Social Gaming in the MENA Region — Part 1

Contrary to popular belief, almost all governments in the MENA region allow their citizens to access Facebook. After a long battle with its people, the Syrian government finally lifted its Facebook ban in February of 2011, which makes Iran the only country in the MENA region to have a ban on the social networking giant. Even though most countries in the region do not have a ban on Facebook, restrictions and limitations still exist through government, religion and culture.

Contrary to popular belief, almost all governments in the MENA region allow their citizens to access Facebook. After a long battle with its people, the Syrian government finally lifted its Facebook ban in February of 2011, which makes Iran the only country in the MENA region to have a ban on the social networking giant. Even though most countries in the region do not have a ban on Facebook, restrictions and limitations still exist through government, religion and culture.

After conducting interviews with experts in the field, we recognized that the best way to attain valuable information regarding social gaming in the MENA region was to ask a variety of experts in the field. After performing the various interviews, SocialTimes broke down social gaming in the MENA region into three particular fields that provided the most helpful insight. These three categories were determined by similarities between the interviews conducted.

Our research has revealed the following:

  • One Religion – One Market. While doing research for this report, SocialTimes uncovered the importance of religion in the region. Islam, which dominates the majority of countries in the region, plays a vital role in the development of social games for the area.
  • Social Customs and Cultural Differences – Since the majority of countries in the MENA region are mostly of Islamic faith, social customs of the religion are to be considered, while creating games for the region. SocialTimes o has also learned that developers of the region understand religious customs to help appeal to particular social profiles.
  • Payment Options – Along with cultural difference, developers must understand the different payment options available to gamers in the region. Unfortunately, payment options for the region are not fully developed.

The information gathered in this series can provide gaming businesses useful insight on the region and can be very valuable for gaming consultants in general.

For this series, SocialTimes discussed issues with leading executives and consultants involved in social gaming for the MENA region:

  • Steve Tsao, CEO and co-founder of Tahadi Games, a publisher of online games targeting the Middle East and North Africa region with plans to expand into other territories.
  • Raf Keustermans, independent social gaming consultant, with clients in the MENA region.
  • Ohad Barzilay, COO and responsible for game of Mytopia, an Israeli company that produces original and TV branded social games.
  • Udi Baron, CTO of Bees and Pollen, a company that gives developers an optimization platform for Facebook games.

Developers can benefit greatly from understanding the Middle East and the MENA region. Not only do they need to grasp the thinking of consumers in the region, but the geography of where they live as well.

To learn more about the MENA region, keep an eye out for Social Gaming in the MENA Region — Part 2.

CJ Arlotta covers the world of social gaming for development firms as well as the average consumer. Currently, he is accumulating more knowledge of the international gaming market to follow and understand what global developers may need to compete with already striving markets.