Sci & Tech

Iran's Gaming Industry

Iran's Gaming IndustryIran's Gaming Industry

The PC and console games market in Iran is worth approximately $140 million, based on research firm Newzoo’s latest data that project it to grow to $167 million this year.

But the majority of this is hard to measure or accurately track because it lurks in gray and black markets due to decades of sanctions and the absence of official distribution channels, according to Venture Beat.

Gameguise, a computer game localization firm, ran a triple-A gamer study earlier this month to shed light on this unknown market.

Between January 25 and January 28, 743 respondents completed the survey on Line messenger app, which ranks third in the country. They all qualified as owning a game console, while 70% of the sample, or 1,875 respondents, did not.

Over 80% accessed the survey via a VPN partly due to the fact that the survey platform used, Survey Gizmo, is blocked by some ISPs.

Iran’s most beloved console is the Xbox 360 (42%) and the PS4 (31%) has more than twice the market share as Xbox One (14%). Xbox 360 and PS3 will likely continue to thrive in the country for at least a few more years since the market supply consists mostly of super-cheap “localized”copies.

Iranians pay a few dollars for a title that would otherwise cost them 15-20 times more.

The localization of content in conjunction with the authorities is a complex procedure and can be best explained in the following steps:

Companies acquire the original and then make a copy that is editable. The game artwork, storyboard and text are modified where required so as to comply with the moral content guidelines.

In most instances, this already involves some back-and-forth with Entertainment Software Rating Association.

ESRA processes the application and its stamp of approval makes the game legal for public distribution. ESRA/Bonyad makes a small fee from every copy sold at these stores.

The eighth generation of consoles, however, has proven "uncrackable", hence customers have no choice but to pay the substantially higher cost. PS4 ownership is remarkably high, reflecting the willingness of Iranian gamers to access the best, regardless of cost.

With the country now opening up, it will be in the government's interest to formalize the computer game trade in the country and stop the illegitimate trade of ripped-off copies and help pave the way for cleaner market conditions that will attract official distributors.

Sixty-two percent of gamers purchase their consoles and games, original or copy, from shops in Iran. A wide variety of the stores exists at Iranian tech bazaars, most of which owe their existence to the absence of official distributors barred from entering for decades. Online purchase, however, is rapidly growing in popularity, with 27% opting for it.

Console gamers really put in the hours in Iran, likely because most are either students (27%) or unemployed (17%). Some 49% play at least once a day and 26% play several times a day.

A majority, constituting 54%, play for at least one hour a day, 22% for three hours or more, and 5% for over five hours.

Action and adventure games (47%) consume most of that time, with sports (21%, with EA’s FIFA Soccer being No. 1) following and the remaining genres lagging behind, all below the double-digit threshold.

Online gaming on consoles is thriving, which is surprising because packages offered by Internet service providers are often too slow to be able to connect firmly to gaming networks.

Indeed, 58% indicate that they experience connection disruptions, of which one-third states it is a frequent bane of their existence. Regardless, 27% are playing online at least once a day while 15% play several times a day. A further 30% are paying for in-game features or services.

On a monthly basis, two-thirds purchase less than $30, and 21% between $30 and $85. The whole group is present in above average proportions with 4% stating they pay between $85 and $142 per month and 3% are even paying more than $285.

At least 33% play PC games, of which 35% play at least once a day and 21% indicate playing several times a day.

One of the most exciting tidbits is Steam in Iran, which is used by 35% to play games on, of whom 22% play several times a day and 19% play at least once a day.