An Overview of the Middle East's Game Market

Forbes deemed the Middle East as "a new leader in emerging markets," and its growing video game market is just one of its many industries to keep an eye on:

 

$4 billion total revenue.

 

  • The entire MENA region (defined as the Middle East and North Africa), has the highest growth rate globally - 25% year-over-year growth (versus Latin America's 13.9% growth, the Asia Pacific's 9.2% growth, North America's 4% growth and Western Europe's 4.8% growth).
  • Local experts state that the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) is "home to the world's most active gaming community."
  • Gamers in the region accounted for $4 billion of total revenue in 2017 (over $1 billion on game software alone).
  • The MENA region's experts claim that the Middle East & North Africa's potential comes from the fact that "half of the population of nearly 400 million is younger than 25 years of age."
  • Gamers in the Gulf region have large purchasing power, compared to other countries (consisting of Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates).

 

Home to the world's HIGHEST

growth rate - 25%.

 

 

LAI Global Game Services – DFC Intelligence – Video Game Market Infographics – MENA and Turkey

Download LAI Global Game Services & DFC Intelligence's MENA and Turkey infographic for use in professional and student presentations, papers, and articles.

 

Which Countries are Driving MENA's Game Market Growth?

Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkey and Saudi Arabia are the Middle East's top game markets.

  • Turkey accounts for over 60% of the region's game market.
  • In fact, Turkey alone is the 16th largest games market in the world.
  • Following Turkey, Saudi Arabia is the Middle East's largest gaming market. (You can read more about individual countries in our drilldown pages, with more specific facts and data.)

Turkey makes up 60% of

MENA's game market.

 

Why are the UAE & Saudi Arabia Driving MENA's Game Market?

Mobile game penetration rates.

 

The UAE ranks #1 globally for

smartphone penetration rates.

 

The Arab Region's Top Gaming Platforms

 

Mobile has overtaken the market, previously

dominated by console game sales.

 

  • The mobile market is one of the region's largest gaming platforms. (See above.)
  • Online games are also growing exponentially, as the MENA region (and other emerging markets) continue to gain greater internet penetration.
    • As of 2017, the Middle East saw an internet penetration rate of nearly 60%. This number will continue to grow, as it wasn't long ago - back in 2013 - where roughly 40% of the region had internet access.
  • There is a market for eSports in the Middle East, but slower internet speeds make it difficult for local gamers to compete globally - a problem which local companies are working to solve.
  • Console games have long been an important platform in the Middle East and North Africa and, before the rise of mobile, was "the biggest revenue earner" in the MENA region back in 2014.

 

Online games are growing exponentially!

 

Why Should Game Developers Localize into Arabic?

Despite the Middle East's impressive gaming statistics and mobile penetration rates, companies outside the Middle East continue to underestimate the region's potential:
  • By sheer numbers, Arabic is one of the top 5 languages globally.
  • However, few game developers and publishers localize into Arabic.
  • This means, that unlike Western markets, the Arab game market is undersaturated, and gamers are clamoring for more game content in Arabic.
  • By focusing on the Middle East and Turkey, as well as localizing into Arabic and Turkish, South Korean company Netmarble quickly ranked 8th worldwide.

 

Unlike Western markets, MENA's gaming

marketplace is far from saturated.

 

In fact, Google even gave a talk in China in 2017 about how to localize and market mobile games for the MENA region:

 

 

Why Don't AAA Developers Localize for the Middle East?

They do!

 

EA & Ubisoft are targeting

Arab gamers.

 

LAI-Global-Game-Services-Middle-East-Game-Market-Turkey-MENA-Arab-Arabic-Video-Game-Translation-Localization-Naughty-Dog-Uncharted

  • Since 2011, EA localized FIFA games into Arabic (also featuring local teams and leagues) due to the region's massive gaming population and returns seen in the Middle East.
  • Ubisoft also set up its own studio in Abu Dhabi, to focus specifically on the Arabic speaking market.
  • Back in 2013, Assassin's Creed was released in the MENA/MEA region with Arabic subtitles.
  • A few Naughty Dog games in recent years, such as Uncharted 4: A Thief's End/Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, included Arabic voiceover and subtitle options.
  • Swedish-made The Division even got its own Arabic voiceover option, with great care given to the entire localization process. The full article on this process is worth a read!
  • By focusing solely on the Middle East & Turkish game markets, local player Peak Games quickly propeled itself to one of the top mobile gaming companies globally. (This presentation by Peak Games provides an excellent overview of why it's important to narrow your strategy on a market such as the Middle East.)
  • Plus, Dubai's IMG World indoor theme park has a partnership with Ubisoft to showcase the Assassin's Creed, Rabbids and Just Dance brands.
 
