The new year brought the news that the world’s premier video-on-demand platform, Netflix, had arrived in Nigeria as part of a global roll out that reached a reported 130 countries.
Previously, if you wanted to watch Netflix in Nigeria, or indeed any of the other countries outside of Netflix’s reach, you’d have to get a VPN to fool Netflix into thinking you were in one of the Netflix countries (preferably the USA since that had the widest selection) and then sign up and pay for it.
I personally had been signed up to Netflix for a year with no problems beyond actually having the time to use it, but there was always the fear that the VPN might get blocked. There was also the fact that for the non-techies amongst us, having to fiddle around with settings and VPNs to be able to watch Netflix could be off-putting.
Given that I was already a pretty happy Netflix user, I was pretty indifferent to the news. Also the rumours that we wouldn’t get a lot of the shows that I already could see with my Netflix US account added to my apathy. However, I got to thinking, and I started to feel that if this expansion went well, could it lead to the likes of Sony and Microsoft expanding their networks into Nigeria.
When I first signed up on Sony’s PlayStation Network in 2010, I lived in the UK so I signed up for a UK-based PlayStation account. Having an account requires you to have an address in the country your account is based in. When I moved back to Nigeria in 2011, I soon realised that things wouldn’t be that easy. I have never been able to use my UK card on the PlayStation store from Nigeria, although funding it through PayPal works quite well. Again, I benefitted because I’d had a UK PayPal account from my time there so your mileage may vary if you try to use your Nigeria PayPal.
The other option for funding my account was to purchase prepaid cards with the required amount of credit. Either way, it wasn’t the most convenient thing in the world and something that I only did once in a while. I have funded my PlayStation account maybe two or three times a year since I moved back.
To be fair, compared to Netflix, PlayStation has been pretty liberal about people accessing the network from different geographical regions. Without the aforementioned VPN, Netflix wouldn’t even let me access the home page of their site. Sony have never restricted my access, and the only issue has been funding my account with a card.
A lot of us probably wouldn’t have cared about funding the account, at least until online gameplay required mandatory signing-up for PlayStation Plus (Sony’s premium online service) for PlayStation 4 games. Even then, a lot of people don’t play online, and some might even prefer to be offline as the moment their modded console connects to the internet, it will probably be banned faster than you can die in Dark Souls. However, with a lot of games being released being digital indie games without physical copies and rumours that even the big publishers are considering a digital future to starve the used-games market, gamers in Nigeria might be forced to figure out how to buy their games online (and let’s not even talk about the difficulty of getting a good ISP, or decent download speed).
As it is now, it’s probably not a big deal, but it would be nice to have games and content denominated in Naira (ok maybe not at the moment!) or have our cards accepted. It would be nice to feel part of the conversation and part of the community or to have our own special sales at Independence or Democracy or even Children’s days or have content tailored specifically to us. It would be nice if the indie gaming revolution could sweep along local developers and publishers allowing them to easily submit their games for approval to Sony and Microsoft. It would even be lovely to have our own servers instead of having to connect to the US, UK or South Africa to play online.
It might be a bit of a stretch to assume that Netflix’s success or even failure here will change a lot for us as gamers, but digital content and distribution is the next bastion and I can’t help but feel that if Netflix is successful other digital platforms might want a piece of the action.