With the Southeast Asia market starting to become saturated, big companies are starting to take notice of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) market.
What is so attractive about the Middle East? Lots, as it happens.
- The Arab region has one of the largest grossing mobile gaming markets in the world (annual growth of 25%)
- 22 countries with a population of over 400 million people
- The games market in the MENA region has reached USD 4.8 billion in revenue and represents 23% of the market globally
- The region has one of the highest ARPUs (average revenue per user) in the world at USD 181 (compared to only USD 48 in China)
What is striking is that only 3% of the online content is available in Arabic, despite the fact that 70% of the Middle Eastern population uses an Arabic interface. Western marketers and developers are clearly losing out.
According to eMarketer, the Middle East is the next big growth market for e-commerce predicted to be worth USD 49 billion by 2021. And did you know that 90% of online purchases are in the Middle East are shipped from abroad? This is an opportunity for Western online retailers to consider.
It paints a tempting picture, so we at Nitro professional translation services decided to do some research and give our readers some tips for launching your product in the Arab market.
We sat down and talked to Hady Sharafeldeen, an English-Arabic translator. Below he shares his experience in Arabic localization and his tips for approaching the Arab audience.
Modern Standard Arabic or one of the more than 30 dialects?
HS: MSA can be considered a lingua franca among educated people in the Arabic-speaking world. When you localize a product, you’re probably planning to reach out to all Arab-speaking countries. Modern Standard Arabic ensures that everyone who uses the local content will understand it.
Some people claim that MSA sounds stiff and formal to Arabs, but when I was working on localization The battlefield into Arabic I also used Modern Standard Arabic. If Electronic Arts is using this variant and their users are happy with it, why shouldn’t you?
Playing with different dialects and accents is possible in case of dubbing, but tread lightly and make sure there is always localization of text in MSA so that all Arabic speakers understand it.
Successful marketing in Arabic
HS: The first challenge is to translate the meaning creatively, and the second is to keep the message from the English version. A great example is the Vodafone slogan: “Power to you.” It is translated as القوة بين إيديك which means “The power is between your hands, you are the one who owns it.”
Whether it’s a marketing campaign or an app store page, if people are shown, make sure you’re using models from the targeted region. Like consumers in any country, Arabs want to see ads with a personal touch, and they are discouraged by “nation-neutral ads”.
Comment from Nitro: Our client Wachanga, a family growth platform, uses this approach in their apps. Below are the images for Clover, their period tracking app:
Other changes made for Arabic-speaking audiences included covering a pregnant belly in the Pregnancy app and including “prayer while sleeping baby” in the Arabic version of their Baby Care app. Check out this article to learn more about Wachanga’s attitude towards different countries and cultures.
Localization of Arab games and gamers
HS: Arabs are keen players, and with 50% of the population under 30 this should come as no surprise. Almost 90% of smartphone owners in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt play mobile games.
According to CD Projekt, localizing a game to Arabic is a logical step if the company wants to “grow and reach a larger audience. Without localization, many people will be left out because they do not speak the language. ”
When I was working on Battlefield 4, localization of curses and insults was a challenge. We need translators to completely soften and adapt these terms to suit the culture and religion of the people. For example, Arabs do not use swear words like the F-word, and such curses are localized to the equivalent of “damn it.”
Why bother translating into Arabic when most Arabs speak English?
Most Arabs understand English and can express themselves, even when they are not fluent English speakers. But Arabs love and admire their language, because it is the language of the Quran, our sacred book. So we are people who love using products in our own language.
Remember that over 70% of the population in Arabic-speaking countries use Arabic as the default language on their smartphones. If you address the Arab audience in the language they speak, understand and admire, your chances of success are much higher.
Another reason to localize your product or website is that the original English text can come across as rude and abusive without cultural adjustment.
Considering Arab culture in gaming and advertising
HS: Some things that are common to Westerners are not acceptable in the Arab world. Any content that includes images and suggestive text, mention of God, gambling, drug and alcohol references, and swearing words is a no-brainer.
In some cases, you will only have to modify the text (here translators will help), but in others, you will have to alter or replace scenes that are not culturally appropriate in Arab.
Positive cultural adaptation for mobile games: take note of the main Islamic festivals of Ramadan and Eid, congratulate Arabs and offer thematic quests or special deals. These holidays are peak season for the games industry as people work short hours and children are on summer vacation, so everyone plays games to pass the time.
Arabs value these events, as they have special spiritual significance for them. Even if you say “Have a wonderful Ramadan!” (رمضان كريم), your Arabic users will appreciate it.
Find out how PUBG Mobile integrated the Ramadan event into their game: They offered login rewards for the entire length of the holiday (lasting about a month, as detailed in our article “How to turn an international holiday into a game in the game) events ”).
If you are hosting weekend activities in your mobile game, remember that the weekend in most Middle East countries is Friday and Saturday.
Is targeting the Middle East worthwhile? Completely. The MENA region is home to the world’s most active gaming community. By 2022 the mobile gaming market in the Arab world is expected to become a USD 2.3 billion industry.
Many of the largest spenders come from the Middle East, and countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have the highest average revenue per paying consumer (ARPPU) in the world.
But there is still a shortage of quality games and other content in Arabic. Already, big brands have realized that they can take advantage of this situation by localizing content in Arabic before the market gets too big. This would be a great opportunity to look into it.
To read similar stories, head on over to Oasis, think KrASIA.
Margarita Shvetsova from Alconost, a provider of global localization services to more than 70 languages. Margarita loves interviewing app developers, product managers, and other industry experts and transforming their experience into useful and informative articles.
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