Nintendo’s biggest competitors in the console market, Sony and Microsoft, both recognize a handful of Middle Eastern regions on their respective websites, including Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Eminence, and Israel. The full list from the official Xbox site even includes often overlooked countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Azerbaijan.
But no Iran. The second largest population in the middle east, home to over 78 million residents, has no representation in the world of console gaming.
According to research — from a 2015 Landscape Report provided by the Iran Computer and Video Game Foundation (IRCG) and the Digital Games Research Center (DIREC) — there are roughly 23 million gamers in Iran. It’s an absolutely enormous market, but ultimately ignored for a variety of reasons. Nintendo’s annual fiscal report for 2017 offers at least a surface-level explanation as to why the company (and many others) would avoid such a region.
The report states, “Domestic and overseas business activities involve risks such as a) disadvantages from emergence of political or economic factors, b) disadvantages from inconsistency of multilateral taxation systems and diversity of tax law interpretation, c) difficulty in recruiting and securing human resources, and d) social disruption resulting from terror attacks, war and other catastrophic events.”
But despite the lack of love from major gaming companies, Iranians continue to buy, sell, and play games through any means necessary. It’s an odd market controlled by a sometimes unpredictable fluctuation of supply from outside sources and demand from Iranian players. This economic rollercoaster — coupled with a rise of online-only titles and Iran’s less than stellar internet speeds — can make the gaming climate in Iran seem unstable.