Nearly everyone in Iran has heard about the Clash of Clans, the MMO game with over 6 million users only on android devices. We don’t have international payment systems in Iran yet, but it hasn’t stopped Iranians from making in-app purchases from Google Play or App Store. The solution was just a middleman with access to a credit card. But something interesting has happened. Sanctions have caused for a new kind of business to be made based on Clash of Clans.
How Are We Different?
This combination of characteristics makes Iranians different.
Changing The Usability
Iranians have special ways of using some apps, they can modify the usability of these apps. How? Take Instagram for example. Instagram was designed to be used with smartphone cameras that’s why we don’t have the desktop version and apart from that it’s a visual social network. In Iran more people tend to write a long post for their photos in comparison to other countries. Not to mention that they would take pictures with their professional cameras and then they would edit it on Photoshop and after that they would publish it on Instagram. We see these behaviors in other cultures too but the intensity is different.
Sanctions are another cause of changing the usability of some apps. Again take Instagram, E-commerce just bloomed 2 years ago and it’s in its early stages. People and small businesses need a channel to sell their products and social media is one the best channels available.
That’s why Instagram is being heavily used by individuals for selling their products and right now it’s one the main channels that is being used for marketing.
Apart from that, there are many Instagram pages that are creating good contents and they’ve monetized their page by getting a fee for promoting other brands on their channels.
You might ask how all these things are related to Clash of Clans and monetization of it? The answer is: when you have these characteristics with the absence of international payments, plus a little bit of innovation, new opportunities would emerge. New opportunities for Clash of Clans were new ways of monetizing this game.
The Story behind Clash of Clans
Key Elements For Its Success
If you search Clash of Clans in Farsi you would get 1.6 million results from Google. So why Clash of Clans is so popular in Iran? The obvious answer is: It’s a well developed game and it’s popular in many parts of the world, but apart from this obvious answer there are some other major reasons behind it.
We have 40 million smartphones in Iran and for the last two years mobile internet has been improving massively. In just two years the whole operators’ networks upgraded from 2G to 3G and recently all the operators launched their 4G networks. So people are into gadgets and specially smartphones and the internet is improved to the point that people can play Clash of Clans anywhere. But one other element for the popularity of Clash of Clans is missing and that is the current situation of mobile game in Iran. It’s true that Iranians are catching up to Triple-A games that are currently developed in other parts of the world, but they are not there yet. With these elements we can understand why Clash of Clans is so popular in Iran.
Taking The Opportunity to Make Money
As I mentioned there are no international payment systems available in Iran. There is no possible way for a normal user to purchase anything from Google Play or App Store. This fact has created an opportunity for some individuals who had access to credit cards to build a new kind of business out of sanctions. And that is selling gift cards online or offline for the people that want to purchase apps or use in-app purchase. Gift cards are the only substitute in the absence of international payments.
Clash of Clans And Its Monetization
Dedicated Websites for Selling Gems
In Clash of Clans there is a paid option to advance your village faster. This option is called Gem. You have to spend your Gems to develop your village faster. In Iran the only way to buy Gems is to buy gift cards and then use it to buy gems. But Iranians made a business out of it and they are selling Gems directly to the users. There are many websites right now that are selling Gems to Iranian users online. Iranians would pay in Rial and then the middle man would get the user’s username and password to buy Gems for them. There is an alternative if you don’t want to give away your username and password, and that is by using “Link a Device” option. “Link a Device” option is used for transferring an account to a new device. What these websites do is that they use this option to transfer the amount to their cell phone then buy the Gems for the user and then log out of the account. This insecure way of buying Gems has forced the Iranian Cyber Police to warn people of playing Clash of Clans and buying Gems in this way.
It worths to mention, some of these websites are using Google Adwords for promoting themselves (You can’t work with Adwords with Iran’s IP) .
Yes, there is a market for accounts whether it’s android or iOS. People would sell their Google or Apple account because basically there is no other way around. In order to sell a Clash of Clans account you must sell you Google Play or App Store account. People would bid on accounts on some dedicated websites or even on Esam (eBay of Iran). The amounts would sell between 1 Million Toman (Nearly $290) to 15 Million Toman (Nearly $4300). We have 6 Million Clash of Clans Users only on android devices and this is a very addictive game so you can imagine this is a good market.
There is also a website that lets you create a profile on their platform to share contents with others. If the user shares his/her profile with others,
any user that visits the website via that profile and buys Gems, the website would share 5% of the whole price with the owner of the profile.
One other interesting website is selling their template to users to share their strategies and insights with others. They are getting subscription for providing their template.
There are many heavy Clash of Clans users in Iran but there is this player named AmirReza who spent 70 Million Toman (20K $) on his account.
By his estimation his account is worth 15 Million Toman (4285 $). He spends 8 hours playing Clash of Clans and another 8 hours to monitor the game.
Last but not least, there is a dedicated app for selling Gems in Iran too.
It’s Not Only Buying Gems
The story doesn’t end here. It’s not only selling Gems, Clash of Clans’ impact is much deeper. There are other websites dedicated to this game in Iran and I can’t cover them in depth but I’m going to mention them. You can find many Iranian websites containing these subjects.
- Education: Basically introduction to Clash of Clans from the basic to pro levels. They might talk about the new strategies for playing the game, finding new structure for the city (Map)
- News: Any kind of news related to Clash of Clans.
- Robots: Yes there are robots that can play the whole game for you, from attacking to maintaining your resource, even donating your troops in your clan. One of the main features of these robots is that they keep you online so that other players can’t attack you. These robots run on the desktop computers and users have to install the game on BlueStacks (an android emulator on PC)
- Modified Clash of Clans App: There are modified versions of this game which enables you to have unlimited Gems to advance your village very fast. People use it basically for learning the game because you can’t connect to the network of the original game since they use different servers.
- Social Media: WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram and Facebook you name it. You can trace Clash of Clans’ footsteps in any social media that is being used in Iran. People use these social media to publish their contents about this game or to market the related products to this game.
- Paying for entering certain clans: For entering certain clans you should pay the leader or groups of people. Mainly because the clan have advanced users.
According to officials, currently there are 25 million gamers in Iran. This is a huge market to tap, that’s why more and more games are popping up in Café Bazaar (Play Store of Iran).