Copied Disks & Cracked Games: Gaming in Libya in Early 2000s


Around 18 years ago, I remember myself as a child, as I accompanied my father to a marketplace called "the Friday Souq." It was a weekly held market where anyone could sell anything they have. It was THE place for getting cheap second-hand goods or cheap things in general.

When I accompany my father to that Market, (usually in summer because I wasn't allowed gaming in school days,) I would visit that man who sells PlayStation 1 disks. He has a selection of 10-15 seemingly random games every week, and they cost 1.5LYD each (around $1 at that time.)

This photo is from Egypt, but our Souq looked like this.

Every time I go there I'd pick the game with the cover I like the most, and I won't contain my excitement until I return home and play the game with my brother. Everytime we would get surprised. Because of low expectations since I don't know about the games they mostly were pleasant surprises.

Thinking about it now, 1.5LYD is cheap... Too cheap!

At the time I didn't know how things worked in other countries. I didn't think about the developers and publishers side of the equations. I was just happy I could get a new game to play more than once a month. It was my reward every time I accompany my father and help carry stuff.

Now I know that we were buying illegal copies of the disks.

Official copies of PlayStation disks, weren't imported in Libya. They never did, at least, not in a way I'm aware of.

I also learned recently that original PS1s are region locked systems that include anti-piracy measures. Since our Playstation could run copied disks from any region, it means that all PS1 consoles that were sold in Libya at the time were modified ones. (No wonder we never got Nintendo systems, they were hard to modify.)

But with the prices of the original copies I wonder if people will actually buy the original 'published by sony' games if they were available in my country, especially with alternatives that were 10 times cheaper.

This problem was also apparent with PC. We lived on cracked games and Windows applications. I didn't even questions why we had to apply cracks when we install games and programs. I just thought that a 5LYD disk that contains 3 games or 20 applications was the norm. (That's about $3.3 at the time.)

I was unaware that I got hacked versions, and these games originally costed over $30 and the programs I used might have costed over $100. My (low-)middle class family could never afford some of these programs if they were sold at the original prices.

So, in early 2000s, before the internet was common in my area, I would spend my allowance on games. I played a lot of games that I wouldn't afford if they weren't cheap copied unofficial versions. (Maybe that's why most of my gaming stories were about PS1 games.)

This trend continued with PS2, PC and Xbox 360 until mid 2010s and started to decline once PS4 and Xbox One became common. There were never copied unofficial PS4 disks, so people had to buy the original disks. (For a middle class Libyan family like ours the consoles and games are too expensive but we could save up for them.)

It also helped that publishers started to see the MENA region as a potential market for their games and started to localize more games to arabic. People are also more educated about piracy, so while cracked versions may not dissappear soon, now there are more people seeking the official releases than ever.

But that period of time where I go to the Souq
and buy a Playstation game was a precious part of my childhood!

What do you think?

First image is taken from this Facebook post (found by google.) Second image is taken from this news post.

Comments 8

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31.01.2020 10:28

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31.01.2020 10:42

I find this post fascinating, and not because of the price differences. I find it fascinating because of how you describe the mindset. How cracks were just a part of the process and weren't really questioned. Not blaming you or anything, it's's not a concept that's particularly common or anything for me. So it catches my interest and curiosity.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a trade embargo between the United States and Libya at that time, as well?

01.02.2020 01:26

I'm not sure about the embargo's period so I don't know the answer to that. But the US/Libya relations are bad for a few decades and they're still bad.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a trade embargo between the United States and Libya at that time, as well?

What I'm fascinated with, in regards of cracked disks, they have the images printed on them, which means that they were mass produced somewhere. Not just copied with normal 'blank' CD/DVDs.

01.02.2020 06:39

Which means someone went through the trouble of mass producing illegitimate copies, something that carries significant legal consequences in many parts of the globe.

01.02.2020 12:17

That's what I think too. It's sad...

I wonder if they were never found, or if they operated in a country/region that doesn't have these laws (or it's too much hassle to enforce them there.)

01.02.2020 12:26

It's most likely the latter. Groups that make products like these rely on the fact that they're government is either impotent or doesn't care. We see a similar phenomenon in China. Every now and again, we hear about lead in baby formula or something like it. For all the power the Chinese government wields, they only care about stuff like this when there's a serious problem. They mainly take action at that point just to save face.

01.02.2020 12:39

I wouldn't rule out the possibility that these mass produced illegitimate copies being from China.

01.02.2020 13:53