x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Cashing in on bin Laden's death

Retailers and analysts in the UAE are expecting high demand for new books, films and video games about Osama bin Laden.

A Palestinian woman walks past a t-shirt displaying US President Barak Obama under his campaign's slogan,  next to a portrait of Osama bin Laden a day after he was killed in Pakistan. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI
A Palestinian woman walks past a t-shirt displaying US President Barak Obama under his campaign's slogan, next to a portrait of Osama bin Laden a day after he was killed in Pakistan. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI

Media companies are rushing to cash in on the death of Osama bin Laden, with retailers and analysts in the UAE expecting high demand for books, films and video games about the final days of the leader of al Qa'eda.

Publishers are scrambling to launch books about bin Laden, with the US company Random House reportedly assembling an essay collection that it expects to publish as an e-book as early as next week.

Isobel Abulhoul, the managing directorof the UAE book chain Magrudy's, said she expected increased demand for books about bin Laden.

"Books about the hunt for bin Laden and the history are part of the non-fictional perennial best-sellers," she said. "I think there will be lots of books that will be published as a result of [his death]."

Bin Laden-related films and video games are also in the pipeline, with some products expected to be available as soon as this weekend.

The New York company Kuma Games plans to release on Saturday a video game based on the killing of bin Laden. According to the company's website, the game will allow players to be "behind the trigger that finally takes down Osama bin Laden."

Bin Laden-related media products are "an opportunity for niche players" in the market, said Richard Adams, a retail analyst in the UAE at Verdict Research, which is part of the Datamonitor group.

"You'll have small opportunities that will be leveraged: book deals, films and computer games," he said.

While bin Laden's death was likely to mean more business for certain media companies and retailers in the Middle East, it was unlikely to affect the wider retail scene, Mr Adams said.

"It's a very interesting story, and I'm sure games manufacturers will be looking to develop [titles based on] these very sensational events," he said. "But bin Laden's death will have limited resonance here in terms of the retail sector."

There could be opportunities in the Middle East's thriving gaming industry, he said.

But one regional video-game executive said he believed efforts to cash in on the death of bin Laden were in "poor taste".

"We're not looking for these short-term gimmicks," said Steve Tsao, the chief executive at the Dubai company Tahadi Games. Bin Laden-related games were unlikely to appeal to gamers in the Middle East market, Mr Tsao said.

"For a US market, I still view it as tacky, low-brow and opportunistic," he said. "Tahadi Games won't be capitalising on these kind of sensationalist games and content."

Others said it was inevitable bin Laden's death would extend beyond the news media into other forms.

"You see it on TV, you see it in newspapers, it's all over Facebook and Twitter, so why can't it be in a game?" said Mahmoud Ali Khasawneh, the chief executive of the Jordanian games developer Quirkat.

"The fact that there is a game about it is normal and natural," he said. "It's an extension like any other medium, just a powerful one because it's interactive."

But Quirkat would not develop titles featuring the slain al Qa'eda leader, Mr Khasawneh said. "We are definitely not into this. Our focus is on entertainment. We don't follow a political agenda or any kind of agenda."

In Hollywood, plans are being developed for at least one film about the killing of bin Laden by US special forces. Kathryn Bigelow, who directed the Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker, was already working on a film about attempts to kill bin Laden and is expected to rewrite the script before production starts this summer.

Other films are expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

 

bflanagan@thenational.ae