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RIYADH: In April, strategy and consulting firm Accenture estimated the global gaming industry at more than $300 billion, far more than the music and film markets combined. The industry added 500 million new players between 2019 and 2021. And that was just the beginning.

Driven by the rise of mobile games and the urge for social interaction during the pandemic, the industry has thrown dozens of startups and multinational companies into its lap. In addition to demand-side traction, the powerful technology mix of blockchain and non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, has also enabled game developers to take advantage of these tools and create virtual worlds.

Some developers are even smiling all the way to the bank by effortlessly tapping into untapped cultural niches. One of them is Jordan-based mobile games publisher Tamatem, which cleverly publishes games aimed at Arab users and builds brilliant stories around Arab culture.

“Arabic is the fourth most spoken language in the world, but only 1% of global content is in Arabic. This is a huge void that needs to be filled, especially in the game industry in the Middle East and North Africa,” Hussam Hammo, founder and CEO of Tamatem, told Arab News.

Flavored with local flavors

One of his early games was Awad the Delivery King, a mobile game in which a food delivery boy races through the potholed streets of Amman. Despite being a cartoon character from Jordan, the game was the No. 1 app in app stores in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, the US online publishing platform reported.

His current chartbusters include VIP Baloot and Clash of Empires.

Launched in 2013, the game developer works with international gamers and converts their content into Arabic. For example, another in-demand game, Escape the Past, was a collaboration with French studio 3DDuo, where Tamatem adapted content to local tastes and culture, the medium reported.

The buzz surrounding Tamatem was such that, according to a company press release last December, it raised $11 million in Series B funding led by PUBG developer Krafton. But reaching this crucial milestone was not easy. Hammo’s first gaming company, Wizard, founded in 2009, closed because the industry in the area was still in its infancy.

“This has resulted in a negative perception within the investment community. It also put a big question mark on my leadership and in the industry,” recalls Hammo. He barely had a $200 bank balance when he planned to launch Tamatem. In no time at all, he found 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley investor who injected $50,000 in exchange for a 5% share, valuing the gaming company at $1 million in 2013. The rest, as they say, is history.

“Tamatem currently ranks first among game publishers in the MENA region in terms of user engagement. It has a million active users in its games, three million users playing monthly and 150 million downloads,” said Hammo, adding that he is constantly looking for ideas to keep the numbers going.

En février dernier, Tamatem a fait appel au poète saoudien et influenceur des médias sociaux Ziyad bin Nahit pour lancer la Baloot League, une extension de son popular jeu de cartes basé sur une application VIP Baloot qui a conduit plus the 700 personnes à participer à la party.

Take advantage of the game plan

The thirst to compete and excel can be felt across the region. According to the Saudi Social Development Bank, the video game market in the Kingdom is worth $1 billion and is expected to reach $2.5 billion by 2030. The Boston Consulting Group’s outlook is more optimistic. It predicts that Saudi Arabia’s revenue from games will reach $6.7 billion by 2030.

Interestingly, much of this growth is being driven side-by-side by a public-private partnership. In January of this year, Amazon Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced a partnership with MENATech, a company of the GGTech Entertainment group, to launch Amazon University Esports, the first educational esports competition for any country. In the same month, Riyadh-based Savvy Gaming Group, backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, or PIF, bought ESL, formerly known as Electronic Sports League, for $1 billion.

In November 2020, the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation, or Misk, announced a strategic investment of approximately SR813 million ($217 million) to acquire a 33.3% stake in Japanese gaming company SNK Corporation. Two months ago, the foundation increased its shareholding to 96%, reports Verge, a tech news platform.

The industry is already buzzing with activity. Last February, the PIF disclosed a more than 5% stake in two Japanese listed gambling companies, namely Capcom Co. and Nexon Co., with combined holdings of about $1.2 billion dollars, Bloomberg reported.

The public fund also bought a 5.02% stake for $883 million in Nexon, the company behind role-playing games such as MapleStory and Dungeon & Fighter, Bloomberg added.

According to the US-Saudi Business Council, the Department of Communications and Information Technology, or MCIT, is also boosting public-private partnerships and infrastructure investment. The ministry has been closely involved in the development of the Kingdom’s IT and telecommunications infrastructure, including broadband, fiber optics and 5G.

“With the help of MCIT, US-based Activision Blizzard has announced a partnership with Saudi Telecom Company to host regional servers for one of their most popular titles, Call of Duty, in Saudi Arabia,” the report said. article on gaming and esports in saudi arabia.

Getting crafty with NFTs

What else? Many game publishers in Saudi Arabia are getting on the NFT train. What does that mean? NFT is a certificate of ownership of a digital asset that is rare. You have a certified token for it on a digital ledger or blockchain. Simply put, you get a link proving your connection to that asset.

For example, a game developer like Activision’s Call of Duty could showcase their popular decals as NFTs, which can be used as a profile picture for your social media accounts. The company could be selling weapon camos, Operator outfits and other gaming accessories, a huge draw in Call of Duty fandom.

Game developers in Saudi Arabia want to take advantage of this fandom. Tamatem’s Hammo will soon be announcing its NFT project along with others including Riyadh-based UMX Studio.

“In the future, gamers will be able to monetize them by reselling these items using blockchain,” said Ali Al-Harbi, founder and CEO of UMX Studio, a game developer that has previously launched auctions in its games where players can purchase items. exchange. † It foreshadows the emergence of new opportunities on the blockchain.

Publisher of the popular drag racing game Climbing Sand Dune and the police chase game King of The Steering, the studio has 200,000 daily active users and 50 million downloads. Starting in 2014 with about $4,000 in the prize pool, Al-Harbi made progress pretty much on his terms. His first game earned him $200,000 in the early years of his inception.

Al-Harbi has never felt the need for outside investors or financing. He earns his money from integrated services, online subscriptions and advertisements. His mantra for success: He listens to his players. “We keep taking it to the next level just because we listen to our audience. At their request, we will be releasing a light version of the game soon.

The opportunity for game developers to grow is endless, thanks to the toys at their disposal and the support of the state. But what makes the Saudi gaming industry dominate the rest of the room is when it listens to the customer and builds a unified narrative that celebrates Arab culture. After all, success in the gaming industry isn’t about making money; it’s about improving visibility and soft power.

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