x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Media zone plays the game

Abu Dhabi media zone twofour54 invests more than $2.5 million in two online gaming companies, eying growth in sales of virtual goods - with video.

The Abu Dhabi media zone twofour54 has taken minority equity stakes in two Arabic online gaming companies, Tahadi Games and Jawaker.
The Abu Dhabi media zone twofour54 has taken minority equity stakes in two Arabic online gaming companies, Tahadi Games and Jawaker.

Businesses that sell virtual shisha pipes and flying horses do not immediately sound like viable ventures.

But the Abu Dhabi media zone twofour54 has invested more than US$2.5 million (Dh9.1m) in two video-game publishers that specialise in such curios.

The government-owned hub has taken minority equity stakes in two Arabic online gaming companies, Tahadi Games and Jawaker.

Both derive the majority of their revenues from the sales of virtual goods purchased within games.

Wayne Borg, the deputy chief executive and chief operating officer at twofour54, said the investments would help create jobs in the capital.

"The value of the combined transactions is in excess of $2.5m," said Mr Borg.

"We're bringing two great gaming businesses to Abu Dhabi. They will create between them in excess of 50 jobs in the next couple of years."

Mr Borg said "gaming represents a huge area of growth". According to the research firm Gartner, consumer spending on online games is expected to double from $11.89 billion this year to $28.29bn by 2015. Tahadi Games was established in 2008 by the founders of Maktoob.com, the Arabic web portal that was recently purchased by Yahoo.

Steve Tsao, the chief executive of Tahadi Games, said 95 per cent of its revenues came from sales of items within games, which include virtual lions and flying horses.

"We feel that's a strong growth model," he said.

Tahadi specialises in localising international games titles for Arabic audiences and is currently testing a local version of an international shooting game.

But the twofour54 investment will allow the company to accelerate its plan to make its own titles, said Mr Tsao.

Jawaker, based in Jordan, is a multiplayer card game website that was launched in April 2009.

The site claims to have 500,000 registered users, 95 per cent of whom use the site in Arabic. Most games are free, but users can pay to enter tournaments and send each other gifts bought with a virtual currency.

Mohamed Haj Hassan, the co-founder of Jawaker, said 90 per cent of its revenues were from sales of in-game goods.

"I'd say it's substantially skewed towards in-game purchases," he said.

"We sell virtual goods to users on the gaming table. They can buy a virtual cup of tea, or a virtual argeelah [shisha pipe]."

The venture-capital deals were made by twofour54 ibtikar, the centre's financing and support arm.

Tahadi Games has already relocated to Abu Dhabi from Dubai following the twofour54 deal.

Jawaker, which employs six people, is moving its base from Jordan in the coming weeks.

 

bflanagan@thenational.ae