A lot of buzz has been generated about the video game market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, since it is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, earning over $100 million in revenue from online gaming alone. According to Newzoo’s 2012 Games Market Revenue Report, the MENA region has the highest compound annual growth rate compared to all other regions in the world, at 21% CAGR, 3 times as high as the global CAGR. The Middle East is considered a "gold rush" for the games industry, currently at an expected annual growth rate of 29%. As in other emerging markets, MENA has one of the largest populations of young people in the world. In addition, internet penetration rates make the region particularly attractive, which is higher than the global average.

 

While internet penetration rates have long been used to describe regions as attractive video game markets, internet growth is even more significant in the analysis of MENA and Turkey, since gaming follows internet growth in the region, described to be “the fastest [growing] in the world,” according to Saudi investment firm N2V.  This is in keeping with the fact that 72% of active internet users in Turkey play video games, according to a study conducted by Newzoo and Global Collect.

 

Since experts cite the MENA/Turkey region as one of the key emerging markets in the world, game developers and publishers have been eyeing this region for some time – Ubisoft opened an office in Abu Dhabi and other global developers make it a point to engage with local game developers at the Dubai World Game Expo, such as Sony, Square Enix, GREE.  According to these local developers, there is significant opportunity in the Middle East/North Africa and Turkey region, as long as games are culturalized for the region.  Chief Executive of Tahadi Games states, “There is [a] lack of Arabic or regionally cultured gaming content.”  This advice is echoed by many key players within MENA and Turkey, as it is the only way to have any hope of accessing the incredible potential of the market outlined below:

 

Enticing Statistics & the Key to Success in MENA and Turkey

The MENA region is reported by many experts to be the leading emerging market for video game consumption in the world.  According to Reuters’ article, “Demographics, local tastes fuel Arab video game industry”:

 

About 60 percent of the 350 million people in the Arab world are younger than 25, with internet penetration in the region at about 70 million users – over 300 percent growth in the last five years, according to numbers from United Arab Emirates-based entrepreneurship research portal Sindibad Business.  Internet penetration is expected to reach 150 million users by 2015, said the portal’s founder Bahjat Homsi.

 

The Middle East and Africa actually monetize better than many other regions, with local player Peak Games stating that Arab Gulf countries have among the world's highest average daily revenue per user. In fact, many youth in the region feel as though they have “few entertainment outlets,” leading them to pour more money into gaming. These statistics served as the key to Peak Games’ success, as the company is one of “the three largest social gaming platforms in the world,” a position achieved in just 1 ½ years due to strategic targeting of gamers in Turkey and the Middle East, North African regions

 

This success wasn’t achieved solely through the use of key languages (such as Arabic and Turkish) but was also achieved through a close understanding of cultural nuances and the creation of games specifically for the market. Such tailored localization is critical for regions like MENA and Turkey, where the success of a game is frequently dependent on making players feel as though the game was made for them. Peak Games’ co-founder, Rina Onur, highlights this point in her statement, “People want to see their national days, their special dishes reflected in these games. People who look like they’re from the region, not just blonde with a cowboy hat.” The necessity of quality localization for the MENA region is discussed by numerous game developers as well. CEO of Jordan-based Taktek Games also cites the importance of not only translation but localization, since the key to success is creating games that are in Arabic and are culturally sensitive. Check out LAI's exclusive interview with Lebnan Nader of Game Cooks, in which he describes the MENA market and pertinent localization considerations:

 

 

Watch the full video on our blog to learn more.

 

As more global video game companies target the MENA/Turkey region, investment is expected to increase in the coming years, fostering significant growth for the Middle East’s game production industry. There is significant demand for games, but right now, only a handful of small developers create games that appeal to the region – integrating distinctly Arab elements that appeal to the Arab world and monetize well.

 

For more information, be sure to check out our article about what makes games in top emerging game markets succeed and where major opportunities reside, in the Gamasutra-featured article, “Insights Learned from Indie Game Developers in Latin America & the Middle East.”  Also be sure to sign up for our e-newsletter to stay on top of the release of LAI’s related language penetration page, describing the market reach of languages central to the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey region.

 

LAI strives to keep game developers and publishers updated on key markets for localization.  If you find any errors or have additional information to add, please let us know at info@lai.com.  You can also stay informed of our new webpages by subscribing to LAI's monthly e-newsletter.  Please check back soon on LAI's Global Game Industry Statistics page as we frequently update our web content to reflect new information and market projections.  Latest page update: July 2014.