LAI-Global-Game-Services-Middle-East-Game-Market-Turkey-MENA-Arab-Arabic-Video-Game-Translation-Localization-Ubisoft-Massive-The-Division
It is taking Western developers longer to see and act on MENA's market potential than local players, but you can expect to see even more game developers & publishers bringing games to the region in the future.

  

LAI's Interview with Lebanese Indie Studio, Game Cooks

Lebnan Nader discusses the video game market in the Middle East & creating culturally-based games. Check out the full interview on our blog!

 

 **Sidebar**

LAI SPECIAL BLOG POST

"Insights Learned from Indie Game Developers in Latin America & the Middle East"

LAI covers an overview of the video game markets in Latin America and the Middle East. (For an in depth look at the video game market in Latin America, read our regional and country-specific pages.)

http://www.lai.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/LAI-Global-Game-Services-Middle-East-Game-Market-MENA-Arabic-Video-Games-Interview

 

LAI PRESENTATION

"Market Opportunity in the Middle East"

Read the full transcript of Game Localization Specialist & Consultant Karin Skoog's presentation at the Arabic Game Jam, which covers topics such as:

  • An introduction to video game translation and localization
  • Cultural game trends and global examples
  • Advantages of creating games for the MENA market
  • Linguistic considerations (Arabic dialects)
  • Picking the right market and creating a game for the Middle East
  • Developing a game for MENA gamers - Embedding culture into your game

 

LAI-Global-Game-Services-Middle-East-Game-Market-MENA-Arabic-Video-Games-Presentation

 

 

LAI EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

MENA Market Discussion with Lebanese-Based Indie Developer

http://www.lai.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/LAI-Global-Game-Services-Middle-East-Game-Market-MENA-Arabic-Video-Games-Interview-Indie-Developer

 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Ubisoft opened the first game studio in the MENA region in Morocco back in 1998! Morocco was seen as an ideal entry point, as it is French-speaking.
  • Massive mobile gaming publisher, Gameloft, has long been localizing "all new games" into Arabic.
  • During 2017, the best performing mobile game in the Arab market was from China (Revenge of Sultans - انتقام السلاطين) but was a fully localized into culturally immersive experience across Arab history, customs and the Arabic language.
  • Chinese game companies are increasingly targeting gamers in the Middle East with their games.

 

We're Looking for Local Experts!

Are you an EXPERT on the MENA region? We're always looking for people to interview for our Global Game Market pages, blog and LocaLAIse This! podcast. Reach out to us - info@lai.com!

 

Top Ways to Reach Gamers in the Middle East (MENA)

 

 

  • Localize into Arabic, Turkish (Turkey) and French (Egypt) - but don't just localize Arabic if you localize. Consider which type of Arabic would be best suited for your game. (LAI's game localization experts can help you with this.)
    • Modern Standard Arabic sounds stiff and formal to Arab gamers. It's mostly used for radio, newspapers and lectures.
    • The Syrian dialect is perceived to be more serious and therefore, well-suited for drama. 
      • Teletubbies was originally dubbed into Syrian Arabic and wasn't well-received until it was changed to classical Arabic.
    • The Egyptian dialect is well-suited for comedy.
      • Law & Order was first dubbed into Egyptian Arabic, to which viewers couldn't take the show seriously.
    • The Lebanese dialect is well-suited for sitcoms.
      • When Law & Order was instead dubbed into Lebanese Arabic, viewers lost interest. It wasn't until Syrian Arabic was used that the show resonated with viewers.
    • Read more about Arabic linguistic variations on LAI's blog.

LAI-Global-Game-Services-Middle-East-Game-Market-Turkey-MENA-Arab-Arabic-Video-Games-Smurfs-Game-Translation-Localization
 

  • Make sure your game is reviewed by local experts.
    • Some game content that conflicts with local beliefs (i.e. alcohol references, sexual scenes, clothing, religious references and some violence) may result in your game not entering the Middle Eastern market. (Featured below is South Korean studio Netmarble's localized game Traveling Millionaire.)

LAI-Global-Game-Services-Middle-East-Game-Market-Turkey-MENA-Arab-Turkey-Arabic-Turkish-Video-Game-Localization-Netmarbles

  • Adapt game art and the UI, so each aspect of your game retains elements that resonate with local gamers. (Read Game Art Internationalization to learn more.)
    • UI localization is especially important in Arabic due to the right-to-left nature of the language. Subsequently, gamers expect buttons to be placed differently than Western gamers do. 
    • In most cases, the UI should be entirely redesigned for game menus in Arabic. (The below image is from EA's Arabic localized, FIFA 2015.)

