INK BLAST | IS THIS TOO POLITICALLY CORRECT OR REALLY SMART MARKETING?
“Internet company Gala Inc. in late December will begin offering an Arabic version of Rappelz, its multiplayer online role-playing game. Rappelz has been modified to take into consideration Muslim culture. Female characters will no longer show as much skin and Western symbols, such as the Christian cross and the Star of David, will be removed. The game’s background music will take on a Middle Eastern tone and the cries of monsters will sound different. The new version will target 19 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Gala hopes this overseas expansion will boost earnings. The new version will be run by Game Power 7, an online game company based in the United Arab Emirates that has signed a licensing agreement with nFlavor Corp., Gala’s South Korean subsidiary.”
So, in a nutshell, the videogame maker has decided to tone down the nudity and the Western symbols to appeal to consumers in largely Muslin countries. My very first reaction was, “C’mon. Are you kidding me?” And a long string of thoughts ran through my right brain, the one that is more freewheeling and playful and the one that has a sense of humor. My right brain was almost offended, thinking: are they afraid that there will be an international outcry like the one that followed the publication of editorial cartoons in a European newspaper that featured the prophet Mohammed? Do they fear that their headquarters will be attacked because they offended extremist pockets of the Muslim world?
Tired of the vitriolic, my left brain, the analytical one, promptly told my right brain to shut up. Then it proceeded to explain that this was genius. That the company was doing exactly what it should do: micro-targeting its product so that each segment of its consumer base feels catered to, appreciated and respected. My left brain understood that spending a little time and money making those modifications to the videogames would translate into happier Muslim players, not because they are West-bashing zealots but because they would not be distracted by elements of the game they normally consider offensive or inappropriate.
“Oh.” Uttered my right brain, and skedaddled out of the room.
"Juleyka Lantigua is a journalist and editor whose work appears in national newspapers and magazines. For more info visit: www.juleykalantigua.com."