x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Arab world set to get phone games to fly

The Life: The Arab world is yet to produce a smartphone game on the scale of Angry Birds. But it¿s only a matter of time, says Gaith Kawar, the chief executive of Jordan¿s TakTek Games.

Gaith Kawar, right, says Chillingo will bring polish and distribution power. Salah Malkawi for The National
Gaith Kawar, right, says Chillingo will bring polish and distribution power. Salah Malkawi for The National

The Arab world is yet to produce a smartphone game on the scale of Angry Birds.

But it's only a matter of time, says Gaith Kawar, the chief executive of Jordan's TakTek Games.

His company has signed an international deal with the UK games publisher Chillingo to distribute its latest title, My Marbles, on Apple and Android devices.

Chillingo also publishes Angry Birds, which has clocked up 700 million sales on smartphone and tablets.

Here Mr Kawar explains his company's more humble ambitions in the gaming market.

What is your game, My Marbles, all about?

You have to work your way through approximately 40 levels. If you hit another marble in the game, then you win both. If you miss that marble, yours is lost.

What is appealing about that idea?

Everybody somehow relates to an analogue, pre-digital world where you had just a simple game of marbles - where you just aim and shoot. It's a very simple game to pick up and simple to understand.

What is the advantage of getting Chillingo on board?

We've done the development work, the design work. What really makes a difference is that extra 5 per cent, that extra polish at the end. Because there's such fierce competition out there in games. And getting someone who has experience like Chillingo is crucial to polishing the game. The second important point is that they bring distribution power.

Could My Marbles be the next Angry Birds?

I don't want to say Angry Birds. That's an astronomical level of success. From where we stand, we need a successful game - and by that I mean it returns the investment we put in. We're not even talking about Angry Birds - that's still way down the line. So we're taking it step by step.

Are you going to make more games?

The idea is that we're going to be churning out five to six games per year. [The partnership with Chillingo] does not cover any other game we have produced.

The concept of Angry Birds sounded offbeat, and not immediately a likely hit. Is there any formula to developing a popular game?

There's no secret. For Rovio - the developers for Angry Birds - it was their 52nd game. So it wasn't a fluke, or just a coincidence. It was the culmination of [Rovio's] 10 years of work with 50-plus games. So I don't think there is an equation. The best you can do is create the best game that you can.

How long until something of the scale of Angry Birds gets made in the Arab world?

I think in the next couple of years we're going to get a huge hit from the Middle East.

There's a thriving tech start-up scene in Jordan. What is it that makes that possible?

The government, and everybody from the top down, understands the importance of human capital, in IT specifically.

* Ben Flanagan