x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Mobile videogaming downloads hot in region

Angry Birds has helped to drive a happy trend in the Middle East as consumers flock to download games on their smartphones, says Nazara Technologies.

Globally, the various versions of Angry Birds have been downloaded more than 700 million times. Reuters
Globally, the various versions of Angry Birds have been downloaded more than 700 million times. Reuters

Angry Birds has helped to drive a happy trend in the Middle East as consumers flock to download games on their smartphones.

Globally, the various versions of Angry Birds have been downloaded more than 700 million times - and other mobile-gaming brands also report a huge surge in interest.

Nazara Technologies, a mobile gaming firm based in India, reports an increase in downloads in the Middle East.

The company has an exclusive deal with Electronic Arts to distribute mobile games across the Middle East, including titles such as Need for Speed and EA Sports Fifa 12.

It also distributes games made by smaller publishers.

"It's growing massively in the Middle East," said Savio Saldanha, the chief executive for Nazara in the Middle East and Africa.

"There is a huge appetite," he added. "We've seen numbers in the UAE which we didn't expect."

Demand for mobile videogames is strongest in Saudi Arabia, followed by Kuwait and Egypt, and then the UAE, Mr Saldanha said.

Nazara typically builds mobile-gaming portals on behalf of telecommunications companies, which then market the games and bill their customers directly for downloads.

The firm manages the Games Club for the UAE telecommunications operator du, which offers unlimited downloads for a subscription charge starting at Dh24 (US$6.53) a month.

Since the launch of du's mobile gaming platform in April last year, subscribers have played more than 4 million games on the platform, Mr Saldanha said.

The company also built a similar mobile-games store for Saudi Telecom and says it is in negotiations with several other telecoms operators in the Middle East.

These include Mobily in Saudi Arabia, Viva in Kuwait and Bahrain, and Omantel in Oman.

Nazara has deals with a total of seven Middle Eastern telecoms firms and is also in talks to build mobile-gaming stores with up to nine additional operators, Mr Saldanha said.

"We're not sticking with the seven," he said. "We've got a pipeline of around eight to nine operators we're discussing the relationship with."

The games distributed by Nazara are compatible with BlackBerry, Nokia and Samsung handsets.

In addition to stores such as du's Games Club, which are branded and marketed by the various telecoms companies, Nazara also says it is going to launch its own mobile-games platform in the region in the middle of next month, with billing agreements with 15 telecoms companies in markets such as the UAE, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Analysts said there were few statistics to back up the claims of a boom in the mobile gaming market in the Middle East.

But Matthew Reed, a senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, said anecdotal evidence pointed to a growing industry.

"There does seem to be a lot of interest in online and mobile gaming in this region," he said. "There are a lot of young people using the internet on PCs and - increasingly - on mobile."

Games are the most popular of all paid mobile applications in the UAE, according to the Arab Media Outlook. They account for 38 of the top 100 applications downloaded in the UAE, the report said.

bflanagan@thenational.ae