November 10, 2016

Why the Arabic market is your next target

Video games have been a huge deal in the Middle East, since the release of the first Sony PlayStation console; the region’s gaming culture has been on the rise. Over the last five years, with the introduction of mobile gaming, the market has changed dramatically.

Users are requesting more and more games localized and culturally relevant to the region however, supply is low. The biggest problem the Middle East’s market faces is how underserved it is. There are over 60 million users in the region and less than one percent of games on the App Store and Google Play are in Arabic. According to Strategy&, the mobile games market in the region is expected to triple in size by 2020 and 60 percent of Arab users prefer Arabic content.

Arabic is also the fourth biggest language in the world with more than 400 million Arabic speakers worldwide and only 1% of games on the App Store are in Arabic.

In 2016, user penetration rates in the industry reached 21.4 percent and are expected to grow by more than 28.8 percent by 2021. Even though online PC games are still very popular, they are not expected to grow as much as mobile gaming.

To enter this untapped and up and coming market there are 4 steps to keep in mind:

  • Localization

Localization is crucial! Arabs love playing games that are relevant to their own culture, beliefs and traditions. Users search and crave for games that are in Arabic and culturally relevant to their region. Even when it comes to advertising, developers and studios should keep in mind that user in the MENA region won’t tap on an ad that isn’t in relevant to their culture and interests.

  • Language

Language is a fundamental key when developing mobile games for region. Arabs love playing games in Arabic and they always look for such content.

The Moron Test, a game created by DistinctDev in 2009, was a huge successful game in Europe and the US and after its release it topped charts and broke record. However, the game was never on the top 50 games in the MENA region.

Localizing the game, translating into Arabic and making it culturally relevant, made the game extremely successful in the MENA region. It topped charts and achieved more than 2.3 million downloads.

  • Utilizing Social Media

The Arab region also has very high local birth rates with the bigger percent being young adults, which has led to very high smartphone and social media penetration rates.

The region has one of the highest numbers of social media users in the world therefore; using social media channels such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter are vital to boost a game.

  • Find the perfect publisher

Many studios and developers don’t have the funds or the talent to localize games for the region. The expert knowledge needed to make a game successful can only come from a well-established publisher in the region.

Transylgamia, a Romania based studio, released a game called Getaway Driver which was nowhere to be found on the MENA App Store charts. However, after working an Arabic publisher, the game topped charts, received a full feature from Apple and was downloaded more than 300,000 times during its first week.

As the industry grows with very high demand for Arabic content, the possibilities to grow and monetize are endless. Arabic games have to shown to be very successful, top charts and bring in revenues. Localization and making a game culturally relevant is that edge needed to attract Arab games to downloading game, purchasing in app and keep users constantly engaged

Article By Jawanna Sawalha
Game Developer

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