Why is mobile game development big in Turkey?

 

All jobs are glamourous, until they are not.

But why do they appear in some places and not others?

Why is mobile game development big in Turkey? /img/zynga-peak.jpg

I had no idea that Istanbul had become the Silicon Valley of the mobile gaming industry. It’s there that companies like Peak produce plenty of “casual gamess” that are “free, mobile-native, easy to learn, shorter to play and target the broadest audience possible.” In March 2021, six of the Apple App Store’s top ten mobile games in the U.S. came from Turkish studios.

Why plenty of young Turkish developers choose this industry is painfully obvious: it “became the American dream in this economically devastating time”, or at least a “a ladder to the middle and upper class”.

Even more obvious is how this turns out, after the excitement of the first paychecks (if it comes):

  • After high school, Istanbul’s young game developers are chased and headhunted by vampirish publishers who sign them up on one-year contracts, which allow them to outearn their parents
  • developers report scenes of gaming sweatshops run by predatory contracts and worse, with developers expected to churn out multiple games a week, with no money up front.
  • there are several signs (see the article) that the boom may be already ending.

That is the first lesson from the Turkish mobile game development boom: it is just like any other boom, in that it exploits people and then leaves.

The second lesson, which may be much more interesting, is why there?

What I find really intriguing, and not adequately answered in the article, is why Turkey? I’m not upset or at all, of course, and it’s good to see new types of jobs coming to places that need them. But why this happened there, instead of any other non-western country? Like Nepal, for example? I am really curious, and there may useful lessons for everybody here. If anybody has feedback, please email me.

Image source: Zynga acquires Turkish company Peak Games for $1.8B, in 2020

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