What Small Game Publishers Should Consider Before Launching a Game in the Middle East

Apr 27, 2021By Subspace Team

TL;DR

Before launching a game in the fastest growing market, there are important considerations: regionalize, market, and optimize.

Estimated read time: 5 minutes


There’s no doubt that there’s value in expanding your gaming empire into MENA.

While the region represents 3.4% of the world’s population, it punches above its weight with 3.7% of its internet users. The region’s population of gamers is growing, and investment in gaming infrastructure is increasing. Gaming revenues in the Middle East grew 25% year-over-year in 2020.

But expanding into a new region is a big decision for any game publisher. When you’re a small or medium-sized studio without the resources of the giants, a decision like this is bound to make you break a sweat.

The weight of your decision is magnified when you consider the variables that can impact a rollout’s success in a region like the Middle East.

Still, successfully launching a new game, or relaunching an existing game, in MENA is not impossible for small studios. It just requires a bit of careful consideration and planning.

Here are some things to consider as you’re weighing the pros and cons.

Have you accounted for the cost of necessary changes to gameplay?

Before deciding to launch an English-language game in the Middle East, you’ve got to confirm English fluency in the regions where you want to launch. English is not even amongst the top five languages in the region. (Those would be Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, and Hebrew.)

That means that launching your game in certain regions may require multiple languages. Once you know the language demographics in the regions where you want to launch, it should be easy to figure out whether you’ll need to integrate one or more additional languages into the game.

(Source: IGNMiddleEast)

Now, there’s quite a bit of debate on the best way to go about this, but there are two basic approaches. The first option is to translate the audio into the target languages and then use the translations as subtitles during gameplay, with the original audio still playing. Alternatively, “dubbing” involves re-recording the game’s dialogue in the new language, allowing players to listen to the alternate language audio during gameplay. Regardless of your personal preference, smaller game publishers with limited resources may need to make the most economical choice.

Translation typically costs around $.10 per word, so final costs will vary based on the amount of dialogue, menu copy, and other text that needs to be translated. Voice recording costs vary depending on the amount of dialogue and the number of characters that need to be cast; with studio and production costs included, voice recording can cost $1,400 or more for 1000 words. You’ll also need to account for any internal resources required to get the finalized subtitles or voice recordings synced with gameplay.

Beyond translating dialogue or on-screen text, many games also find it necessary to make changes to the player wardrobe or other graphic elements to account for cultural differences. If your audience won’t be able to understand English dialogue, then you may need to change things like street signage too.

Have you prepared localized marketing initiatives?

Launching a game in a new region also presents new marketing challenges, both in adapting the language for different regions and cultures and planning for a different media landscape.

Start by identifying the specific regional audiences you want to reach. Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia have the highest populations of gamers in the region, which may mean they merit extra attention as you’re planning and budgeting for marketing initiatives.

(Source: Internet Society)

Your team will need to be prepared to customize your marketing campaigns for each of the regions where you intend to attract an audience. You should probably consider forging partnerships with local media and influencers to help you shorten the learning curve and help your messaging lack the right impression.

Can your infrastructure handle an influx of new MENA players?

Many of the larger studios opt to set up regional servers when launching the Middle East to increase capacity, as Activision did for the MENA launch of CoD.

And while having regional servers can help increase capacity, it’s rarely a lack of capacity that causes issues at game launch. Instead—and this is especially true in the Middle East—local connectivity and infrastructure tend to be the more significant issue, causing high ping, huge latency, and lost framerates.

(Source: Internet Society)

Lag resulting from high ping is especially damaging for FPS and battle-royale style games, where it not only impacts playing experience but can often cost players a win. Even well-networked players experience lag sometimes, but high ping rates plague MENA due to local infrastructure challenges.

Connectivity and network infrastructure vary widely in the region.

To create the best possible experience for your new Middle Eastern players, think carefully about how you can create the highest network quality for them, even with the varied levels of local network infrastructure.

Making The Call

It’s not impossible for small and medium-sized game publishers to play with the big boys and successfully launch a game in the Middle East. It just requires careful planning and consideration of the in-game changes to be made, the approach to a localized launch, and the connectivity challenges to anticipate.

One easy way to combat many of the infrastructure challenges is to find a partner like Subspace which can help you provide an enjoyable, low-latency experience for your players in MENA and around the world.

When your game is powered by Subspace, our PacketAccelerator reduces latency and accelerates packets, and Subspace GlobalTURN allows you to run TURN (for WebRTC-based audio and video) globally, without your already-maxed-out team having to deploy and manage servers of your own.

Check some of our videos here to learn more about what latency means for your video game.

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