Representatives of Iran's National Foundation of Computer Games attending this year's Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, say they need more investors to develop their industry but that U.S. sanctions are making matters difficult.
The group hosted a booth at the show to promote the Iranian videogame industry and attempt to convince Western retailers to stock their products. Amir Tarbyatjoui of Parsan Business Development Solutions said Iran was becoming a leader in the Middle East videogame industry but added that the current political situation made it difficult to find broader support. "We need more investors," he said. "The [US] sanctions do affect our industry, but they cannot stop it."
Games at the Iranian booth include a "tank shooter" based on the war between Iran and Iraq, a Persian platform adventure (no, not that one), an adventure game about a girl named Sara and an RPG based on Iranian mythology called Age of Pahlevans. Bahram Borgheai, head of Age of Pahlevans developer Ras Games, said that most Western studios focus on Greek, Norse or Roman mythology for their games but pointed out that Iran has a "rich history" that's ideal for game settings.
"Persia has been around for a very long time," he said. "What we have is something quite unique and we are using the event in Cologne to show that to the world."
The Iranian game industry gets very little attention outside the country's borders and when it does, it's usually for something like Special Operation 85: Hostage Rescue (which I'm guessing is the same game that was reported in 2007 as Rescue the Nuke Scientist), released by a hardline Islamic association as a "defense against the enemy's cultural onslaught." Interestingly, however, Borgheai said the game never made it to Iranian audiences.
"We never heard about it in Iran. It certainly wasn't released there and the first I heard about it was through the international media," he said. "If it was made then I would guess they just took an existing game and stuck a few textures and the like onto it; it certainly wasn't a new game."
Gamescom isn't the only show the group will be attending; Tarbyatjoui said all the attendees would also make the journey to E3, although they won't be able to mount an exhibit there. "It is difficult given the relations between Iran and the USA," he said. "Certainly all of us here today will be at E3 next year, but there will not be a dedicated Iran stand such as you see in Cologne today."