlater license the NES to bring it over, they had their own NES clones and they would bringover games without licensing them.
So it was a lot of shady stuff happening backthen, just to get games here.
Tectoy, which is the company that brings overSega stuff to this day—old Sega stuff, not like 360 games—they were formed by peoplethat Gradiente had made a division to go research games, see if we can bring gamesover here.
So they traveled, they made contacts, theyfigured out the industry and they were like, “we can make a lot more money if we justmake our own company.
” So they left Gradiente and opened up Tectoyand then they were like “we have a company now, you should license stuff to us.
” So they brought Sega over and then peoplewere trying to bring over Nintendo and that took a while.
I think Nintendo was harder to convince to“oh, let us make cartridges here, let us assemble NESs and SNESs here.
” They're a more protective company I guessthan Sega was, and that probably made them take a while to come here.
DREW VO: Back at Santa Ifigênia, Sega’shead start was clearly visible in the sheer volume of games on shelves.
Another contributing factor was the effortTectoy made to appeal to its Brazilian audience.
As with this game, that stars a cartoon characterpopular in Brazil.
ANDRÉ: Chapolim vs.
It's based on a game called “Ghost House, ”so it's a re-skin of the Ghost House game.
RAFAEL: That's the reason why Chapolim isfighting Dracula.
Makes a lot of sense.
They probably had a lot of sprites for monsters.
RAFAEL: On the back, it’s in red text: “Textin Portuguese.
” This is a very, very rare thing in the past.
ANDRÉ: Yes, a nice selling point to have.
DREW VO: Some games were even downconverted for compatibility on the more prevalent olderconsoles.
ANDRÉ: So you probably guessed that MortalKombat and Street Fighter were only for the SNES, Genesis.
Here's a cartridge for both of them for theNES, which is pretty special.
Produced in and sold only around here.
So, they are pretty rare items.
DREW VO: Many other, less official gamesflourished here too.
RAFAEL: It’s a mod of Speedy Gonzales, forSuper Nintendo.
RAFAEL: And you save Mario.
ANDRÉ: Terrible game, but really funny.
DREW VO: But, as Gus explained, gray areaswere just part of business as usual.
GUS: If you went to Santa Ifigênia, I cantell you a lot about that, because when I was a teenager I started out working for theChinese-mafia-owned places that sell pirated games.
We used to do a lot of shady things.
We knew when the cops were going to raid theplace.
They would tip us off.
It was usually on Mondays.
DREW: Who would tip you off? GUS: Someone would tip off our bosses, our bosses would tell us.
DREW: Through the grapevine.
So what would happen is.
pirated disks arecheap, it was just DVD-Rs, but consoles are not.
Usually raids would happen on Monday, so Sundaynight we would pack backpacks full of PS2s—this was like in '04—and pack them full and goto cars in the parking garage and just hide them in the trunk.
Because when you have a search and apprehensionwarrant for a mall, it covers all stores, it doesn't cover cars in a parking garage.
DREW: That's news you can use from Cloth Map.
DREW VO: But that’s the kind of, shall wesay, ingenuity to be expected with a population of die-hard video game fans.
Like this guy, who runs a store called SuperAnos 80, and was very eager to show off his substantial collection.
ANDRÉ: You would plug this into an Atari anddownload games via the telephone.
DREW: What?! In the 80s? ANDRÉ: In the 80s.
DREW VO: The store is a celebration of gamenostalgia, right down to this room which recreates the “demo area” of your average rentalstore.
Back at Gus’ place, I got some hands-ontime with another nostalgia bomb: a Master System with dozens of built-in games.
DREW: Oh yeah.
SNES Classic, eat your heart out.
GUS: Yeah, well, don’t, because… DREW: [laughing] Maybe not.
GUS: Maybe not, yeah.
DREW: So no cartridge slot, because it's gotall the games you need.
They started doing that with the Genesis eventually.
This is one of the first models that didn'thave a cartridge port.
Because it was just an expensivepiece and most people weren't buying cartridges anyway.
And so this is the next-to-last cartridge they ever produced.
So this is our version of “Who Wants to bea Millionaire”.
DREW: Do you know what year? GUS: This was probably 2001.
DREW: 2001 they made a Mega Drive cartridge?! GUS: You're gonna like this.
This has Need For Speed: Pro Street, Genesisversion.
This is way later.
This is '09, I think.
DREW: And when you say “versions” of thosegames are those… are they hacks? Are they unofficial ports? GUS: No, they're official, licensed by EAand from what I can gather—there's not a lot of information—but from what I've playedof it, it looks like just ports of mobile versions.
DREW: And those games in theory, if made ona cartridge would run on a Genesis, or a Mega Drive? GUS: Yes.
The main game on that wouldn't, because ituses an extra sound chip, because it's a Guitar Hero for Genesis and it has actual vocalson it.
DREW VO: Oh yes.
[All Star by Smash Mouth plays] DREW: What’s “cheers?” GUS: “Saúde.
” PEDRO: It means “health.
” ALL: Saúde! DREW VO: Brazil’s game situation is complex, and we had barely scratched the surface.
But you don’t have to understand it allto enjoy wandering through a place like this.
This is only the first of Cloth Map’s Brazilfeatures.
Stay tuned over the coming weeks for a lookat game fandom in Brazil, what it’s like to make games here, and a journey into whatsome consider one of the most dangerous places in South America.
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[My Heart Will Go On on saxophone] JOEY: What a funny song for that duo to learn together.
DREW: I know!.