LAI-Global-Game-Services-Middle-East-Game-Market-Turkey-MENA-Arab-Arabic-Video-Games-FIFA-Game-Localization

  • Work with specialists knowledgeable in regional tastes. (Pictured below is Lumba's Tribal Rivals.)
LAI-Global-Game-Services-Middle-East-Game-Market-Turkey-MENA-Arab-Arabic-Video-Game-Localization-Clash-of-Clans-Tribal-Rivals
  • Focus on local marketing/ad efforts.

 LAI-Global-Game-Services-Middle-East-Game-Market-Turkey-MENA-Arab-Arabic-Video-Game-Localization-Localized-Marketing

 

Key Local Conferences & Events 

 

 

**Start Turkey page**

An Overview of Turkey's Game Market

Turkey is part of the fastest growing region globally - MEA, or MENA (Middle East & North Africa) - currently sees 25% year-over-year growth (compared to Latin America at 13.9% growth, the Asia Pacific at 9.2% growth, North America at just 4% growth and Western Europe at 4.8% growth).

 

Turkey is MENA's largest games market.

 

 

  • Turkey alone makes up 62% of MENA's game market, making it the largest market in the Middle East.
  • Turkish gaming brings in $774 million in total games revenue (as of 2017).
  • Turkey competes on a global scale, ranking as the 16th largest games market worldwide!
  • In 2016, video game sales increased in Turkey by 24%.
  • Anticipated annual growth rate (CAGR) in Turkey is 7.1%.
  • The Turkish gaming market is roughly as large as Spain's!

The Turkish market is roughly

the size of Spain's!

 

Which Gaming Platforms Drive the Turkish Market?

 

Online gaming revenue is on the rise.

 

 

3rd highest ranking globally

for time spent gaming!


How Well Does the Turkish Market Monetize?

  • Don't forget to analyze your monetization model! Turkish gamers are more likely to play free-to-play (F2P) games than their Western counterparts.
  • Globally, Turkey ranks 17th for games revenue.

 

Ranks 17th globally for game revenue.

 

 

Case Study: Localizing for Turkey

South Korean gaming studio Netmarble quickly became one of the largest mobile game studios globally by localizing and focusing on the MENA/Turkish market:

  • Ka-ching! Paramanyu became the "top grossing game in Turkey."
  • Netmarble leveraged unique marketing to advertise the game - creating a fake news story, which eventually made its way onto a local talk show.

 

**Start Saudi Arabia page**

An Overview of Saudi Arabia's Game Market

Saudi Arabia is part of the fastest growing region globally - MEA, or MENA (Middle East & North Africa) - currently sees 25% year-over-year growth (compared to Latin America at 13.9% growth, the Asia Pacific at 9.2% growth, North America at just 4% growth and Western Europe at 4.8% growth).

 

MENA's 2nd largest game market!

 

  • Saudi Arabia is MENA's 2nd largest game market, bringing in over $650 million in 2017. (Saudi's total games revenue brings in nearly as much as Sweden's gaming software - $668 million.)
  • In fact, Saudi Arabia's total games revenue brings in nearly as much as Europe's 6th largest games market's software sales - the Netherlands (at $763 million in software sales).
  • Total games revenue in Saudi Arabia surpasses many of Europe's game software sales, including Belgium ($583 million), Denmark ($396 million), Norway ($361 million), Finland ($336 million), Portugal ($153 million) and Greece ($112 million).

Saudi Arabia game revenue yields as much

as Europe's 6th largest market.

 

Saudi Video Game Spending is High

 

High average revenue per user -

almost as high as China's!


  • Youth in Saudi Arabia have a lot of spare time and "above average disposable income."
  • According to prmominent local MENA player, Peak Games, youth in "oil-rich Arab Gulf countries [such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE] feel they have few entertainment outlets," thus, the average daily revenue per user (ARPU) remains among the world's highest.
  • On average, gamers in Saudi Arabia spend 3 times more than American & European gamers.
  • Saudi Arabia's mobile average revenue per user (ARPU) is high - at nearly $25. This is higher than other key emerging markets (such as Mexico at $18 ARPU, Brazil at nearly $6.50) and almost as high as China's mobile ARPU (nearly $30).
  • Games revenue in the region is expected to increase, with an anticipated annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8% between 2018 and 2022.

 

Saudi gamers spend 3X MORE than

American & European gamers.

 

 

Which Gaming Platforms Drive Saudi Arabia's Market?

 

Ranks 2nd for smartphone penetration.

