Talking with Cafe Bazaar: The Great Middle East Game Market

For games going overseas, Of course there are many destinations to choose from. Many game developers may immediately think of mature game markets such as Japan, South Korea and the United States with huge game user groups. However, with the continuous development of the mobile game market and the popularization of mobile devices, many emerging game markets such as Southeast Asia and the Middle East are gradually getting the attention of game developers. Some Chinese game companies that focus on the Middle East market, such as Longteng Jianhe and Mechanist, rank among the top 30 Chinese mobile game publishers in overseas revenue.

Recently, after collecting and sorting out the suggestions and questions from overseas readers of Game Daily, BloomGameR conducted relevant interviews with Ali Ahmadi, head of global media engagement at cafe bazaar, and interviewed game user groups in the Middle East and Iran. With further understanding, the following is the interview:

BloomGameR:How about the popularity of the games in Iranian people’s daily life?

Ali:It’s increasingly important. Our android app store just surpassed 45 million users – that is over half of the population of the country. 

Over 30 million users instal mobile games from our platform. Mobile gaming has definitely gone mainstream. The average age of users and the number of female users has gone up significantly.

We are big believers in gaming and mobile gaming has become an increasingly important part of our platform over the years. Iranians have a variety of entertainment options.

We offer a lot of streaming options. The country has a large film industry. But mobile gaming has really come into its own over the last number of years and gone mainstream.

There has also been a major jump in usage during the COVID crisis as more people try to limit the time they spend outside of the house. There are now also thousands of mobile game developers across the country but demand still significantly outstrips supply,Which is why we have been increasingly focused on attracting high quality games from abroad and especially China.

BloomGameR: What kind of qualifications do you need to work with Cafe Bazaar?

Ali: We’re certainly open to all sorts of mobile game developers. The first step to understanding whether your game is right for our market is contacting us. We know the market and the gamers in the area better than anyone and we can consult as to how to begin the process.

BloomGameR:  Which advertising platform is better for monetization?

Ali: Cafe Bazaar has 45 million users and 30 million mobile game users. Therefore, our app store is where the vast majority of game promotions happen. 

You can buy bus or train or TV ads like anywhere else but the discovery ads and search ads are the most effective way of targeting gamers often by genre and preferences. You can work with our promotions team if you’d like set rates and data driven promotions strategy tailored to your game.

BloomGameR:  If I made money in Iran, how could I get it back to China?

Ali: We would have it transferred to you through banks. Games get their revenue every month. I understand that this question is about some of the global politics.

It’s unfortunate that politics can sometimes get in the way of business, but those rules and restrictions don’t apply to everything and they don’t apply to us. We are an entirely private company.

We transfer funds to our partners in China and European countries through banking channels and we have never had any legal or political problems – and neither have any of our clients.

There are times when a major American bank might not want to facilitate our transactions but plenty of others will. As far as the payment channels, our users pay for things like in-app purchases through our SDK which is linked to the banks through their banking cards. We transfer the funds to you.

BloomGameR: Is there any preference for Iranian players among Chinese games?

Ali: As far as genre, the most downloaded games are generally casual and arcade games but the highest revenue go to strategy, RPG and adventure games.

If a game is very much based on traditional Chinese folklore and legend, it might not be appropriate for our market. But other games can do very well here after undergoing localization so that they come across familiar to our audience language and cultural perspective.

A lot of games like Tap Tap Heroes, War and Magic and Call of Spartan have done really well on our platform this year.

BloomGameR: What is the percentage of profit sharing?

Ali: We generally split the revenue with the developer 70%-30%, with 70% going to the developer. It’s the same as with Google Play. Very often the developers also want us to handle the localization as well, in which case we split the revenue 50%-50% with Cafe Bazaar.

BloomGameR:  How do you localize games in Iran? Is there strict regulation on character and costume?

Ali: We set up our own localization shop so we can provide a full suite of services to game developers. The process is basically that we translate the game into Persian. 

This involves more than basic translation but using the appropriate Persian terms as well as often recording sound and dubbing. So the whole game, as far as storyline and characters, has to be studied before the process begins. Certain colors and costumes are sometimes changed slightly for culturalization purposes.

The government generally stays out of these things but it’s possible that they would take issue with sexuality they see as gratuitous. A lot of our audience doesn’t like it either. So sometimes there are minor changes made to accommodate that. 

There is also no government licensing process but any regulatory issues that may arise from a Chinese game being in Iran will be handled by Cafe Bazaar.

BloomGameR:  Are there differences between the game application ecology among the countries of the Middle East?

Ali: There are significant differences between the countries of the Middle East. there are significant cultural differences between different sections of the region and we speak different languages. 

Arabic and Turkish are spoken by the people of the Arab world and Turkey respectively. We are an app store built around the Persian language which is most prevalent in Iran. 

These languages are not interchangeable, they are very different. This is why the localization process is so important. Though, we have taken steps over the last year to cooperate with Turkish and Arabic publishers so that we can publish games there as well. 

So if you wish for your game to be localized for all three markets, that is something we now have the capacity to do.