Game Markets in the Middle East: Opportunities and Challenges
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Game Markets in the Middle East: Opportunities and Challenges Mahmoud Khasawneh – CEO Quirkat Oded Sharon – CEO Corbomite Games. Mahmoud Ali Khasawneh. CEO IGDA Middle East Chapter Leader

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Game Markets in the Middle East: Opportunities and Challenges

Mahmoud Khasawneh – CEO Quirkat

Oded Sharon – CEO Corbomite Games

Mahmoud ali khasawneh
Mahmoud Ali Khasawneh Challenges

  • CEO

  • IGDA Middle East Chapter Leader

  • 20+ years of industry experience, formerly CIO Government of Jordan and Director of E-Government Programme

  • 6+ years of Middle East games industry experience.

Oded Sharon Challenges

  • CEO of Corbomite Games

  • 12 Years of experience as Game Developer

  • Adventure and Action-Adventure games, 

    Casual and mobile Games, and songs for Rock Band.

  • IGDA Chapter coordinator Israel (GameIS)

  • Too many hobbies.

Region and demographics
Region and Demographics Challenges

  • Region spans 22 Arab countries and Israel

  • One of the fastest growing markets

  • Mostly overlooked by game developers and publishers

Arab market overview

Mahmoud Ali Khasawneh Challenges

Arab Market Overview

The arabic speaking middle east
The Arabic Speaking Middle East Challenges

  • Population approaching 400M

  • 75M+ internet users

  • ~40 million mobile phones sold (3rd quarter 2010) (source: Gartner)

    • 214,886,500 mobile subscriptions

    • 200% penetration in richer GCC states

  • More than 180M people under the age of 25

Video game market data
Video Game Market Data Challenges

  • Market size ~$1 billion (various sources)

  • users - 15% of globaltraffic(October 2010)

  • KSA: 63% of internet users play online games(source: Arab Advisors Group)

Platforms Challenges


Game titles sold

Piracy Challenges

  • Estimated by the BSA at 59%

  • Same title on PS3 will outsell XBOX360 version at 7:1 ratio (source: Red Entertainment)

  • Online authentication, subscription, ‘always online’ & other DRM solutions

  • Pirates vs. Piracy Consumers?

Localization efforts to date
Localization Efforts to Date Challenges

  • Sony: Wall-E, Start the Party, This is Football

  • Asian MMO’s in the Middle East

    • Rushed translations

    • Bandwidth optimization issues

    • Storyline & artistic relevance & acceptability

    • RESULT: Short term success

  • ‘Partnerships’ for effective market entry

More localization efforts
More ChallengesLocalization Efforts

  • Arabian Lords - PC

    • Strategy/City builder – language intensive

    • Collaboration between Quirkat and US-based Breakaway Games

    • Topped regional charts

  • Basha – Sony PSP

    • First Arab PSP games

    • Popular card games

Tackling the arabic speaking market regional sensibilities
Tackling the Arabic Speaking Market – Regional Sensibilities

  • 50% of internet searches for Islamic content

    • Other 50% is for provocative video clips

    • online games > pornography, says Google

Tackling the arabic speaking market regional sensibilities1
Tackling the Arabic Speaking Market – Regional Sensibilities

  • Hand of God – Mythic Palace

  • Little Big Planet misunderstanding

  • Censorship patterns

Tackling the arabic speaking market content relevance
Tackling the Arabic Speaking Market – SensibilitiesContent Relevance

  • Besides suitability, localization for the region heavily depends on relevance

    • Thanksgiving, Halloween and other holidays

    • Diners

    • Music and visual pop culture

    • Cinemas and movie tie-ins

Tackling the arabic speaking market technical and linguistic considerations
Tackling Sensibilitiesthe Arabic Speaking Market – Technical and Linguistic Considerations

  • Unicode / UTF8

  • UI space allocation for translated assets – lessons from Arabian Lords

  • Similarly, audio lengths, in-game video, timing, lip synching

  • Many dialects vs. classical/spoken Arabic

    • No references

Tackling the arabic speaking market payment and monetization
Tackling the Arabic Speaking Market – SensibilitiesPayment and Monetization

  • Credit cards not prevalent, cash oriented society

  • Regional prepaid payment card solutions

    • International games developers/aggregators need to integrate these solutions

  • Example: $40M annual revenue from games on OneCard

  • Mobile payment still exists, but not sustainable

Localization vs made for mideast
Localization Vs. Made-for-MidEast Sensibilities

  • Local Content vs. Local Delivery

    • Localization, Arabization, Culturalization??

  • A well made title will perform if, you can ‘kick it, drive it or shoot it.’

  • RPG titles underperform hugely compared to the West

    • This is 100% because of the language barrier

  • We chose first Arabic title to be language intensive, strategy, to prove the point

Regional game dev scene
Regional Game Dev Scene Sensibilities

  • IGDA Middle East

  • Dev hubs

    • Jordan

    • UAE

    • KSA

    • Egypt

    • Lebanon

    • Morocco

Regional opportunities
Regional Opportunities Sensibilities

  • Region-wide IP game opportunities for development

  • Exponential growth in Internet user base and online usage

  • Exponential growth of console market and game success potential.

