An interestting news story from The National details the great lengths that French publisher Ubisoft is going to in order to better serve the video games market in the Middle East. Through efforts at its Abu Dhabi office – which was opened in 2011 – Ubisoft hopes to learn more about the culture and apply it to some of its top titles.
The Abu Dhabi office currently has around 30 employees, but the company hopes to increase that number to 100 in the next 3 – 5 years. Efforts from this studio help to serve 18 countries in the Middle East and the North African region.
"That's what we want to break into," studio general manager Yannick Theler tells The National. "Try to understand how the Arabic people play games and try to localize the games if we can. There is potential here. They play games and buy games already, but localizing the products will bring us closer to the people."
Ubisoft operations manager Vincent Douvier told the publication that he spent the last three years looking at the global market for video games, and noticed that the region remained largely unexplored.
"I noticed there was a black spot that was the Arab world, and I was intrigued by it," he said. "I thought 'either there is nothing there, that's why there is a black hole, or there is something and it's a well-kept secret.'"
For its part, Ubisoft has been translating some of its online and mobile games into Arabic including Prince of Persia and The Smurfs and Co. The company is also keenly focused on moving beyond translating and into what Douvier calls "culturization."
"We take into account the flow of reading Arabic. My reflexes push my eyes up and left, whereas most Arabs look right to left, meaning the interface of the game should be changed."
"We have evaluated some of the Ubisoft games, and there are some we say no to because it wouldn't fit with Islamic principles," Douvier adds.
No doubt the company is also looking at cultural and religious sensitivities prior to releasing a game in the region.
While Ubisoft isn't quite ready to commit to producing games exclusively for the Arabic market, it is working on bringing big budget titles to the region. For example, it recently announced that Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag will be released in Arabic. The company has also set up Arabic language Facebook and forum pages from its Abu Dhabi office to connect with the regional gamers.
You can learn more about other developers trying to serve the Arabic market here.
Source: The National