Game Localization for the MENA Market: Key Factors to Consider

Game Localization for the MENA Market: Key Factors to Consider

  • Categories: Localization
  • Written By: Torjoman
  • Date: March 20, 2019

The games industry is now a worldwide industry and one that generates a huge amount of revenue for the developers that create these games. There is a total of 2.2 billion gamers in the world, proving just how influential and popular the gaming industry is. The gaming industry is varied but it is hugely popular in many markets around the globe, including those markets that have a cultured background and specific religious beliefs.

The MENA Gaming Market is Growing

The MENA game market plays a crucial role in the gaming industry with it now known as one of the fastest growing markets in the world. It generates a total of $4 billion each year and with over half of the population in these countries being under the age of 25, it is no surprise that the uptake of gaming is on the rise.

This chart from Statista depicts the leading gaming markets in the Middle East based on gaming revenue in 2017 (in million U.S. dollars)

What is Game Localization?

Many of the games that are developed are geared up for the Western market although that trend is changing. However, games come in many different niches and so, they cover a huge array of variety. From war games to strategy games to sports games and more, all of these are played around the world but to ensure they fit into each market they need to be localized. Games are very intricate in the way that they are now produced and they include so much detail that they seem almost real.


When it comes to ensuring that a game positions itself correctly in certain markets, localization is a process that ensures games align themselves with the specific countries in the correct way. This is an important part of the development aspect of gaming as well as the business element. If a game is going to succeed in the MENA then it will need to be designed and developed in a way that ensures it fits the Arab gamers correctly and this is where localization becomes an important part of the process. In MENA countries, there are certain elements of gaming that need to be considered so that it resonates with the audience in the correct way. Developers and designers need to make sure that they understand local influences, religions and even features such as colors and food. All of this ensures that the game is suitable for the chosen MENA countries, their way of life as well as their cultures and beliefs.

Localization is more than Translation

Translation is effectively replacing one word with another but when it comes to gaming, it is detailed and extremely intricate. Games contain dialogue, display messages to players, images, geographical locations and a huge array of features that translation does not cover. When there are so many elements to a game, it can often mean that it cannot be released in certain countries as some of the content could cause offense, it might not make sense and it does not play in the same way as it does in other countries.

Games can include slang, jokes references even foods, clothing and many other elements, all of which might not be considered suitable for the target MENA audience. Therefore, localization needs to be used to ensure that the entire game, including gameplay and all aspects of it, are adapted so that it can be understood, recognized and enjoyed while still adhering to the different cultures and religious beliefs. A joke or a slang word in one country could mean a completely different thing in another and so, this is where localization goes way beyond that of translation.

Localization requires a specific understanding and knowledge of the chosen markets. This expert approach will ensure that games fit seamlessly into a new market

The Key Factors to Consider

Westerners have a different approach to the way in which they live their lives and the way they see things in comparison to those who live in the MENA regions, and that means that localization is an absolute must for the gaming industry. There is, of course, the language aspect and that will need translating and localization so that it fits in with the Arabic language. The language can vary from one Arabic country to another but there are also the visual challenges where Arabs read from right to left, which means that the entire layout or structure of text has to be completely altered.

How are games localized for MENA?

There is a strategic process involved in localizing games for MENA and that begins with translations. While the process is not just about translation, it does form part of it but localization is broad and so, there are many considerations that have to be made. The localization process is one that will have to consider the different Arabic dialects that can be found in the MENA region and so, this is where it is vital that the language is easily understood.

The user interface is also another consideration as localization will ensure that it looks correct and aligns itself with the requirements of the chosen country. As a result, it could mean that it has to be adapted to fit in with the region and this can result in a change of color or even any icons that form part of the game.

Finally, the content will have to be considered. The MENA market is a strict market when it comes to imagery and that relates to alcohol, sex and provocative images as well as excessive violence. There is also the title of the game that has to be considered because even if the title goes against their beliefs or religion then it might suitable for the market.

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