  • Expanding regional online payment methods

Regional challenges
Regional Challenges Sensibilities

  • Internet penetration at homes/ internet cafes

  • Regional investors don’t understand the industry

  • Acceptability of content – religion + culture

  • Piracy

  • Payment methods

  • Talent pool

Israel market overview

Oded Sharon Sensibilities

Israel Market Overview

Israel General Sensibilities

Photo by Ron Shoshani

Israel - General Sensibilities

  • Population: 7,635,600

Primary Languages:


20% Arab

75% Jewish


Secondary Languages:

English (Taught as secondary)

Russian (20% population)

Israel - General Sensibilities

  • High tech oasis

  • Highest number of start-ups per capita in the world

  • Lots of early innovators and entrepreneurs.

  • Most US VC's have branches in Israel.

  • "A computer for every child" 1995 initiative.

  • Israeli game industry Sensibilities

    • (Photos by and thanks to Nir Miretzky)

    Israeli Game Industry Sensibilities

    • IGDA Chapter formed in 2000

    • 850 member in Facebook group "GameIS“

    • 3 large conferences with 200-500 participants.

    • Monthly social gathering and chapter meetings.

    Israeli Game Industry Sensibilities

    • Birthplace of the technology behind Kinect , 

      • home of almost a dozen motion game companies.

    • Two major local retailer distributors/publishers:

    • Hed-Artzi/NMC , Atari Israel

    The Israeli gamer Sensibilities

    The Israeli gamer profile Sensibilities


    Similar to European (mostly UK) and US gamer.





    The Israeli gamer profile Sensibilities

    Console Availably (Hardcore):



    No official retailer

    The Israeli gamer profile Sensibilities

    Handheld / Mobile Availably (casual):



    The PC Israeli gamer profile Sensibilities

    Online games (WoW)  

    Facebook (Farmville)

    Lots of piracy

    • According to Atari Israel - All annual retail game sales: $400K-500K

    • For single full price titles, average $20K per single title.

    Israel - sites, blogs, and marketing Sensibilities

    (full list at :

    Vgames 2009 visitors survey Sensibilities

    (22k people surveyed)






    <12 13-17 18-24 25-34 >35



    Playing online games Articles Game Forums


    Localization to Hebrew Sensibilities

    • Lots of local Hebrew content: TV, Media, books.

    • Non-Israeli books are translated to Hebrew.

    • Movies and TV are subtitled, not dubbed.

    • Games in Israel are played in English.

    • Most Israeli can understand English well.

    Challenges in Translation to Hebrew: Sensibilities

    • Right to left

    • Missing or incompatible words

    • Double meanings

    • Phrases and idioms

    • Cultural references.

    Localization != translation Sensibilities

    Not many examples of games translated to Hebrew in last decade.

    some do get subtitles, not in last 4 years.

    Titles for kids (E.G. Dora the explorer) do get translated to Hebrew.

    Localized online titles Sensibilities

    Several Online games were localized and had big success :



    Why lack of localized game? Sensibilities

    • No need?

    • No opportunity?

    • Only effective on big titles

    • Local entrepreneurs (myself included) are focused on markets outside Israel

    Original Creations in Israel for Israelis Sensibilities

    Local success for titles by Local game developers:

    Piposh Gindis IAF Falafel king

    • Israeli Adver-games are always in Hebrew.

    • Religious and Bible games also in Hebrew, and interesting sub market.

    Case study - Bamba Sensibilities

    Advergame based on one of Israel's most famous Brands "Bamba" which is a peanut butter flavoured snack.

    Free to play RPG using Bamba's kid mascot.

    800K Unique visitors, 4M entries.

    Won "2009 GameIS award" for best advergame.


    Case study - Mogobe Sensibilities

    Mogobe - Virtual world for kids ages 7-12

    Developed in Israel, and Israel was first launch country in July 09.

    By Jan 2010 was 2nd Most popular site among children in Israel, after facebook.

    Localized around the world with languages, clothing,and location relevant themes. 

    Penetration: 30% of target audience in Israelopened accounts. 40K make transactions of $6.5 each.

    Total revenue $280K just in Israel.

    Israel - Conclusions  Sensibilities

    • Mostly PC gamers.

    • Lots of young gamers, mobile and PC.

    • Tech savvy, early innovators.

    • English speakers.

    • Influential Bloggers (worldwide).

    • Large and innovative developer community.

    • If you want to do a motion game with NI, you probably want to do business with Israeli companies.

    Israel - Conclusions  Sensibilities

    • Not necessary to translate to Hebrew in order to succeed.

    • Next-gen & online would benefit greatly if localized,even if it's only by adding subtitles.

    • Marketing to religious sections can be tricky.

    Israel - Conclusions  Sensibilities


    No Camels!

    Conclusions: Middle East Sensibilities

    • Fast growing market

    • Lots of business opportunities

    • Religion and politics can be challenging

    Q&A Sensibilities

    תודה רבה Sensibilities


    Thank You