Interview with David Reeves: ‘Middle East region worth $750 million’
Middle East no longer a “non-important” region, says Capcom Europe head.
David Reeves, former SCEE boss and present Capcom Europe head, is a surprisingly honest man for his position, as evident from his interview below. We caught up with the industry veteran last week to talk all things Capcom – it’s games, it’s focus on the Middle East, localization of games, his opinion on the upcoming console systems, and of course, the PSN down time.
David Reeves: Capcom’s outlook is…I have been fighting with them to try and convince them that customization, and not just basic translation, but customization is the way to go. It does increase sales and…well, they got English, German, Italian and Spanish, we got to that. They are going to do some Russian and Polish, and I like to think that they going to do some Arabic as well.
Capcom is a very financial company. They look at it and say “What is the return on investment?”, and they want to see it in the very first game. I don’t think FIFA, with the Arabic version, is going to see it [high return on investment] in this game, but they will see it in the subsequent game. People will realize that FIFA is in Arabic and it has well known Arabic commentators, which is absolute key.
If I can back track a bit, Middle East is becoming much more important to publishers than it ever was before. Because software is selling. Before it was selling, but it was pirated software, especially on PS2 and Xbox 360. And it was on PSP as well, and it still is. PS3, too, but lesser. PS3 has probably opened the eyes of many publishers, and certainly Sony, that you can sell the software in a tie-ratio of nearly 3:1. With the PS2 it was about 1-2:1, and with the PS1 it was 0.5:1. The value of the Middle East is around US$750 million to US$1 billion, and so people are starting to notice it.
What I want to do is get the Japanese producers and the heads of R&D out here, so they can see it. I wanted to actually run Captivate here (Dubai) instead of Miami, and we might still try and do it next year. But it is something that…it’s not a fear…but we don’t know about Dubai. We don’t know about Middle East so much. It’s a little bit unknown…we know about the States, about Europe, we have been there. But ‘what is happening there David?’ they would ask, and I would say “it’s absolutely safe, you can come here, it’s a beautiful, beautiful city. You can go around the Emirates.” In fact, Emirates is 40% of volume, 60% of the volume is probably Saudi Arabia. There, a lot of gaming goes on. And the demographic is absolutely perfect.
They have lost the demographic in Japan. Because they got either no children, or one. But here, in Saudi Arabia, families have a lot of children. This is how it was in Japan 15 to 20 years ago. So you have got a captive audience. When I was consulting Capcom, and one of the things I said is you have to localize, you have to come out here, you have to expand into the Middle East. They just didn’t realize the volume. I mean Sony were the pioneers to a large extent. Xbox followed them. Nintendo, however, are really in chaos here. They don’t really know whether it’s NTSC or PAL, or both. And they should be! There is fantastic potential for their games. Don’t you think?
Yeah, Nintendo have been a favorite in the region for quite a long time. Especially now with their recent efforts coming in with both NTSC and PAL games. However, officially it’s NTSC. Maybe it’s just that the top management needs to come down, like you said, and actually see the market over here to realize the potential.
Right. You know, Egypt was the driving force back in the days for games in the Arab region, and Nintendo was quite strong there. But they seem to have lost it…it’s just Cairo now. Lebanon is quite good as well. There are couple of studios there that are developing games.
There is a lot of local talent these days, in Saudi and UAE, especially now with support from Universities and even government owned companies like TwoFour54 which are soon opening a whole video game development course.
Indeed! We have always tried to promote video games as a career path…you could be a producer, you could be a graphic artist, a sound engineer, a copywriter, a programmer; there are many things you could go into. And then progress beyond that because of the skills. That’s why places like Singapore, Montreal, San Diego, and even Vancouver to some extent…there unemployment is very low because people are coming into career and jobs they like. There is a lot of testing there…many people start as a tester, then become an assistant, and so on. I have said many years ago that UAE in total has the capability of producing an infrastructure, that’s what Singapore did. They do more online games, as you know. They do quite a lot for Korean games and for Chinese games. But I still feel that you can do it here. You don’t need to do Arabic games necessarily…because the thinking and the education here, and the science and technology here, is really quite up there. Even Saudi as well.
Moving more globally, the 3DS was launched earlier this year, and Capcom was one of the first studios to launch titles for the platform. The 3DS has not really picked up hardware wise, at least not as much as the DS…
It hasn’t done well as much as Nintendo expected. I am not a Nintendo spokesperson…but I think Zelda has helped it a little bit.
The DS didn’t take off quickly, too, it took a while to generate [interest]. I think you are going to find…come end of the year, I think there is going to be a lot of…in the early years of DS, a lot of them were purchases for other people and that started off [the sales]. I think it [3DS] will grow but at the moment it is a slow start.
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