開發者解讀中東遊戲產業市場的現狀和未來的趨向

原文作者:Lara Noujaim 譯者:Megan Shieh

遊戲是世界的通用語言,因爲全世界的遊戲玩家都認識‘Gaming’這個詞。

這包括來自MEA(中東和非洲地區)的人們,遊戲被認爲是他們日常生活的重要組成部分。MEA是世界上最活躍的遊戲社區。當人們聽到這個觀點的時候,總是會覺得難以置信或表示非常驚訝。

中東地區一直被視爲是衝突的基石,這一印象已經根深蒂固。然而該地區擁有很多的潛力,遊戲可以作爲一種工具,用來改變人們對MEA單一的看法,讓標籤和刻板印象變得無關緊要。

new zoo(from gamesindustry.biz)

new zoo(from gamesindustry.biz)

數據分析

Newzoo的數據表示,在2017年,MEA地區的在線遊戲玩家人數達到了5.87億人,而這些玩家也開始對該地區的遊戲利潤份額產生影響。

該地區接近60%的在線用戶都是PC、遊戲機或移動遊戲的玩家。雖然這些人口僅佔了整個遊戲市場份額的3.6%,但該地區仍是全球增長率最高的區域。(注:整個全球遊戲市場總規模高達1089億美元)

目前MEA地區的年增長率高達25%,明顯地超過了其他增長率較高的市場,比如拉丁美洲的增長率爲13.9%,而亞太地區(Asia Pacific)的增長率則爲9.2%。

這也與增長緩慢停滯的大市場形成了鮮明對比,比如北美(只有4%)和西歐(4.8%)。

這些數據表明,該地區的遊戲市場肯定是值得關注的。

增長率排名前三位的國家是埃及、阿聯酋和沙特阿拉伯。這其實一點都不奇怪,因爲阿聯酋和沙特阿拉伯都是世界上智能手機普及率最高的國家,普及率分別是80.6%和65.2%。

沙特阿拉伯

此外,沙特阿拉伯是該地區最大的遊戲市場,遊戲收入達到6.51億美元。今年,該國通過遊戲收入躋身全球Top 20。

由於沙特阿拉伯的保守文化,公民們能夠接觸到的娛樂活動項目有限,因此,玩遊戲成爲了它們消磨時間的主要方式之一。

該國的年輕一代擁有許多的空閒時間和普遍較高的可支配收入,他們選擇將這些花費在遊戲上。實際上,該國玩家平均花費在遊戲上的時間是美國和歐洲玩家的三倍。

沙特阿拉伯的絕大多數大R玩家都居住在海灣地區,這個地區的玩家普遍擁有強大的購買實力。

-落後國家

同樣值得注意的是,某些MEA國家的遊戲市場並不像沙特阿拉伯這樣繁榮,疲軟的互聯網基礎設施和較低的信用卡普及率,使得玩遊戲成爲了一種奢侈的愛好。

這些區域的應用商店主頁看起來與世界上其他應用商店的門面十分相似,它的主要位置也都是被國際知名的遊戲所佔據。

然而,雖然阿拉伯語是世界上最受歡迎的五種語言之一,但應用商店裏的阿拉伯遊戲數量仍然出奇的低。這一現象正在慢慢改變,因爲開發商和平臺所有者逐漸地意識到了本地化對該地區銷售數據的巨大影響力。

迎合文化需求

目前已有少數幾家公司親身體驗了本地化帶來的成果。Game Cooks在2012年推出了《Run For Peace》,該遊戲是首批出自阿拉伯的手遊之一。

顧名思義,遊戲講述一個叫Salim的角色穿越中東,散播和平的旅程。《Run For Peace》於阿拉伯的春季發佈,在短短几周內,它的下載量就超過了25萬次。

遊戲的很大一部分玩家來自中東,他們對遊戲中的主角Salim、中東式幽默以及豐富有趣的文化背景產生了共鳴。

另一個著名的例子是遊戲巨頭EA Sports。

中東是EA的FIFA(國際足聯)遊戲關鍵地區之一,因此在2011/2012年,EA推出了完整的阿拉伯語菜單,並增加了地區性足球傳奇人物的配音。

這一舉動確實得到了回報,它得到了阿拉伯FIFA球迷社區的好評,銷量也大幅度地上漲,導致其他開發商紛紛效仿。

這證明了MEA遊戲市場中存在的機遇,該市場還存在很大的增長空間。當地遊戲開發商可以通過迎合用戶的需求,來提供與當地文化相關聯的內容。

遊戲開發社區

雖然該地區的遊戲市場正在增長,但遊戲開發社區卻還沒有跟上。

目前有少數的遊戲工作室正試着從該地區推出遊戲,但成功的案例少之又少。MEA地區的遊戲開發行業纔剛剛興起,因此這裏的遊戲開發社區很少,規模也很小,合作、分享和相互學習的機會甚至更少。

