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Onur Ergüney – Director of Global Partnerships for Gaming & e-Sports, TPAY MOBILE

COVID 19 has been the catalyst for the biggest transformation to people’s lives in recent history. Little else has brought on such seismic shifts in the way people work, play, communicate and live, since the creation of smartphones themselves.

The fourth industrial revolution has arrived faster than anyone could have predicted, especially in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) and Turkey. This combined region has a population of over 1.6 billion people, a fast-expanding middle class, and, through the power of mobile technology, is more connected than ever.

A long-standing barrier for scaled-up mobile games distribution in the region – the lack of access to banking infrastructure for subscriptions and the purchasing of games and in-app-purchases (IAPs) – is falling fast. By 2025, 834 million people across MEA will be mobile internet users, and through direct carrier billing (DCB) technology and eMoney wallets, they will have the freedom to spend on gaming like never before.

Untapped opportunity

A relatively untapped marketplace of a billion+ potential players is powering up and set to flip your revenue forecasts upside down if you play your cards right. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) for instance, the games industry is currently valued at $4.5 billion according to Frost & Sullivan. That may be just 4% of the global total, but, it is the world’s fastest-growing region, with a year-on-year growth rate of 25%. On a grander scale, MENA makes up 80% of this growth whilst the other 20% is amassed in Sub Saharan Africa. According to one prediction from GSMA, the region will count for 709 million individual SIM connections by 2025.

In other words, Mobile is everything across the MEA and Turkey, and this should be explored as your next frontier of growth. However, you need to know how to access it.

Access is key, and access is different

Accessing these new markets isn’t simply a case of re-branding what has worked in the past. Your games may well be attractive in these new markets but the systems and processes that power them, and importantly, monetise them, won’t be the same. There are different rules and regulations for advertising, for example, and variations on what purchases or transactions do and don’t constitute gambling. Direct debits for app stores or card payments for IAPs are not common practice in these territories. Across the 20+ countries that make up MEA and Turkey, there is a rich tapestry of cultural differences that result in different ways of purchasing digital goods like games.

Establish partnerships to access these players

To turn your players into payers, the best advice I can give is to establish strategic partnerships – find experts on the ground that can work with you. You are no longer just a games publisher, with your partner network you become a FinTech, a games publisher, a games developer and even an evangelist for a new world of mobile gaming. Ecosystems are everything.

The global language is APIs, not Esperanto

Each territory has its quirks and opportunities, and only by having knowledgeable inside help will you be able to truly navigate the differences in approaching sales and distributions of your titles. Understanding the common services in territories is key for traction, an example being that the Middle East has widely adopted DCB (Direct Carrier Billing) for mobile payments and subscriptions in recent years, whereas mobile wallets are the transaction tool of choice in Subsaharan Africa.

Games developers want simple integrations that cover the back-end systems. If you find the team that can provide that, they will keep up with evolving regulations in new territories, keeping your games online. This allows you to do what you do best: making high quality, desirable games.

Games publishers expect great user flows. What makes games more interesting than other e-commerce platforms is that they are live systems. The user makes purchase decisions in real-time, while remaining within the game. This is also what creates complexity when it comes to transactions, but there is an answer. The key is to integrate a seamless payment flow within the game, minimising player disruption.

Find an ecosystem that works across borders. One thing that is global is the API. If you want to successfully break into these emerging markets, you need to build a partnership network that understands the intricacies of these technologies.

Should you wait?

Simply put, no.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest-growing market of all for mobile-penetration, it would be an oversight to not properly explore the MEA and Turkey as a key element of future games monetisation for the future.

MEA and Turkey host a relatively untapped market for games publishing and eSports monetisation, not to mention a fast-growing pool of local influencers – now is the time to make inroads into the gaming sector in such markets. It has been said that the early bird catches the worm – this wisdom is just as true today.

The previously non-existent infrastructure required to sell and monetise mobile games has been replaced. Suddenly, the opportunity is there for the taking. Venture into these new territories, and the partnerships you form now will help grow your company and its market share exponentially, by creating opportunities to engage new gamers. Whilst boosting your business into the next 50 years, you have an opportunity to entertain many millions of people who are fast to become your next loyal, player base.