Localising your Game for the Arab League
What is the Arab League?
The Arab League consists of the Middle East and African countries. Currently, there are 22 members in the Arab League namely the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Oman, Morrocco, Iraq, Mauritania, Comoros, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain, Algeria, Djibouti, Somalia, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Palestine.
Even though each country has its own culture, they are united by religious beliefs as their political functions, societal norms, education, and economies are influenced and centred around The Islamic religion. For an outsider, it is imperative to understand the importance of Islam in the Arab world.
As of 2019, the combined GDP of the Arab world is USD 2.815 Trillion. Most of us are familiar with the Arabs as being Oil Giants. However, they accord much more to the economy than just that. The Arab Consumer, however different he may seem to be at first glance, has the same demand, if not more as the rest of the world. Even though some parts of the Arab League are facing turmoil, the market is still booming and is highly competitive. Just like India, China and Russia, localization and culturalization are the keys to enter into The Arab market.
Localization of the Arabic Gaming Industry
The gaming industry is currently seeing its boom in the Arab World; many local and international businesses are now catering to the Arab population. The big players of the Arab world such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and UAE have shown an annual projected growth of USD 19 million, USD 25 million, and USD 36 million respectively for their online gaming industries in 2020(Statista). China is still leading in terms of revenue, yet the Arab gaming industry is likely worth somewhere between $1 billion and $2.6 billion, and it is sure to grow in the future.
Another reason is that the majority of their population comprises of youth. Almost 51% of the population is under 21 years, and a further 37% are under the age of 14. Arab, being a relatively conservative region, owing to the heavy influence of religion, the Youth has a scarcity of sources for entertainment. This factor has undoubtedly, delayed the boom of the Gaming Industry, however, contributed to it as well!
According to multiple studies, women play as much as men and are more willing to spend money on games. These Heavy “Spenders” are also known as ‘whales’ in the gaming industry. Whales are the mobile players who spend a minimum of USD 100 per month in in-app purchases. They are the “Gems” of the gaming industry that are frequently targeted for growth and expansion plans.
How to localize your game in Arab?
First of all, you need to keep in mind that the Arabic culture has vastly different values when compared with the west. The same translates into the gaming industry as well.
Many western game developers used to think of the Arab gaming industry as an afterthought and would ship the west version of the games without localizing it.
They coincided with the Islamic values and morals prevalent in the region (Yet another reason as to the delay in the boom of the Gaming Industry). Games that openly portray alcohol, pornographic elements, homosexuality, and violence get banned.
The consumers have found a way around the strict laws, but if one wants to invest, they must alter their content according to the norms of the region.
Challenges encountered on the way:
Arab is a diverse region in terms of the distribution of wealth, population, and an average income that varies from country to country; hence one needs to study the market of every country individually.
The main challenge, however, is the language. Arabic is the prominent language in this region which is written from right to left, unlike English which goes from left to right. If the game developers want to localize the language, they face Great challenge with Alteration of the user interface.
Also, there are multiple dialects of the Arabic language spoken in different countries. The developers have to either cater to every dialect while translating or use the basic Arab language understandable by everyone but lose the proper meaning in the translation to a great extent.
The fails and the wins
God of War (franchise): Banned for a few weeks because of partial nudity and advertisement of sexual themes. The word “God” in the title was also controversial. However, in 2018, the newest game in the series was approved for release.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was also banned for a few weeks as they showed the Middle Eastern as terrorists. Assassin’s Creed and Postal 2 faced a ban for similar reasons.
Games like Witcher Hunt 3, Red Dead Redemption, Manhunt 2, Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni, etc. got banned by because of sexual scenes, the portrayal of homosexuality, and extreme violence.
Whereas FIFA not only translated their game in Arabic but also featured local teams.
Ubisoft is another company that makes games explicitly for the Arab market. They have opened their studio in Abu Dhabi. EA and Sony are also translating their games into the Arabic language or at least providing subtitles.
Most of the games that were initially banned at first to be eventually relaunched after censoring the offensive content.
Game developers, instead of treating Arab as one big nation, will have to conduct research for individually selected target markets of each country. Also, thorough research to figure out the kind of content that is acceptable is needed. The Right-to-Left user interface is also one of the few prime parameters to be considered before launching the Game in the Arab marketplace successfully.
By Pooja Srivastava