再加上某些國家薄弱的互聯網基礎設施,使得開發遊戲變得更加困難。

資源短缺

除此之外,該地區的遊戲人才市場也呈現短缺狀態,因爲缺乏機會,所以大多數的當地人才都選擇投奔國外的大型遊戲工作室。

要想成爲像美國或歐洲這樣的大型遊戲中心,MEA還有很長的路要走。此前,由於沒有地區性的遊戲會議,開發人員很難建立交友網絡並接觸到新的想法和技術。

資金短缺也是一個問題,該地區的投資者們都試圖迴避這個行業,因爲他們認爲這是一項風險較大的業務。

種種短缺都從某種程度上抑制了當地遊戲市場的發展,因此,當地開發商就只能眼睜睜地看着自己的市場被外來的遊戲所侵蝕。

漸入佳境

然而情況正在發生改變,該地區的獨立開發集羣正在逐漸擴大。遊戲催化劑也正在涌現,比如貝魯特的帶頭遊戲社區Arab Arcade。

將遊戲開發作爲職業的現象也越來越普遍,尤其是在黎巴嫩和約旦等市場,那裏有幾個老牌遊戲工作室和一個不斷髮展壯大的遊戲開發社區。

日前,該地區甚至發展了自己的遊戲會議,在迪拜舉行的《Digital Games Conference(數字遊戲會議)》帶來了來自世界各地的專家,鼓勵知識共享,並幫助前來參加會議的業內人士瞭解當地的遊戲市場。

當地開發商的絕對優勢

與國際發行商相比,當地遊戲工作室擁有文化方面的優勢,他們更有機會接近MEA地區玩家,並充分地瞭解他們的喜好。當地開發人員正在利用這一點將自己與國際開發商區分開來。

一些當地的遊戲工作室正在出借他們的語言和文化知識,幫助國際發行商將現有的遊戲本地化,從而減少國際遊戲與地區的文化隔閡。本地化可以是簡單地改變語言,也可以通過融入當地文化、加入相關人物和聲音等因素,來進行進一步優化。

另外一些本地遊戲工作室則正在根據全球最熱門的遊戲類型來創造全新的遊戲,不同的是,這些遊戲的設計和審美更多地迎合了當地的玩家。

一些當地開發商正試圖通過本地化和關聯文化內容來解決市場問題,而另一些當地開發商則希望通過創新來脫穎而出,並向世界證明:中東也可以創造出震驚世界的熱門遊戲。而這正是Game Cooks推出《Vindicta》的原因,該遊戲是首款來自中東的VR遊戲。

人們總是將中東和非洲地區與負面新聞聯繫到一起,但是如果你忽略掉這些負面新聞,就會發現這些地區在歷史、文化和遊戲方面都作出了很大的貢獻。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Today, the world appears to be more divided than ever.

In times like these, with differences emphasized rather than celebrated and people frequently ostracized, there’s a desperate need for a universal language that connects individuals from all around the world.

Prior to being part of the Game Cooks team, a VR game studio based in Beirut, and while living for a few years in Santa Clara (CA), it was clear how far apart the two cities were from every perspective: geographically, culturally and everything in between.

It was during the start of my tenure at Game Cooks back in 2012, and following numerous back and forth trips to the US to attend gaming conferences, that the distance between both cities started to notably shrink to the point that it became almost irrelevant.

While differences faded away, similarities and shared passions came alive, with every encounter that came my way. It felt nice, right even, and it was all thanks to gaming. It was at that moment when it really made sense how gaming was the universal language the world needs, since gamers all across the globe uttered its familiar words.

And that includes people from the MEA (Middle East and Africa) region, where gaming is considered a big part of everyday life. The MEA is home to the world’s most active gaming community. That statement is often met with looks of disbelief and surprise.

It is difficult for many to think of the Middle East as anything other than a bedrock of conflict. Yet, the region has a lot of potential and gaming is a tool that can be harnessed to change the rhetoric and make labels and stereotypes irrelevant.

The MEA region enjoys a hefty population of online gamers – 587 million in 2017 according to Newzoo – and these gamers’ favorite pastime is starting to have an impact on the region’s share of gaming profit.

Close to 60% of the online population are gamers – playing PC, console or mobile games. While that population accounts for only 3.6% of the $108.9 billion games market, it is the region with the highest growth rate globally.

The MEA is currently gaining at a whopping rate of 25% year-over-year growth rate, and the region is ahead of other fast growing markets such as Latin America at 13.9% growth and APAC (Asia Pacific) at 9.2% growth; it also contrasts with larger markets where growth is slowly stagnating – such as North America (just 4%) and Western Europe (4.8%).

Looking at these figures, the region’s gaming market is definitely one to keep an eye on.

