If we believe business technology analysts Gartner and Ovum, it would certainly seem so: the former has recently predicted that mobile gaming will grow from 15% of mobile users in 2010 to 20% in 2015[i], while the latter has concluded that the video game market is set to grow to $3.2 billion USD by 2016 in the Middle East and African regions alone.
If Arabic video game developers lack resources when it comes to money, technology and marketing, then their main rivals in the West and Asia are quick to offer support.
Many Arabic video games are based on card games or historical adventures that differentiate themselves by having storylines or sceneries that are distinctly styled to Arabic culture. This shows that there’s no intention to compete directly with the high-budget, elaborate games produced in Western countries.
While ’first-person shooter’ games from the West – such as Halo – are certainly popular in the Arabic world, there is also a large demand for games with local characteristics. It would also appear that online Arabic gamers try to reach out to other gamers worldwide, with the intention of having their products change stereotypes about their region.[ii]
If we look at this in a little more detail, we can now visualize Middle-Eastern countries and cities more and more in different games; from Dubai (Spec Ops) to Egyptian sceneries (Call of Duty 2).[iii] Some producers transform these landscapes into a virtual world, removing any detail which is too close to reality, while others make them as real as possible, immersing the gamer in real-life settings, adding a sense of authenticity. This shows that Western game developers are taking an increasing interest in the Arab world.
Mail.ru, the largest Internet company in the Russian-speaking world, and Game Power 7, the leading online games publisher in the Arab world, unveiled Arabic Allods in June of 2012. This is the first AAA (a reference to its large budget and also implying its high quality) massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) designed specifically for Arabic gamers.
Fadi Mujahid, CEO and Co-Founder of Game Power 7, said of the release, “Arab gamers have proved their passion for good online games, and it is about time to get an AAA title for them. We are confident that Arabic Allods will have a major impact on the overall online games industry in the Arab territory”.[iv]
The game features classic fantasy MMORPG gameplay, but also full integration with major social networks including Facebook and Twitter.
Social game producers also seem as happy as ever; one of the largest, Zynga, has reached over 3 million ’Likes’ on Facebook, breaking records with 7 games in the list of the 10 best games in terms of Daily Active Users (DAU).
The two biggest gains belong to Zynga’s newly-launched ChefVille and THX Games’ Arabic-language trivia game Saif Almarifa, which appears 16th in the Top 20, with 280,000 monthly active users (MAU). ChefVille took in 19% MAU (just about Facebook 100,000 players), while Saif Almarifa won 17% DAU (40,000 users).[v]
Thanks to these extremely encouraging numbers, Zynga has just announced its second version of FarmVille and with it, their first game localized into Arabic. Since Zynga accounts for 12% of the social network’s revenue, with The Ville and Bubble Safari some of its most famous games, it’s no wonder that they want to atone for neglecting such a valuable market. And who could possibly oppose that?
Stéphanie Deweer, Localization Project Manager
About MO Group International
MO Group International’s team of community managers, translators and localization experts have comprehensive experience in working with a range of games from casual social games to MMORPGs. Our stringent Quality Assurance policy ensures that you end up with a product tailored to your specific audience, both in terms of linguistic vocabulary and cultural particularities. Contact us today to get a free game localization quote and to learn how we can help you access those burgeoning new markets.