Arabic Game Localization: Why It Matters And How To Get It Right

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Arabic Game Localization

What makes Arabic Game Localization so important and why should it be part of your expansion and translation strategies? As the 5th most popular language with a large gaming community, the Arabic-speaking gaming market is a crucial one to tap. But the Arabic language introduces unique linguistic, cultural, and technical challenges that should be resolved effectively if you want to make a real and sustainable connection with your target locale. So, how should it be tapped and what should you keep in mind with Arabic Game Localization? Learn all about it in our blog!

What Does The Arabic Market Include?

There are 22 territories that claim Arabic as an official language, with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt being the most profitable in terms of gaming revenue. The Arabic-speaking countries take up the lion share of the so-called MENA Region which includes 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Next to Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Turkish, and Hebrew are also spoken in this region. In this blog, we will show you that the Arabic market is one of the most interesting ones in terms of game revenue, close to reaching the 6 billion mark.9

Why The Arabic Market?

The Arab Gaming Market Key Takeaways

  • Saudi Arabia is the most profitable Arabic-speaking market. It ranks at #22 by global gaming revenue and 92 percent of the gamers consider themselves gaming enthusiasts.10
  • Mobile Games, especially puzzles, are the most popular in the Arabic-speaking market. In fact, the UAE is known as a big spender in the gaming industry with most of the money going to mobile games. Around 39% of gamers in the UAE prefer to spend on mobile games, while 33 percent prefer PC and 38 percent console.11 In Saudi Arabia, this number is steadily increasing from 13.4%.12
  • Smartphone penetration has hit 46 percent in Saudi Arabia. This results in 15.5 million people. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), this number has reached 80.6 percent.13

Arabic Mobile Game Localization

The Fastest Growing Online Market

Despite it being the MENA Region’s highest growing and most widely spoken language, only 1 percent of the content in local app stores is available in Arabic.14

That 1 percent may sound like a great opportunity to claim a place among the top games available in the Arabic language. But there is more good news. Arabic is the single fastest growing online language, haven grown no less than 9,348.0 percent between 2000 and 2020, beating every other language in the online top Ten.15 The gaming industry neatly follows this growth, increasing the demand for quality localization services. Or to put it in the words of N2V’s CMO:

“Arab video gaming is interesting because it is following internet growth in the region, which is among the fastest in the world.”16

Arabic Game Localization

The Importance Of Accurate Arabic Game Localization

Back in 2009, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 was released. The first-person shooter game, part of a hugely popular series, was made available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. As part of the storyline and design, there was a map of Pakistan included. The map featured Arabic content while Pakistan’s Official Languages are English and Urdu.
In stark contrast, Uncharted 3 was released by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2011 and created with higher cultural awareness in mind. A scene that included an Egyptian character, was portrayed by Egyptian-America actor Sayed Badreya. Not only was the language correct, but the slang and informal usage were also accurate. Sony went on to release Uncharted 4 in 2016, along with a fully localized version for Arabic. 

These two examples illustrate the one real challenge tied to any Localization project: know your audience. The 2009 Call of Duty may not have been released for a Pakistani audience specifically, but even when the game isn’t completely localized for one specific audience, every language, culture, and country used within the game should be respected.

Let’s expand further on what makes the Arabic language unique, and why it requires specific expertise and local knowledge to get it right.

Dialects, Spoken, And Formally Written Language

The Arabic language has a lot of linguistic idiosyncrasies such as, much like French, using gender specifications. But the most challenging linguistic aspects are actually related to two things: the spoken versus the formal written language, and regional dialects.

If you are translating a medium where neutral and professional language is of importance, such as newspapers or informational web content, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), will be the best application to consider. However, this is not true for creative content such as targeted marketing messaging and in-game content/dialogue, where high levels of engagement and making an emotional connection with your audience, are crucial. In this case, we urge you to hire a linguist with local ties in the region you intend to target and can take regional dialects into account. Just think about the Egyptian-American voice-actor who made Uncharted 3 such an effective, culturally potent product.

For example, FIFA 2012 was largely localized for Tunisia using MSA, the voice-over talent consisted exclusively of native Tunisian commentators to simulate the authentic emotional tension live football commentary creates.

What makes Arabic regional dialects so complex is not only the high number of dialects that exist but the fact that more often than not, they are not mutually intelligible. This means that one single text or marketing message, will need more than one translation in order to reach the Arabic market in its whole so for each and every region, a personal connection can be established.

Cultural And Religious Sensitivities

With its immersive qualities and varied characters and landscapes, games are made to be enjoyed. A big part of this lies in the correct application of cultural values and norms that exist in your target local.

