Developing Countries, A Growing Market In Gaming That Needs Language Services


Developers based out of Middle Eastern countries, such as Semaphore, show that the appeal of video games is a global one. Image: Semaphore

For anyone who has been exposed to the video game industry for a long enough time, there are probably at least a few assumptions that people have about exactly who plays video games. Beyond just the typical qualifiers that would pop into one’s head—such as age-ranges and gender identification—most people likely have some notions as to where people who play video games are from.

Major markets for the video game industry—and by extension: significant populations of consumers—are found in  western regions such as North America and Europe, and in eastern regions as well like China, Japan, and South Korea. While such major markets are indicative of where the bulk of people who play video games can be found, it would be foolish to think that the breakout industry is somehow restricted to those regions. These regions, while they may not have the sales numbers to match those of the major markets, still have sizable populations of people who love video gaming just as much as the rest of the world.

Not only are these demographics of people no less passionate about video gaming than the populations of other regions with larger cultures around the industry, it could stand to be reasoned that these demographics are in fact more passionate. Because they are not a part of the major markets, there are simultaneously less games that are being marketed toward them and less games that are adapted for them. These are not audiences that the video game industry at large caters to; more often than not, these regions tend to be overlooked as consumers in favor of the more firmly established markets. While this approach does make financial sense in the short-term—a bigger market equates to more potential sales, and thus, more revenue—but it is damaging to the industry as a whole in the long run.

Think for a moment about the variety of games that have been available to you in your native language. Now think about all of the different languages that are offered as alternatives for those games, subtitles or otherwise. The usual candidates for these translation efforts (at least in the western releases) are languages such as Spanish, German, English, French, and the like. While those languages together cast a rather wide net, they do not manage to reach everyone; in particular, a region that is severely underrepresented in this regard is the Middle East. Developers providing translations to Arabic is by no means a common occurrence, and sadly in means that people in the region are unable to experience many games in their native language.

Some people may disagree with the proposition that North American and European released games should include translations to Arabic because of the difference in cultures. The culture of the Middle East is significantly different from the west, and therefore the argument would be that a mere translation would not be enough of an effort to provide consumers in the Middle East with a complete experience of the games that they play. While this is indeed a fair point, it only serves to reinforce another idea: that game developers should have teams to localize their titles for Middle Eastern audiences.

The thought that differing cultures can interfere with one’s experience and/or enjoyment of a game is by no means new. It is this very thought that began the practice of localizing games for audiences in foreign countries in the first place. Localization is fairly common practice between eastern and western markets, so it’s obvious that publishers see the value in it. While the markets in regions such as the Middle East are smaller increase in global attention and effort would likely work wonders for that issue.

So long as there is both the interest in a project and the means to purchase the title, sales will be made. But it can’t be expected that large audiences in the Middle East will be interested at all if no effort is made to reach them. The Middle East, and other regions like it, are markets that have yet to achieve their full potential, but the industry needs to be willing to take the initiative if that potential will ever be reached.