Ever wonder why games localized exclusively for Arab speaking markets rank so well on Top Grossing App charts in the US? The Spellgun team came across a Japanese research study looking into this phenomena. The findings might surprise you. 

As a transpacific mobile partner, we're delighted to see research devoted to the topic. Here is the original article as it appears in Japanese, and below is an excerpt from our translation. 

BEHIND THE U.S. APP STORE, THERE IS A BUNCH OF MOBILE GAME-CRAVING ARABIC WHALES

It has been long wondered as to why there are Arabic games ranked consistently high up on the IOS App Store Top Grossing chart in the United States. These popular Arabic games are completely in Arabic – titles, descriptions, in-game text, etc. – such that there’s no way an English speaker can play and enjoy these games at all. Today, a Japanese media “App Marketing Labo” did a research on this phenomenon and unraveled this mystery.

Many suspected that since no English-speaking gamers would play or pay for these un-localized Arabic games, these games must have been monetizing off of the Arabs who live in the United States. However, it turns out that the majority of those money come from Arabs who live in their home country. This curious finding makes us wonder – why would they spend in the U.S. App Store when those games are also on their local App Stores? 

There are very few games on the Arabic App Store, and there are two main reasons as to why many game developers don’t bring their games to the Arabic App Stores: first of all, the translation process to Arabic is more difficult in comparison to other languages; secondly, the abundance of rules and regulations (politically and religiously) makes it more difficult to publish a game that doesn’t violate any of those rules. Therefore, the local App Stores are quite boring for the local users.

The Arabic region is globally known for its affluence, and most of the wealthy individuals can fluently speak and read in English, thus creating an U.S. App Store account and play games in English is generally not really a problem for them. The lack of entertainment in many Arabic regions makes mobile games a convenient way for local Arabs to kill their spare time. 

App Marketing Labo actually interviewed local Arabs and learned that over half of them use the App Stores in English-speaking countries such as the U.S. or UK, and the conversion rate of those players are very high compared to users of other populations. An employee of an Arabic game developer disclosed that over 60% of their revenue come from the U.S. App Store, and 90% of those revenue come from local Arabs.

Arabic game developers are well aware of this situation, so they are willing to actually globally launch their games in Arabic completely. This type of launch seems like they do not care about localization at all, but they are in fact precisely targeting the high quality Arabic paying users who mainly purchase from the U.S. App Store.

“Revenge of Sultans” on the right side in the picture reached No. 26 on the Top Grossing chart in the U.S. App Store on May 19, 2016, and it is developed by a Chinese company (Soar Dragon Network Technology) who specializes in making Arabic games. This game goes to show how the deep understanding of markets and precise targeting can do for a game developer.