Let’s look at Happy Farm as an example. The hugely popular Social Network game and massively multiplayer online game simulating farm management has its most active player base in Asia.

Happy Farm also reached a high number of players in Arabic-speaking countries because the successfully localized Arabic version took the local culture into account and doesn’t feature pigs, since Muslims do not raise them.

RTL-Languages And Video Game Localization

Arabic is written from right-to-left (RTL) rather than the left-to-right (LTR) format used in English. In this often technically challenging situation, the main roadblocks lie in the visual translations related to page layout and user interface.

Think back to the words of N2V’s CMO on how the high development of internet users also brings an increase of active gamers with it. But like it usually goes, tools and technologies need a bit more time to perfect the application of the rather unique languages that find sudden and high popularity. And it is up to the localization Engineer to find ways to work around the shortcomings with customized coding.

Text Expansion

A further technical challenge lies in the fact that Arabic text will take up more space than the English one, causing a potential minefield of bugs and issues when not managed correctly. On average, Arabic translations take up 25 percent more space, and when translated to English the text can contract between 20 and 25 percent. 

A tech-savvy Language Service Provider (LSP) will make use of a suitable Translation (CAT) Tool and use it to specify the maximum characters’ length or limitations for each segment that will be translated into your target language(s). Setting up these target lengths prevents common Text Expansion errors.

Arabic Game Localization Text Expansion

 

Long story short! Arabic Game Localization requires more than a qualified translator, but an expert team that brings an accurate translation together within visually and culturally potent adaptations.

The Importance Of Game Localization Quality Assurance (QA)

Games consist of multiple content layers covering in-game content, non-string content, the store content, voice-overs, and so on. In order to have a product optimized in a way that truly speaks to your audience, the game will be subjected to a rigorous QA process applied by in-country natives with extensive subject matter experience. This includes:

Linguistic QA: 

  • Perfecting grammar, spelling, numeric format checks, currency conversion, and consistency
  • Reaching contextual accuracy by confirming the use of naturally flowing content with country-specific idioms and phrases. 
  • Confirming if cultural references are appropriate and which might be considered offensive, have effectively been weeded out.

Visual QA:

  • Resolving any UI or UX issues
  • Being mindful of Text Expansion 
  • Graphics that are inappropriately positioned
  • Sections that have been left untranslated
  • FOnt issues

Functional QA:

  • Testing the overall performance of the game
  • Resolving any coding issues
  • Be mindful of keyboard issues and misleading commands
  • Resolve issues related to corrupted audio and missing text

Conclusion

Arabic Game Localization can be a huge opportunity to introduce your games into the fastest growing online market. But it needs to be done effectively so your audience will connect with your product in a genuine way. This involves linguistic, cultural, as well as technical considerations that all need to be applied accurately.

Laoret only employs native, in-country professionals experienced in the gaming industry. We select highly-trained linguists located in the region our clients are looking to target, and Localization Engineers who can resolve any possible technical issues and deliver a linguistically, culturally, and technically sound product.

Read our blog on why you should localize your video game for the MENA-Region and discover what makes it the next best business opportunity.

If you are curious to find out what it would take to localize your game for the profitable Turkish market, have a look at our blog expanding on the market, gaming behaviors, and localization challenges that define the Turkish gaming market.

References

  1. 2020-2023 Gaming Report Newzoo
  2. 2020 Saudi Arabia Gaming Report Newzoo
  3. 2020 United Arab Emirates Gaming Report Newzoo
  4. Mobile Games Saudi Arabia
  5. Top countries by Smartphone users
  6. Forecast for technological trends in the MENA Region
  7. Top 10 Internet Languages
  8. Insights learned from Indie Game Developers in Latin America and the Middle East
  9. 2020-2023 Gaming Report Newzoo
  10. 2020 Saudi Arabia Gaming Report Newzoo
  11. 2020 United Arab Emirates Gaming Report Newzoo
  12. Mobile Games Saudi Arabia
  13. Top countries by Smartphone users
  14. Forecast for technological trends in the MENA Region
  15. Top 10 Internet Languages
  16. Insights learned from Indie Game Developers in Latin America and the Middle East
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Arabic Game Localization: Why It Matters And How To Get It Right
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Arabic Game Localization: Why It Matters And How To Get It Right
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What makes Arabic Game Localization so important and why should it be part of your expansion and translation strategies? As the 5th most popular language with a large gaming community, the Arabic-speaking gaming market is a crucial one to tap.
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laoret
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