 

  • Saudi Arabia ranks #2 for smartphone penetration rates, at 76.7% in 2017. (The world's largest gaming market - China - is lagging behind at #26, with 51.7% in 2016.)
  • Saudi Arabia has a better cost-per-install (CPI) rate on iOS than Android ($1.42 vs. $0.54).
  • Women in Saudi Arabia game as much and spend nearly as much as men. Over 50% of women play mobile games multiple times per day, with 68% spending $10 or less a month, 20% between $10 and $49 a month and 9% between $55 and $99 a month on in-app purchases (IAP).
  • Comparatively, Saudi male mobile gamers monetize somewhat better on in-app purchases (IAP), with 50% spending under $10 a month, 25% between $10 and $49 a month and 16% between $50 and $99 a month.

 

29% of Saudi women & 41% of men

spend $10-$99/month on IAP.

 

 

**Start United Arab Emirates (UAE) page**

An Overview of UAE's Game Market

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is part of the fastest growing region globally - MEA, or MENA (Middle East & North Africa) - currently sees 25% year-over-year growth (compared to Latin America at 13.9% growth, the Asia Pacific at 9.2% growth, North America at just 4% growth) and Western Europe at 4.8% growth).

  • The UAE has the 4th largest games revenue in the Middle East.
  • It yields $281 million revenue (as of 2017), which is more than Argentina's $274 million (Latin America's 3rd largest games market, after Mexico and Brazil).
  • Back in 2014, mobile game players in the UAE spent nearly twice as much time playing Candy Crush on a daily basis as they spent on Facebook.

MENA's 4th largest games revenue driver.

 

Video Game Spending in the Gulf Region Remains High!

 

#1 in the world for smartphone penetration!

 

  • According to prominent local MENA player, Peak Games, youth in "oil-rich Arab Gulf countries [such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE] feel they have few entertainment outlets," thus, the average daily revenue per user (ARPU) remains among the world's highest.
  • As of 2017, the UAE ranks #1 in the world for smartphone penetration, at 80.6%. (Comparatively, the United States ranks at #7 in the world, at just 69.3%.)

 

Among the world's highest average daily

revenue per user rates.

 

**Start Egypt page**

An Overview of Egypt's Game Market

Egypt is part of the fastest growing region globally - MEA, or MENA (Middle East & North Africa) - currently sees 25% year-over-year growth (compared to Latin America at 13.9% growth, the Asia Pacific at 9.2% growth, North America at just 4% growth) and Western Europe at 4.8% growth).

  • Egypt has the 5th largest games revenue in the Middle East.
  • It yields $192 million in total revenue (as of 2017).

 

MENA's 5th largest game revenue driver.

 

Which Gaming Platforms Drive Egypt's Market?

  • While the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has the highest smartphone penetration rates, not only in MENA, but in the world (at 82.1%), Egypt isn't far behind, at nearly 70%.
  • Games in retail locations in Egypt generally cost significantly more than in the West, about $80 for a new game. Consoles prices are just as out of hand, sometimes costing twice as much as consoles in the US.

 

High smartphone penetration rates.

 

**Start Iran page**

An Overview of Iran's Game Market

Iran is part of the fastest growing region globally - MEA, or MENA (Middle East & North Africa) - currently sees 25% year-over-year growth (compared to Latin America at 13.9% growth, the Asia Pacific at 9.2% growth, North America at just 4% growth) and Western Europe at 4.8% growth).

 

MENA's 3rd largest games market!

 

  • Iran has the 3rd largest games market in the Middle East.
  • It brings in $431 million in total games revenue (as of 2017), which is larger than many of Europe's game markets, including Denmark ($396 million in software sales), Norway ($361 million), Finland ($336 million), Portugal ($153 million), Greece ($112 million).

 

Total games revenue is larger than

many of Europe's game markets.

 

Which Gaming Platforms Drive Iran's Market?

 

A PC & console market of $170 million.

 

  • Iran's PC & console game market make up nearly $170 million.
  • There are 23 million Iranian PC gamers (out of a population of over 81 million). This is on par with Europe's biggest gaming markets - the UK has 29 million PC gamers and Spain has 23 million.
  • While Saudi Arabian gamers spend 3X more than American & European gamers on average, gamers in Iran are more likely to pay for game downloads (34%, versus Saudi Arabia's 13%).
  • 30% of Iranian mobile gamers pay to download games each month, with 84% playing on Android.
  • Roughly 20% of Iranian game players do pay for in-app purchases (IAP), but this has a low return, due to the country's lower disposable income than other countries in the MENA region. 
    • 60% of Iran's gamers pay under $5 per month, whereas in Saudi Arabia, 29% of women and 41% of men spend $10-$99 per month on IAP.

 

As many PC gamers as Spain,

nearly as many as the UK. 

 

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