The proposed game localization venture does not have much in terms of competition in the Middle East due to the fact that large game companies did not indulge in localization efforts all too much, opting for porting an English version of their games to the region. The largest company that currently dominates Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest and wealthiest markets, is Saudisoft (Saber & Weber, 2017). However, with large companies like Ubisoft acknowledging the potential in the Middle Eastern market, the amount of work for localization companies is bound to increase beyond what Saudisoft could handle (Saber & Weber, 2017). A new venture will be given the opportunity to compete and perform in an emerging Blue Sea market.
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Legal environments vary from one country to another in terms of what is or is not allowed in localizations of games created in the West. Traditional bans include alcohol, nudity, and violence, which is present in many of the triple-A games (Chandler & Deming, 2011). At the same time, demand for these products does exist, as many gamers find ways around the ban. Saudi Arabia is notorious for having strict laws on games and gaming, but it is not the case in other places.
Egypt’s legal environment is notoriously laxer, thus allowing for an easier time establishing there (Chandler & Deming, 2011). Countries of the GCC are also known for more direct involvement of the government in the business environment. It invariably involves protectionism, which may cause issues for the new venture (Chandler & Deming, 2011). Saudi soft, for example, is likely to receive preferences from the Saudi government unless the established business also hails from there. Similar practices are found in the UAE and Qatar.
Customer countries and markets with the highest economic value are those that make part of the Gulf Cooperation Council. These include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (Chandler & Deming, 2011). They are characterized by the relatively high levels of wealth, young populations, and high propensity for IT, especially smartphones, which make them excellent marketing targets. Other countries include Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, and several other countries, which possess a poorer economy overall, but a larger population and, in many cases, a laxer business environment (Chandler & Deming, 2011). These countries are good for low-budget games, and mobile games, as well as acquiring specialists at a lower cost.
The cultural environment of the Middle East is dominated by Islam – a religion that often defines both policy and conventional morality. It often stands against elements that are found in Western video games, such as violence, gore, obscenities, copious use of alcohol and other substances, and the promiscuous nature of characters (Chandler & Deming, 2011). As such, many videogames require optimization to fit into the Middle Eastern cultural environments. In most cases, it involves removing the blood, covering up exposed parts of the body, changing certain options in the dialogue trees, replacing alcohol with grape juice, and so forth. The intricacies of the cultural perceptions of games from gamer and government perspectives provide plenty of business opportunities for localization companies, which could work with large western companies to accommodate their games for the market.
Chandler, H. M., & Deming, S. O. M. (2011). The game localization handbook. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Saber, D., & Webber, N. (2017). ‘This is our Call of Duty’: Hegemony, history and resistant videogames in the Middle East. Media, Culture & Society, 39(1), 77-93.
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