The Importance of Game Cosmetics in the MENA

The Importance of Game Cosmetics in the MENA
May 23, 2019 David Mel

Game cosmetics make up an enormous part of the industry. In the past few years, we witnessed how companies with free-to-play games scored billions of dollars just through selling game cosmetics.

This freemium model is proving more profitable than the old premium/paid games we were used to in the past. We can feel some sort of shift towards this type of games.

Warframe by Digital Extremes was met with great acclaim for both the game itself and its purchasable content. Even Electronic Arts (EA), a company that was – and still is – facing huge backlash because of micro transactions (most downvoted comment in Reddit history, anyone?), came out with its new, redeeming, free-to-play battle royale Apex Legends, garnering favorable reviews from game critics and players alike.

And Fortnite, no explanation needed. We don’t want to stray too much off topic here, so in short, game cosmetics are amazing compliments to video games that are loved and celebrated by fans all over when done right.

The MENA region is no different from the rest of the world. Arab gamers boast and brag about a hero or a weapon they recently bought, Arabic forums and social media pages explode with people commenting their admiration for or resentment towards a new skin whenever Epic Games or Riot Games graces us with one, and let’s not even mention all the fuss and excitement that accompany new emotes and voice lines.

So why do Arab gamers like to buy game cosmetics? Well, first and foremost, because cosmetics give the player a feeling of uniqueness and singularity.

In many games, most characters basically have a uniform that they wear. For players, this feeling of “you’re just another invisible player amongst hundreds of thousands just like you” becomes more and more tiresome over time.

Every person likes to distinguish themselves from the rest, that’s just something in our nature, and the way to accomplish that in video games is through cosmetics and customizations for the characters we play.

When it comes to Arabs, these guys and gals just love to show how different and distinct they are, if not with their clothes in real life, then with their ideas and activities. This desire can easily transfer into in-game cosmetics.

Other than the exclusivity they give to players, cosmetics keeps the game itself new and fresh. Few games can survive on the same design they’ve chosen two or three years ago. So, even if your gameplay is very entertaining and engaging, you might still lose some of your players simply because they felt visually bored more than anything else.

Keeping cosmetics coming to your game makes players feel that they’re playing a newer version of the game, and it gives them something to stick around for. New cosmetics also mean that the developers still care about the game and are continuously putting time and effort into it.

Besides all of these “practical” reasons, let’s not forget that cosmetics, most cosmetics that is, are simply beautiful. Who among us has never bought a skin for a character they rarely play simply because it looked amazing? Game cosmetics are as much art as any other fashionable clothes people like to wear and show off.

Now, let’s talk about localized game cosmetics. In our experience with VIP Baloot, a mobile game we published in Arabic, we witnessed a huge increase in cosmetics purchases when we added a cosmetics store that had localized cosmetics to the game.

We first asked our users if they would want that. And although the results came a bit too close to our liking (60% wanted cosmetics while 40% didn’t), we decided to go with it, and it proved to be a great business decision.

We added localized backgrounds, cards, emojis, and phrases to the store, and we even had let our users participate in what cosmetics to have. This outside-in design method reaped great benefits as our brand loyalty increased with our users.

So cosmetics in general constitute a great part of the video games industry, and their popularity in the MENA region cannot be overestimated. There’s a big and relatively fresh market here that has a lot to give and much to consume, but those who don’t tap into it soon might loose a lot.