Home   >   Industry Voices

The quiet opportunity for games developers in Iran

With projected games revenues of 602m for 2018, it could be a fair market indeed
The quiet opportunity for games developers in Iran

The classical architecture-laden landscapes of Iran may not immediately spring to mind when considering what market to adventure into next, but perhaps it ought to be.

The country has a population of 82 million and according to Newzoo 49 million of them are online, meaning that it has the highest internet population in the Middle Eastern and North African region.

More importantly, perhaps, Newzoo reckons Iran’s games market will take $602 million in 2018 alone. That haul puts Iran 23rd on Newzoo’s Top 100 list for which countries will snag the most revenue for the year.

Also, as ARPU and ARPPU are typically high in MENA regions, Iran itself enjoys much of the same.

Setting off

Regarding the games marketplace, however, there’s a tiny bit of China to be seen within it.

Both have their own local services, such as marketplaces and payment methods, as Iran largely has its own payment infrastructure, so games can't just be flung onto Google Play.

That said, Iran does come with some advantages that make it stand out as unique all the same.

The cost of user acquisition is quite low and will set any interested developer back a few cents, while eCPM from ads also comes in at $9.6.

The hot trend within the apps market has also become games after apps had been the go-to initially.

Divar was a prime example of apps market trend and still has more than 15 million active users, it’s also said to be the highest-grossing classified ad network application in Iran.

The hot trend within the apps market has also become games after apps had been the go-to initially.

In recent years, due to the rapid growth of this industry and more willingness of users to play mobile games, developers and companies focused on game production as well.

Companies such as Tod or Brain Ladder are considered well-known games developers in Iran, with hits such as Fruit Craft, Percity and Amirza (the latter reached over six million users within six months).

Unlike China, which finds itself in a bit of a freeze regarding the approval of new games and IP licensing, Iran is very much open for business - despite recent US sanctions put in place on the country.

Many active companies working in the mobile games industry are non-governmental, so there is no concern about sanctions against working with government-sponsored companies.


Regarding the players themselves, the majority of Iranian users are said to be quite young and have a good grasp of the English language.

As such, they hold an appreciation of popular Western titles. Iranians may not be able to pay in a conventional way, but FIFA and PES still rank among the country’s most popular titles through unconventional payment schemes.

In many cases, people have to play with only whatever free features the games have; so there is a huge potential userbase of enthusiastic gamers who will boost the market if more titles get officially published within the country.

One particularly booming audience is that of Iran’s mobile gamers, which stand at 60 million. Accessing them, however, appears to be the tick.

Unlike China, developers need to work and deal with only one major, local marketplace to tap into that audience.

Setting up shop

In Iran, local app store Café Bazaar stands as the country’s most popular option, with over 40 million users.

With the internet population standing at 49 million and mobile users sitting at 60 million, it’s a fair chunk indeed.

The company’s owner, tech firm Hezar Dastan Holdings, is no stranger to the international scene either and was reportedly set to receive an investment of $47 million from Dutch-based International Internet Investment Coöperatief.

Today, one of the biggest challenges for developers is to acquire users and turn them into paying users.

Café Bazaar also shares the global eye, holding partnerships with Clash of Clans developer Supercell and Clash of Kings developer Elex, whose products are now using its local payment methods.

“Today, one of the biggest challenges for developers is to acquire users and turn them into paying users,” said a CafeBazaar spokesperson.

“More than 40 million of Iran population uses Cafe Bazaar.

“Cafe Bazaar is open to cooperating with regional as well as global games industry partners, easing the apps publishing procedure through our platform, on which millions of gamers download, install and play games frequently.

“Benefits and services provided by Cafe Bazaar and its publishing partners, including regular payments and a support system., makes a developer’s presence in Iran market official, powerful and hassle-free.”


Café Bazaar’s payment system works through either payment gateway, direct carrier billing or wallet and gift card, with the company acting as a middleman between developer and gamer.

The number of gamers the company can readily call upon is also on the rise. From 2016 to 2017 newly registered users increased by 270 per cent, while paying users saw an uptick of 45 per cent.

All and all, with many developers pondering the question of what market is right and what is right now, an eye towards the future and Iran may be a wise move, with few already grasping the chance.

The marketplace may require some aid to get into, but with over-saturation a common theme in other global markets, and a growing audience ready and waiting to play games, it seems a promising move.

This article is sponsored as part of Steel Media Preferred Partners.