After last week’s post on the two countries I do not feel are worth the attention of social game companies , I received more emails than after any other post, with many asking what territories I felt positive about. I now know how the writers of 24 felt as people clamored to know what was going to happen next. So next week, I will post about the countries I think deserve your attention.
Just kidding! The countries that I am most optimistic about are Poland, Turkey and Colombia.
Poland is a country I have been enthusiastic about for over four years. Before my previous company was acquired by Playdom, we did a thorough analysis of about 20 locations in which to set up a foreign social game studio. Out of all the cities, which covered eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and Latin America, Krakow (Poland’s second largest city) was the clear winner. Locations in Poland benefit from the stability of EU membership and no more corruption than is typical in US or Western governments, but with costs much lower than most other locations (though slightly higher than less stable markets like Ukraine or Belarus). What was even more important was the level of talent available in Krakow, which is largely a university town. There is a glut of Flash programmers and artists as talented as anywhere else in the world. Moreover, they have similar design sensibilities as the US or western Europe, making their products more familiar for western consumers.
Not only do I consider Poland a great source for social game development (or even acquisitions), but it is also a market worth focusing on. People often do not realize it has a population of over 38 million and is the sixth largest economy in Europe. It is also the only European economy to have avoided a decline in GDP after the financial crisis. Finally, it is not likely to be hurt by the imminent withdrawal of Greece from the Eurozone as the Poles never gave up their currency (the zloty) to join the Euro. In the past, I found that social game revenue from Poland was close to that from our top west European markets and much more than some of the larger emerging markets.
The other market I am particularly excited about is Turkey. Most people in the social space already realize there are a lot of people on Facebook in Turkey, the last number I saw was over 30 million Facebook users . Given that Turkey’s population is over 72 million (about a quarter the size of the US), that 30 million number still has a lot of room to grow. The rejoinder you normally hear is that Turks do not monetize. While it is true that they do not monetize at the same level in social games as they do in traditional markets, now that social game companies are creating better localized versions and Facebook credits has adapted to the local market, monetization is not as bad as you think. Decent and growing monetization coupled with the size and game friendly nature of the market make this a territory where you should pay attention. Also, like Poland, Turkey is shielded from the Euro crisis as they were not allowed to join the Eurozone (we see who gets the last laugh now) but is firmly entrenched in the European market.
The other thing I like about Turkey is that it is a great gateway into the Middle East. Doing business with Turks is very similar to doing business with other Europeans, but Turkey is also the gateway to the Middle East and allows you to get exposure to this territory without having to adapt as much culturally (though it is still a good idea to get the most out of this market). According to Wikipedia, the Middle East offers over 300 million consumers (not counting Turks). Although incomes vary greatly, there are some very wealthy enclaves that love games. Building from a base in Turkey, there is a great opportunity to increase your business.
After GDC, I wrote about some of the great development talent I saw out of Colombia. I do not want to rehash what I wrote then but I want to reiterate that some of the strongest mobile and social developers I have come across in a while are out of Colombia.
The other thing about Colombia is that it is an increasingly important market for social games. You cannot simply say you are targeting or marketing your games for Latin America; each country is different and you must decide where to focus. Brazil, largely because of its size, is legitimately everyone’s top priority. After Brazil, however, I recommend you put Colombia on the shortlist of markets to target (along with Mexico and Chile). Not many people realize Colombia has over 46 million people and has become one of the most stable economies in the region. They have effectively eliminated the major domestic terrorist organizations and have shown strong growth over the last few years. Most importantly, consumers in Colombia love US and Western products. Thus, other than looking at Colombia for development talent, I recommend you focus some of your marketing efforts there.
This post is not intended to be an analysis and ranking of every market but more to bring attention to some countries that you may have not thought of previously. There is some lower-hanging fruit but if you have already been pursuing international opportunities and have a sophisticated organization, these are three countries worth your consideration.