The heavily populated Middle Eastern nation of Iran has a much higher proportion of younger consumers, with around half of Iranians younger than 35.
Theoretically, this makes Iran a promising market for video games publishers, but the industry’s potential is hindered by a barren retail landscape.
There are very few retailers in the region, no recognisable chains to speak of and just one sizeable distributor in the form of Doostan Co. One Middle Eastern distributor described Iran as a “very closed market”, with very few distributors supplying games directly to retailers in the region.
Instead, some firms purchase games from neighbouring nations such as the United Arab Emirates – albeit in low quantities.
A significant number of consumers rely on pirated games. Chipped Xbox 360 and PS2 units are commonly found in Iranian households.
This is partly due to the lack of new releases in the region. Many titles that sell well in the West are banned in Iran because of the strict ratings and censorship regulations by the Entertainment Software Ratings Association.
Titles can be classed a 3+, 12+, 15+, 18+ and 25+, with warnings about violence, language and sexual content. The ESRA also watches out for violation of religious values, such as the misuse of mosques or churches, and ‘hopelessness’ –any content that ‘may cause players to feel bad and/or sinful’.
That’s not to say consumers have little to choose from when it comes to picking up new games. The Iranian government encourages the development of games tailored for Iran’s audience, free from the influences of Western culture.
In fact, in June 2012 the Secretary of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution Mokhber Dezfuli told Iranian broadcaster Fars News Agency there are “around 140 games with Islamic and Iranian contents that can compete with foreign products”.
You can read all of MCV's International Factfiles from 2012 in our free downloadable publications Around the World with MCV, in association with Click Entertainment.
IRAN: THE FACTS
GDP (Per Capita): $6,359
Capital City: Tehran
Fanafzar Game Studios, Pluto 13, RSK-IR