Over the last few years, Turkey has become the global hub for mobile gaming. Turkish mobile game developers have brought in billions of dollars in funding and investment. In June 2020, Istanbul-based Peak Games was acquired by Zynga for $1.8 billion, making it Turkey’s first unicorn. Two months later, Zynga announced it will be purchasing Rollic, another Turkey-based developer studio. Turkish-developed mobile games accounted for 20% of the top 100 downloaded titles in the US in 2021.
So what makes Turkey different from other markets? And what trends do marketers need to be aware of? In this article, we speak to Turkey-based marketers to find out.
Gaming unicorns raising Turkey’s profile
The Turkish game industry has been rising for the past decade, but 2020 was a game-changer. Peak and Dream Games became unicorns, and several other big studios, including Rollic, were bought by US companies for hundreds of millions. Since 2015, Turkey has attracted a staggering $2.4 billion in investment.
Animation International Turkey Growth Manager Utku Altunkıran said;
“Turkey offers great opportunities for publishers to invest in amazing hyper-casual gaming studios. Türkiye has produced some really successful unicorns such as Peak Games, Gram Games, and Masomo. This has increased the interest in mobile game development and investment in the country.”
Good testing ground
Some of the world’s most successful games have roots in Turkey. Royal Match, created by Dream Games, has been a huge hit with 6 million monthly active users and $20 million per month in revenues from in-game purchases.
Many gaming companies founded in Turkey make most of their profits in other parts of the world. According to the Game Developers Association of Turkey, around 95% of all gaming revenue comes from abroad. Are these marketers missing out by not taking advantage of Türkiye’s benefits, especially when it comes to advertising costs?
It’s possible. Turkish apps have one of the lowest costs per install (CPI) compared to global benchmarks. The average sits at $0.30, compared to $5.28 in the US.
Hanzade Bayulken, Vision Tech Sr. Performance Marketing Manager, said;
”Turkey has comparatively low CPI, which is highly beneficial for testing out hyper-casual game performance in user acquisition. For apps that intend to go worldwide, Turkey may be a good market for a soft launch or quick tests. It gives marketers the chance to gather data on user behavior, define success criteria, and discover the most effective promotion methods—without committing a significant budget”.
A mobile-first audience drives Türkiye’s game industry. Few Turkish game developers focus on major console titles. Overall, around 79% of all adults in Türkiye play mobile games. Of the $880 million consumers spent on games in Türkiye in 2020, roughly half came from mobile gaming, according to Gaming In Türkiye’s 2020 Game Market Report.
Unlike console developers who can spend years fine-tuning their games, mobile game developers design multiple games quickly, hoping that a few will be successful. This strategy has paid off. Many titles made by Turkish gaming studios routinely top the charts in the App Store and Google Play.
Nick Blake, Vice President, Liftoff EMEA, added:
“Turkey truly is a mobile-first market. The country has around 55.14 million smartphone users, 64.8% of the total population. And 65% of people in Turkey say they play mobile games at least once daily. It’s no surprise there has been tremendous growth in mobile gaming studios. Istanbul alone is home to more than 600. Mobile gaming is part of the country’s DNA, and it’s no coincidence that Turkey has become a global leader in hyper-casual gaming”.
Growing talent pool
Young people in the country are increasingly attracted to secure jobs in the booming game industry. The success of Peak, Gram, Rollic and the wider Turkish games ecosystem has had a positive impact on perceptions of the industry as a whole. All of a sudden, their favorite pastime is a rising profession. Job boards in Türkiye are bursting with posts for game developers, encouraging a growing pool of new talent.
Turkey offers innovative career pathways, including apprenticeship programs, boot camps, accelerator programs, and incubators. This is in addition to several universities that offer degrees in the game industry, such as the ATOM acceleration program at the Middle East Technical University (METU) Teknokent in Ankara. The Turkish government also compensates local app developers for their costs by listing apps on the App Store and/or Google Play.
“Many talented people are looking for work in the game industry in Turkey. Why? Well, gaming companies sort of market themselves. (Who doesn’t like games?) You have the opportunity to grapple with cutting-edge tech challenges, and you get credit for your accomplishments. Challenging established ways of doing things is appreciated, unlike many other industries. You feel like the sky’s limit when you put it all together.
“Recent acquisitions in the Turkish mobile gaming space have also encouraged more people to enter the industry. Parents are pushing their children to work in gaming. With this growth in talent, studios are becoming more successful. Turkey is now one of the best hyper-casual hubs in the world. Of course, many talented developers are also going to Europe. I’m happy for them, but it’s a shame that Turkey loses them”.Mert Ersöz – Head of Marketing, MagicLab Game Technologies
Ayşegül Yıldırım, COO of Admost, says:
“The Turkish development ecosystem moves and adapts quickly. This has played an important role in making Turkey one of the most eye-catching markets for the hyper-casual genre. Turkish developers are extremely skilled and talented, making our market very competitive. Our developers are shaping the future of the game industry. Admost is a great example. It usually takes a short time for our tech team to adapt to new technologies because they are very responsive.”
It’s an exciting time for mobile gaming companies in Turkey. Investment is flooding in, young talent is on the rise, and a mobile-first audience is spending more time connected to their devices. All this means more opportunities for gaming studios to engage with them. We look forward to seeing what comes next for Turkey’s game industry.