0921 GMT July 15, 2018
Tehran Game Convention (TGC) 2018, the biggest B2B convention for video game industry in the MENA was held in the Iranian capital of Tehran on July 5 and 6.
The convention featured conferences, panel discussions, master classes as well as an exhibition. A total of 120 domestic and international companies participated in the expo. In addition, 2,000 game developers from around the globe attended the convention. The event was held by Iran Video Games Foundation in affiliation with Game Connection.
An important, lucrative industry
The video game industry is constantly growing in importance as its market is quite lucrative worth over $100 billion. Speaking to Iran Daily on the sidelines of the TGC, André Faure, the CEO of Game Plan (Global Games Business Consultants) from Brazil said the global video game market is even bigger than that of films.
He added the industry is one of the most growing segments of any markets in the world.
"Only in Brazil, where I come from, the video game market grows 12 percent per year. The global video game market grows up to five percent per annum."
Having recognized the importance of this industry and know about the high level of its profitability, in addition to old hands at video game development and publishing such as Japan, the US and China, other countries including Russia and South Korea are also investing heavily in this sector.
Lena Kang, the CEO of a South Korean marketing and consulting company involved in video game industry named MOTHER NEST, told Iran Daily that the industry is absolutely huge in her country and the world.
She added, "Our company cooperates with its counterparts in South America, Europe and China. However, these days, we have become interested in the Middle East region. That is why, in cooperation with the South Korean government we held exhibition in a number of Middle Eastern states including the UAE."
Iran, a new market
True, the focus of international video game developers, publishers and marketers as well as the consulting companies involved in this industry is shifting towards new markets in Asia and the Middle East, where they can face less severe competition for selling their products and providing services, as the video game market is extremely competitive in certain countries such as those in Europe, and generate extra revenue.
As acknowledged by most of the representatives of the foreign companies that took part in TGC, Iran is, at the time being, a highly lucrative market. The advantages of this potential market are big enough to tempt them to expand their presence despite the reinstatement of the unilateral sanctions by the US on Iran.
Kang said South Korean video game developers and publishers are seeking to find new markets, adding Iran is a suitable option for them.
"South Korean video game developers and publishers seek to expand their international cooperation. Iranian companies can be good partners for them."
Faure said he had already published a number of video games in Iran.
Downplaying the impact of US sanctions on his country's relations with Iran, he noted that Brazilians will face no problem for transferring money to or from Iran, as the two sides have signed agreements in this regard.
Moreover, Joerg Tente, the managing director of 8 Elements Asia Pacific Ltd. — based in Hong Kong, maintained that he is very interested in the Iranian market as, at present, the competition among foreign video game developers and publishers is not intense in it.
"A reason that I have attended this international conference and exhibition is to see what kinds of games Iranian companies are interested in and looking for to import to the country."
Wolfgang Walk, from Germany's Walk Game Productions (Narrative design, producing and consulting), told Iran Daily that foreign video game publishers are highly interested in publishing their games in the Iranian market. "They have already started this."
Speaking to Iran Daily, Farid Haqverdiyev, a representative of Azerbaijani game development company Azdimension said his company will be very pleased in case it finds an opportunity to publish its games in Iran.
"We have held negotiations with a number of Iranian firms to this end."
Speaking to Iran Daily, Albert Khusainov, business development director at Mail.Ru Group (the largest Internet business in Russia), said, "We have already published Russian games in Iran's market through Iranian publishers. It is quite probable that we expand our cooperation with Iranian game developers."
Iranian games' strengths, weaknesses
The question is if the industry is extremely profitable and Iran can be a good and lucrative market for foreign game developers and publishers, why domestic companies involved in video game industry do not try their luck to, in addition to, capturing the country's market, publish their games in other states.
The answer appears to be that they have already undertaken efforts to these ends. Dozens of Iranian video game developing and publishing companies participated in the second edition of TGC — the first one was held in 2017 — and sought to find customers or foreign publishers for their video games.
However, the path is thorny and the challenge daunting. In order to gain a firm foothold in video game international market, Iranians will have to face formidable rivals such as US Microsoft, Japan's Sony and China's Tencent.
Although, as attested by foreign participants in TGC 2018, Iranian game developers have made advances in this field and have a bright future, they are required to work hard on the quality, originality, details as well as complexities of their games.
Kang said Iran's video game industry will make significant progress in the next few years.
Walk noted that he had taken part in the first edition of TGC, and in the second edition of the event, "the Iranian games I saw had more original contents".
Warning that this level of progress fails to be sufficient, he urged Iranian game developers to double their efforts. "Iranians are still, to a large extent, copying foreign games. Graphically and technically, you are still there. I, personally, would like to see more elements and symbols of the ancient Iranian culture incorporated in their video games."
In addition, he urged that Iranian video games should their own exclusive game language.
To enter international markets, he concluded, Iranian games are required to be more outstanding and original.
Commenting on Iranian video games, Malte Behrmann, a professor of creative industries and communication at bbw University of Applied Sciences in Germany, told Iran Daily that video games by a number of Iranian developers are good enough to be able to enter Germany's market.
Frankly speaking, he added, some other Iranian games fail to have a high quality. "You can only count on selling them in developing countries' markets. They definitely fail to have the power to compete in with rivals in the markets of the US and Europe."
Faure said the video game industry in Iran is very developed.
"We are in negotiation with Iranian video game developers to persuade them to send their games through Brazil to the markets of Western countries and help improve the level of the industry's global market. I see a very bright future for Iran's video game industry. I have found five or six Iranian games in this expo that are suitable for being presented in global markets as they are mature."
Tente said the main reason for his participation in this exhibition is to look for video games developed by Iranian firms and asses their potential for being published in the markets of the countries he is doing business in.
"Most of the games I have seen so far are simple and lack sufficient details and complexities. For certain reasons, it is very difficult to find suitable markets for such games in South Asia."
Khusainov said, "It is quite probable that we expand our cooperation with Iranian game developers. We are interested in publishing Iranian games in the Russian market and have held negotiations with Iran's video game developers to this end."
He noted that he has seen many Iranian games at the expo, advising Iranian video game developers to improve the quality of their products in terms of art aspects, details and complexities.
Khusainov said there projects in Iran that meet the standards and requirements of Western markets. "We are here to assess the condition for cooperation with these game developers."
Holding such events will definitely help those involved in Iran's video game industry to meet and exchange views and experiences with their foreign counterparts and, thus, improve the level of their activities.
Such conventions will also help foreign game developers and publishers to increase their knowledge of the video game industry in Iran and count more on the country in this field.
Most of the participants in TGC almost unanimously praised the quality of the event describing it using words such as 'huge', 'professionally-organized', 'high-quality', 'perfect and amazing', 'professional' and 'unique'.