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Spotlight On… The Game Development Scene In Turkey & Syria

We are a mere six weeks into 2023, but already there has been one event which has dominated the worldwide consciousness. The tragic earthquake hit the area between Kahramanmaraş and Gaziantep in Turkey near the Syrian border, with a second quake affecting nearby Ekinözü. This tragedy has rightly resulted in widespread grief, mourning, and aid efforts from nations across the world. These nations are strong and resilient, and with time they will rebuild and recover. As the world rallies around these two nations, it is important to remember the incredible work being done within them across a variety of industries. In particular, both nations have seen huge advancements in their work in the gaming industry over the past few years.

In this blog, we will analyse the thriving game development scene in both Turkey and Syria. We will shine a spotlight on some of the companies that have contributed to the growing gaming landscape in the respective countries, and outline some of the key developments over the last 2 years in particular, before addressing the impact the earthquake has had on this progress and what 2023 has in store for the game dev scene as the nations embark on a period of recovery.

The Scene In Turkey

 

The indie game development scene in Turkey has been growing at a remarkable rate over the past few years. A number of exciting new game developers and studios have emerged in the country, committed to creating innovative new games that have had success both domestically and internationally. Motion Blur released the survival game Kabus 22 in 2006, which is widely regarded as the first-ever video game release by a Turkish developer. Peak Games had been driving the game development landscape in Turkey for over a decade before it was acquired by Zynga for $1.8 billion in 2020 (read more in TechCrunch here). More recently, Zoetrope Interactive have had success with horror games such as Conarium and the Darkness Within series, and Ankara-based TaleWorlds Entertainment has a burgeoning reputation thanks to their well-received Mount & Blade action role-playing series. The second instalment of this series was, in fact, the largest launch on Steam upon its early access release in October last year, with more than 170,000 concurrent players at its peak!

A contributing factor to the recent success of the game development industry in Turkey is the support and funding being made available by the Turkish government. A primary example of this is the establishment of a fund by the Ministry of Culture & Tourism committed solely to the development of new games in Turkey. Add to this a dynamic community of game developers in the country which is growing year-on-year, and it’s no wonder that the game development landscape in Turkey continues to go from strength to strength. This article from Ubik Studios, another exciting indie game and animation studio in Turkey, offers more insight into the country’s thriving game development industry.

Syria’s Game Dev Landscape

 

What cannot be underestimated when analysing the game development scene in Syria is the impact the ongoing civil unrest in the country has had on those trying to develop new games. Access to core platforms such as Steam and the App Store is limited due a conflict which has been ongoing since 2011. Sanctions imposed in 2012 as the struggle for power in the country continued meant there were many who felt the industry in Syria was destined to fall away for the foreseeable future. As of 2023, the unrest within Syria continues, and the recent earthquake only further adds to the feeling that it will be some time before Syria itself has a game development scene to speak of at all.

However, while developing games within Syria continues to be extremely difficult, there are many Syrian nationals who have achieved success in the industry by finding innovative ways to develop and publish their games. One such example is Ramez Al-Tabbaa, who is the sole developer of AvoCuddle, which earned positive reviews after its release on Steam in 2019. Ramez is now a Unity Developer in his own right, but launching his very first game was by no means an easy process. Writing in gamedeveloper.com, Ramez discusses the difficulties he had in studying the Unity engine to begin with, the struggles he encountered in publishing the game on Steam due to the restrictions in Syria, and how he was able to achieve his dream of publishing his own game with the help of trusted partners outside of Syria. Ramez is just one example of a number of aspirational game developers who hope to realise their ambition of developing video games. This will continue to be difficult to achieve due to the issues affecting the country, but it is encouraging that many developers are finding ways to bring their exciting ideas to the fold.​​​​​

Key Developments Over The Last 2 Years

 

The ongoing unrest within Syria means it is difficult to analyse the key developments in terms of games industry growth in the country over the last 2-3 years. In Turkey, however, growth in the industry is clear to see. According to the Turkey Gaming Industry 2021 report, mentioned in this article by the Business of Esports, the Turkish gaming market grew to $1.2 billion in 2021. This was no doubt contributed to by growth in the number of gamers in the country from 36 million in 2020 to 41 million in 2021. This growth appeared to continue throughout 2022, with Turkish-based mobile gaming news platform Mobidictum revealing in June of last year that in-game purchases were up by 27% compared to May 2021. The article linked above does a fantastic job of breaking down the core statistics behind this increase, such as which age groups made the most purchases and which locations within Turkey saw the most gaming activity. 

The Impact Of The Earthquake, And What 2023 Has In Store For The Game Dev Scene In The Region

 

While there can be no doubt that the gaming industry in Turkey has continued to experience exponential growth over the past few years, and there continues to be a desire amongst the Syrian population to forge their own thriving gaming industry, recent events have had a significant impact. What is undeniable is that gaming activity on both the consumer and the business side within Turkey and Syria will give way to the rebuilding efforts required after such a terrible tragedy. Our thoughts continue to be with those affected by the earthquake, and we hope the games industry will continue to thrive as the two nations recover throughout 2023. For Syria, this event may set the development of their game dev scene back further still, whilst those in Turkey will hope that the growth of their own industry will not be adversely affected by the tragedy. The long-term future of the game dev scenes in both countries, however, looks very bright indeed.

To donate to the Turkey-Syria Earthquake appeal, head to the Disasters Emergency Committee website.​​​​​​​

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