The top three countries leading said growth are Egypt, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. That comes as little surprise considering the fact that both UAE and Saudi Arabia are among the countries with the highest smartphone penetrations in the world, standing at 80.6% and 65.2%, respectively.

In addition, the Kingdom is the biggest gaming market in the region, with gaming revenue reaching $651 million. This year, the country made it on to the list of top 20 countries by game revenue.

Taking a closer look at a country like Saudi Arabia paints a clearer picture of what the gaming market looks like in the Middle East. Thanks to the country’s conservative culture, its citizens have limited access to a diverse range of entertainment and as a result, turn to gaming as a pastime.

The Kingdom’s young generation has a lot of spare time and an above average disposable income, which they choose to spend on gaming. Saudi gamers actually spend three times more than American and European gamers, on average.

Indeed, most of the gaming whales, both men and women, reside in the Gulf area where players have large purchasing power. At the same time, it’s important to note that certain countries in the MEA have not enjoyed such a thriving gaming market – a weak internet infrastructure and low credit card penetration has made gaming a harder hobby to get into.

The regional app store homepage looks quite similar to other app stores’ storefronts around the world; several of its top positions are occupied by well-known international titles.

What’s specific to the region’s app stores, however, are Arabic titles. And while Arabic is one of the top five spoken languages around the world by population, the number of Arabic titles on app stores is still surprisingly low. This is slowly changing as both developers and platform holders have come to realize the great impact that localization has had on sales numbers in the region.

Today, a handful of companies, both local and international, have understood and experienced first-hand the result of localizing their titles. In 2012, Game Cooks launched one of the first Arabic mobile game titles, Run For Peace.

As the name implies, the game was about a character, called Salim, on a peace-spreading journey through the Middle East. The game was launched around the time of the Arab Spring and within a few weeks, it had received over a quarter of a million downloads.

A large portion of the game’s player base came from the Middle East – players who related to the character Salim, the humor and the abundant funny cultural references in the game such as the flying watermelon shishas and hummus collectibles.

Another, well-known example is gaming giant EA Sports.

The Middle East is one of EA’s key regions for its FIFA titles, so in 2011/2012, EA introduced full Arabic menus, along with commentary from regional football legends. The move really paid off, as it was well received by the Arab FIFA fan community and resulted in a steep increase in sales, which led to other developers following suit.

This served as proof of the opportunities that exist within the MEA gaming market, which has a lot more room for growth. Regional game developers can take advantage by catering to that audience and providing them with culturally relevant content.

While the gaming market is growing in the region, the game development community has yet to catch up.

Currently, a small number of game development studios are launching games from the region and there are only a handful of success stories. The game development scene started picking up traction on this side of the world not too long ago, and so there are only clusters of very small game dev communities and even fewer opportunities to collaborate, share and learn from one another.

Furthermore, weak internet infrastructures in certain countries has made it harder to get work done, and on top of that, there is a shortage of gaming talent: a lack of opportunities means that most talent tends to leave to work for big gaming studios abroad.

The MEA has a long way to go to become a major gaming hub like the US or Europe. A lack of gaming conferences until recently made it harder for developers to network and get exposed to new ideas and technologies. Lack of funding is also a problem; investors from the region shy away from this industry, seeing it as a risky, hit-driven business.

This, in turn, makes it hard for the game development market to grow. And finally, local developers see their markets eroded by top international titles that are favorites in the region as well.

However, things are changing and today the indie development clusters are growing. Game accelerators are popping up, such as Arab Arcade in Beirut, and interest in game development as a career choice is becoming more common – especially in markets such as Lebanon and Jordan where there are several established game studios and a growing game dev community.

Today the region has its own gaming conference, the Digital Games Conferencein Dubai, which brings in experts from around the world to encourage knowledge sharing and provide attendees exposure to the local gaming scene.

One advantage regional game studios have over international publishers is cultural know-how, of course. Proximity to the MEA’s players and fully understanding their gamer profiles is a big deal.

Regional developers are using that to differentiate themselves in several ways: localization, new culturally relevant content, and innovation.

Some regional game studios are lending their knowledge of the language and culture to help international publishers localize their existing games to make them more relevant to the region.

Localization can be as simple as changing the language or it can go further to include cultural references, relevant characters, sounds, etc. Other game studios are creating brand-new games that fall within the same genre and type as well-known international titles but with a design and aesthetic that appeals more to the region’s players.

While some developers are tackling the market by way of localization and culturally relevant content, others are looking to stand out by innovating and showing that great content can emerge from the Middle East. And that’s exactly why Game Cooks launched Vindicta – the first VR title to be published by a Middle Eastern studio.

The MEA, as most news headlines can attest to, is by far one of the most talked about regions in the world and often not in the most positive of ways. However, if you look beyond these daily news round-ups you’ll discover how much this region has to offer in terms of history, culture and yes, gaming.(Source: gamesindustry.biz