x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Piranha fishes for funding to grow in smartphone games market

Piranha Byte is getting its teeth into the lucrative smartphone games market and looking for funding to take it to the next level.

Waleed Kharma, the chief executive and co-founder of Piranha Byte, is looking for investors. Jeff Topping / The National
Waleed Kharma, the chief executive and co-founder of Piranha Byte, is looking for investors. Jeff Topping / The National

Piranha Byte, based in Dubai, is getting its teeth into the lucrative smartphone games market and looking for funding to take it to the next level.

The videogames company this month released its second title and has more in the pipeline in what it describes as a "booming" market in the Middle East.

Waleed Kharma, the chief executive and co-founder of Piranha Byte, said the company was already in talks with potential investors.

"We're looking to grow the team, to be able to turn out more games," he said. "I'm in talks already with different investors [from] the Middle East."

The company, based at Dubai Silicon Oasis, is funded by its co-founders, Mr Kharma said. He declined to say how much money Piranha is looking to raise.

Videogames are big business globally. The total gaming market is expected to grow from US$63.9 billion (Dh234.7bn) last year to $86.8bn in 2014, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

High rates of growth in video-games sales are also expected in the Middle East.

"The industry is booming. We're not just targeting the Middle East, we're targeting the world. But the Middle East is a booming market as well," said Mr Kharma.

Piranha specialises in smartphone games for Apple and Android handsets, although it is also monitoring other platforms such as Facebook, it said.

Middle East gaming companies have grown more prominent in recent years, although they are yet to produce anything on the scale of Angry Birds, the mobile game series that has attracted more than 700 million downloads.

"There are not many games developers in the Middle East. There are a few that are rising and shining, which is great and shows that there is potential," said Mr Kharma.

Abu Dhabi's media hub twofour54 last year announced it had invested more than $2.5 million for minority stakes in two Arabic online gaming companies, Tahadi Games and Jawaker.

Piranha Byte developed the word-based game Kalimat, which was the first title to be published by AppsArabia, the mobile app fund backed by twofour54.

The company this month released a second game called Peek!, in which users challenge other players to guess a secret word based on photos they share with each other. The photos are obscured by tiles, which can be removed by spending coins.

The game is free to download from the Apple App Store, with revenues coming from advertising and in-game purchases of coins. A version of the game is also being developed for Android.

Piranha Byte has several other games in the pipeline, said Mr Kharma. These include a game centred around Arabic music.

bflanagan@thenational.ae