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New Middle East localisation initiative for violent games

Attempt to crack market with dubbing, less gore and more Arabic characters

Sony's Saudi Arabian distributor Modern Electronics Company has revealed plans to work with Amman-based media firm Rubicon Group Holding on localising Western games for the Middle Eastern market.

The territory is traditionally highly resistant to violent content, but the new initiative plans to edit major console releases to be more in line with cultural standards.

Also planned is dubbing into Arabic and, in some cases, the addition of Middle Eastern characters.

The firms are planning on converting two to four games per year (initially PlayStation 3 titles only), and claim that FIFA 11 and the hitherto unconfirmed Uncharted 3 will be the first to receive the treatment.

As well as dubbing the games into Arabic and editing out troublesome content, there are also plans to add in new Middle Eastern characters to make some titles more culturally relevant.

"Those games that are extra-violent, or have sensitive issues for the region, will be edited for content," Ghassan Ayoubi, Rubicon Holding's executive director, told Abu Dhabi paper The National.

"It's not purely dubbing in Arabic, but eliminating things that may be inappropriate for the region. It's introducing one or two elements that will be specifically for the region - maybe introducing a new character.

"It's not censoring. It's tailoring or customising it for the market...To make them entertaining but not necessarily insulting. It's not deviating from the game itself."

However, he admitted that the initiative was not a universal solution. "There are titles that we wouldn't even choose to Arabise or localise, because they are off the chart, because they would need reinventing."

Games recently denied release in Middle Eastern territories include Mafia II, Dead Rising 2, GTA 4 and, of course, Medal of Honor.

The Rubicon/MEC partnership also plans to produce up to two games a year itself, focused on Arabian cultural history and values.

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Alec Meer


A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.