In the video game industry—or just about any industry, really—the only aspect that can be more vital to how well a product sells than the quality of the product itself is how said product is marketed. But the indicators of a successful marketing campaign are not quite as simple as crafting advertisements, at least, not if a project has any desire to succeed abroad rather than just domestically.
When considering how to maximize the success of a title, the option of attempting to translate and localize the game for other regions is by far the one that has the highest ceiling for pay-off. The reason for this is because of sheer number of people that can be introduced to a game that they may have had no clue even existed otherwise, and an opportunity such as this is not one that should be brushed away so easily.
Localization, however, is inherently a case-by-case process; localizing a game for release in North America is an entirely different project than localizing the same game in China, and it will almost certainly require an entirely different team of specialists to handle. Some regions are much more established than others in the video game industry, however, and as such, there are certain markets that don’t receive nearly as much attention. The Middle East is one such region.
Because of its relative lack of exposure to the industry, the Middle East and other Arabic-speaking nations are a market of buyers that has been left largely untapped by publishers. But while that fact alone would make one scratch their head as to why publishers haven’t made more of an active effort toward bringing titles to this new audience, there are reasons why the Middle East remains as a largely untapped market.
One such reason that could deter people from deciding to invest in order to bring their games to this new market is because of the high rate of piracy in the region. To be fair, it’s not as though other regions have a spotless record when it comes to pirating games; on the contrary, it’s actually quite self-evident that people everywhere illegally download media, whether it’s video games, music, or television shows.
With that thought in mind, it seems somewhat strange that there have been rather few attempts to localize games for this market; granted, the prospect of so many copies of any given game being pirated rather than being bought is a discouraging one, but since piracy is present in every region, that explanation alone feels a bit weak.
Another worry that needs to be accounted for is the negative reactions that any localized games may provoke. In Iran, digital media is subject to the control of the state, and they possess the power to censor anything that they feel does not promote the values that they want their constituents to hold. The threat of having a game banned from an area entirely is legitimate reason enough to not bother with a localization.
Yet another reason though is that since Arabic-speaking countries are much less established in the video game industry, the resources that are available to achieve a localization with are much shallower than they are in other regions. For instance, since there are few games developed specifically for Arabic-speaking audiences, there are less people in the industry who are able to translate to Arabic from any given language. For the same reasons, the talent pool for Arabic voice actors is much smaller than it is for most other widely spoken languages.
There aren’t terribly many localization teams that work to bring games to Arabic audiences either, but one such team is Red Stallion Interactive.
There are definitely hurdles that hinder the growth of the industry in this region, but the rewards for achieving success in this market would be very profitable indeed.