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Addressing the Lag in the Region’s Gaming Industry

Deep Dives with Choueiri Group

Addressing the Lag in the Region’s Gaming Industry

“You’ll find localized content but you won’t find original localized content and that’s really the problem,” says Wael Abdulkader, co-founder and coo of Dubzplay, a development company specializing in AAA mobile games and applications.  Communicate sat with Abdulkader to understand what it takes to create original gaming content in the region and where does it stand in the mobile game business.

Does the content for mobile games come with a different set of recommendations and guidelines?

There’s no absolute rule book when it comes to making the content for a game, it’s all open. The way you have to look at it is; what the region would actually like, what’s missing, what would appeal to them and what works. There are very few mobile games that have come out of this region. So there’s no real standard or [benchmark] at this point as to what kind of content should be made. There are a few startups and gaming companies that have been created but all they’ve done is localization as opposed to creating original content. So what they do is, take a game like Clash of Clans, create a replica version and localize it by making it in Arabic to appeal to the region.

What are some of the limitations you face when it comes to creating mobile game content? 

One is the lack of talent in the region. The majority of the local talent that we sourced for our game is connected to Marketing and Fashion as opposed to creating the game content. We scoured the globe rather than scouring the region to find those creators. We’re starting to see some local talent here and have used a few people but overall we’re still not there yet.

Another is the lack of experience on our part when it comes to making the game. Being able to find the right people and learning the right amount, to be able to mesh with them was one of the difficulties. It took us a bit of time to get up to speed.

Why is there a lack of talent in the region?

There is talent here but are they comparable to the global talent that currently exists? We’re not there yet. They’re starting to break into this sphere – and that comes back to what we discussed earlier on finding original content for gaming in the region as well. For the talent to get up to speed, there needs to be more companies creating original gaming content, creating opportunities and work experience for university graduates, etc. We’re hoping to bridge those gaps.

Stylecity, one of your mobile game products chooses to focus on a specific niche – Celebrity, fashion, lifestyle, etc. Why? 

We wanted to create something that was original and wasn’t market saturated. If you look at the games worldwide, the majority of the popular games now are Fortnite, Clash of Clans, etc. There is a gap for the gaming market in the region and for females in specific.  We decided to create something that is going to empower a different demographic as opposed to the regular 13-year-old boy. We also saw how much of a huge pull the celebrities have with their audience and the majority of their followers are interested in fashion- so we figured, why not leverage on it. So, create a game that has original content, leverages Dubai on top of everything and use the celebrities to bring in the audience as opposed to creating a marketing budget.

What are the most popular content genres in mobile games? 

Nowadays, people love RPG and FPS games such as Fortnite, etc. There are also games like Clash of Clans which are more strategic. Funny thing about Clash of Clans, it’s one of the games which had the most impact in the Middle East. If you actually look at their user base, there was a huge segment of the Middle Eastern market that actually played Clash of Clans. They even localized it into Arabic as well. The simulator games such as the Need For Speed Franchise is another genre which is popular.

Stylecity has contractual agreements with celebrities for the game.  How does the agreement work exactly?

In exchange for being a spokesperson for the game, the celebrities get a percentage of the profits based on how successful the game is.  A lot of their social media posts [for promoting the game] are basically given by us and they add their own spin on it. We can’t put the words in their mouth but we do give them bullet points on what we feel needs to be covered. They also had a [level] of involvement with how the game was created in terms of the characters, looks, and other [elements]. The majority of the content was created by us but we do take some of their time for discussions and getting input.

Will mobile gaming be dependent on UGC and Influencer generated content to advance in the future? 

I’m not sure if it will but I would definitely recommend it.  If you look at the cost of user acquisition for mobile games through Marketing and Advertising, it is particularly high. It’s not realistic for a startup game developer to have a [small] budget and acquire enough users for the game to be successful. That’s where the celebrity angle works well. We reached an exclusive agreement with them and they acquired almost 80% of our user-base as opposed to us actually having to spend.

How do you measure their success? 

Through Apple and Google Play stores. They have the metrics to show us where the user came from. If a potential user clicks on our ad through their Snapchat and go into the App store to download, it shows us where they originally came from. So we can track who came from where and based on the statistics we’ve seen, the impact through the celebrity route is huge.

How do you address the language in this region when it comes to mobile game content?

It’s not there yet in terms of localization but it’s getting there. You’ll find localized content but you won’t find original localized content and that’s really the problem. Our game might be an inspiration of many different games around the world but every single spec has been created in-house. I would encourage more people to go down that route because we have the capability to do it here.

So why aren’t we creating more original content in gaming? Is it because we’re used to the habit of localizing instead of creating? 

It’s because gaming isn’t big in the region. If you look at the world of application in general, [the region] is starting to catch up globally. So you have a lot of new players like CAFU, Careem, etc.  All of these local players came in and put us up to speed when it comes to global applications.  In gaming, it’s still not there. There isn’t that appreciation for gaming in the region just yet as creators. As players, people are obsessed here. But it’s the creation that’s still not there.

What kind of advertising formats works best on mobile game applications?

On the application, Stylecity doesn’t have any. We do have plans of including product placements in the game but I can’t disclose more on that right now.  That’s one avenue, future game creators can explore. It’s also really difficult to pull off once the game is in the post-launch stage because it will require quite a bit of work to integrate certain things into the game.  As the first step for your game, it’s not the most realistic route of advertising, because you can’t convince anyone until you have the results of your game to show them. It’s probably a good second step.

In my personal opinion, pop-up ads which spurt while you’re playing the game kind of cheapens the game. But, if you don’t have high budgets for marketing or a good marketing strategy, pop up ads are the way to go because you need to make money somehow.

There’s also advertising through other games. Now let’s say you’re playing a random game and an ad for Stylecity pops up [and it entices you to click]. Don’t get me wrong, your game cheapens when you have those pop-ups but there’s no rule that says you can’t advertise pop-ups in other people’s games.

Another extremely effective advertising format is the Google and Apple store search ads. It’s not that expensive and is extremely effective.

Besides in-app purchases, what other monetization schemes are there in mobile games?

One of the schemes is sponsorship from brands. There have been some smart ways of integrating in-game ads in recent times. There are some games where the player can increase their points if they watch an ad. I think its genius. You don’t annoy people as much and also reward them for watching the ad. When it comes to monetization schemes, you need to really think outside of the box. There are a lot of ways to integrate it. Here’s a small teaser:  Look at how big the E-commerce market is right now and our game is centered around Fashion. There has to be some way to integrate our game, celebrities, fashion, and the E-commerce world.

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