Feb 1, 2022 - Technology

Gaming upstart seeks a better approach for Middle Eastern players

World War 3. Screenshot: The Farm 51, My.games

World War 3. Screenshot: The Farm 51, My.games

Game industry veterans at upstart publisher The 4 Winds Entertainment are tired of how the mainstream video game industry treats players in the Middle East and nearby countries, and they’re doing something about it.

Driving the news: 4 Winds is lending development support to the upcoming multiplayer military-themed shooter World War 3 to address chronic cultural and technical issues for gamers in a part of the world where the player population is rapidly growing.

  • Gaming in the MENA region — Middle East North Africa — is projected to reach nearly 86 million gamers by 2025 and generate $3.1 billion in revenue, according to a Niko Partners study.
  • But big games are largely developed in Western countries and Japan, often playing into stereotypes and using multiplayer infrastructure that puts players in that part of the world at a disadvantage.

The details: 4 Winds plans to produce “local content” for the game, which 4 Winds head of localization, Nazih Fares, sketched out for Axios.

  • “It can start [with] simple things that seem so normal for Western players, like authentic voiceover lines that an actual Turkish or Arabic soldier would say, having national flag patches you can equip on your in-game soldier.”
  • Even that would be a big deal, he said. “For years, representation of these cultures have been tarnished by the bias of Western publishers' point of view or understanding of these regions, and thus why Arabs, for example, are the go-to bad guys" in shooter games.

Playing better: They’re also working to make the multiplayer game run well in a region where online gaming is hampered by poor access to servers.

  • They plan to establish local servers, reducing so-called ping so that players’ interactions with each other register swiftly and online competitions feel fair.
  • For years, Fares said, local players had to connect through distant European servers. When he was a localizer at Blizzard, he overcame internal resistance to get the company’s popular Overwatch game set up through Amazon’s lone server set-up in the region — in Bahrain — but even that can produce laggy connections for players located too far from it.

Between the lines: These are ambitious goals for a modest game. World War 3, which is developed by Polish studio The Farm 51, isn’t on the scale of an Overwatch or other huge titles 4 Winds’ staff worked on before.

  • But their work is an effort to change how the industry works. “Our company is all from the regions we want to help grow — the Arab world, Turkey, Latin America and Russian-speaking nations," Fares tells Axios. “Those are the ‘underserved' of the gaming industry, the ‘emerging markets’ as they like calling them."
  • “We're personally involved in this because we knew we couldn't change these mentalities from within as employees of these companies."
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