The Iranian video games industry is in high spirits. Since a nuclear accord was struck by Iran and the "world powers" in 2015, some games have turned over huge sums. DW found out why at Gamescom 2016.
Oh, the irony of it! Walking past a screen at Gamescom 2016 I spot an ingame instruction, reading "Put a bomb on the truck." This at a stand for Iranian video games developers and distributors.
I had to chuckle, briefly. But then I stopped myself to think.
Why should gamers want anything different just because they live in Iran? My bad for laughing, hey?
The Iranian video games industry is young but "blooming" and may soon be booming. And it's all there in a handbook called "Iran's Game Industry: Essential Facts & Key Players 2016-2017."
"Following the nuclear accord between Iran and the world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015, Iran's working status improved and the country hopes for the return of international investors and foreign business people," write its authors.
And the Iranian game industry wants to take full advantage of this improvement. After all, there is money to be made. Lots of it.
So this here is the story of a video game developer, Mehrdad Ashtiani, and a distributor, Sara Yektapour.
DW: How healthy is the Iranian game industry?
Mehrdad Ashtiani: The industry has been blooming in the past few years. Iran's market is an emerging market, and there are 32 million gamers in the country. Almost 80 percent of the people play mobile games on their smartphones, just like everywhere else on the international market.
Sara Yektapour: The market is growing day by day. The population is about 80 million; so we have a huge youth generation. The games business in Iran is really new and unique, because it is just starting. The first companies started publishing in Iran in about 2010. The one thing is that because we don't have access to international credit cards, foreign companies have to set up a "payment integration" and sell within our local app stores.
So how much money can game developers expect to make?
Yektapour: It depends on the game. Some games can get more than $200,000 (175,000 euros) daily. But it depends on the game.
What sort of games are developed in Iran and what do people like to play?
Ashtiani: In terms of game genres, it's strategy games, such as Clash of Clans or Clash of Kings. They are really popular - they are among the highest grossing games on the mobile games market. Iranian users tend to prefer strategy games, action games and RPG games.
But those are imported games, right?
Ashtiani: Yes, that's imported games. But among the top 10 highest grossing games of the market, four or five of them are Iranian games.
What are they called?
Ashtiani: One is Rooster Wars, which is an action battle game. Another one is Fruit Craft, which is a card game. Then there is Second Gear, which is a drag racing game, and Hey Taxi, which is a runner game.
Asmandez - Iran's first online game has been voted one of the top MMOs (massively multiplayer online games)
The nuclear accord
How important has the nuclear accord been between Iran and the international community?
Ashtiani: Before, there were a lot of one-directional sanctions imposed on Iran, which was a very hard constraint for European countries to work directly with Iranian companies. After the sanctions were lifted, European countries have been freer to perform financial transactions with Iranian companies, and this opens up a lot of opportunities - two-fold. First, for publishing our games directly on the international market, because before we had to do this through proxies and third-party companies, but now we can do it directly. And second, it works the other way around - big companies can officially enter the Iranian market and sell their product.
Did the sanctions also have an effect on the kind of technology available in Iran?
Ashtiani: The problem wasn't so much the technology, because even before the sanctions we could use game engines like Unity, for instance, as any other game developers - and this is something which remains, but because those companies usually look to their US offices, they're not allowed to support Iran officially yet - but we hope they will be able to support the Iranian user community.
Do the players also have access to the hardware to play the games - the ones that need the fastest computers?
Yektapour: Yes, they do, we have every technology. But because of the filtering system, there are some websites we can't access [for online games]. But there's no problem importing any electronic device into Iran.
But that's changed, hasn't it?
Yektapour: That's right. It's easier now - five years ago it was different. But there are no such problems now.
So why should we buy Iranian games - what sets them apart?
Ashtiani: Well, as with any other emerging market, we have a lot to do, and a lot of competition from big companies with big games. It's hard to compete with those guys - they have more resources, bigger budgets. So I think we should focus on providing unique content - content based on our own culture, our language, a unique message and artistic styles. This would be interesting for people who haven't seen this kind of content before.