An iPhone app developed in Dubai has been nominated for an international award.
Word is out about honours for UAE iPhone app
DUBAI // An iPhone game created in the UAE is in the running for a major international prize, after it was nominated twice in separate sections of the Best App Ever Awards - regarded as the mobile app world's Oscars.
The word game Kalimat, which can be played in both English and Arabic, is on the 10-strong shortlists for Best Board Game and Best Word Game of 2011.
The app was conceived by Dubai-based entrepreneur Farès Fayad, who commissioned the Dubai games company Piranha Byte to develop it. The game debuted last February and was the first title published by AppsArabia, a mobile app fund set up by Abu Dhabi's twofour54 media hub.
Kalimat - Arabic for words - is similar to games such as Scrabble and Words with Friends but has a number of original features. One innovation called Remix, a timer setting that awards bonus points for faster play, has attracted particular attention.
The app is available from the Apple App Store for US$2.99 (Dh11), and a "lite" version with limited functionality is free.
"When I heard the news I was jumping up and down, just the fact that the app was nominated is an achievement in itself," said Mr Fayad.
"Whether we win or not is a completely different issue.
"The idea came from my wife Rolene, who likes to play word games. She said the existing games had something lacking, you could do them better. Plus we could do it in Arabic, because there was no Arabic word game."
Waleed Kharma, the chief executive and co-founder of Dubai-based Piranha Byte, said: "These nominations are good recognition for app developers here. They show that you can compete globally with good quality games."
Piranha Byte is developing three new games that will be released under its own name, and has already signed contracts for them with global publishers.
Kalimat has been received enthusiastically by game fans. One user, who posts online under the name Ducati26, said in a customer review on iTunes: "I've been playing this game for a few weeks and I love it."
A user named Sdtchr gave the app a rating of five stars, the highest possible, and said: "Great game. Easy to play and challenging. Definitely a game worth getting."
A third user, Agleung, described Kalimat as an "evolutionary word game", but added: "Only gripe is no native iPad support."
The Best App Ever Awards were set up by the influential 148Apps blog shortly after the launch of the App Store in 2008.
The organisers say their aim is to "honour the best, not just the best-selling".
Previously, only apps running on Apple's iOS platform were eligible, but an Android section has been introduced for the current round of awards. The winners will be decided by 148 Apps readers who can back their favourites from the shortlists at bestappever.com/vote/.
Voting continues until January 25 and the winners are to be announced at the Macword/iWorld Expo in San Francisco, which runs from January 26 to 28.
One of the organisers of the Dubai World Game Expo, which takes place in November, agreed that the success of Kalimat would give a boost to other UAE developers.
"Many local developers have been struggling to make successful games," said Koichi Yokoyama, business development manager of Index Conferences & Exhibitions, which runs the Dubai event.
"This will encourage small start-up game developers to produce astonishing games not just for the Middle East market but also the global market, and it'll encourage investors and companies to consider starting up digital game businesses."
He said the region was seen internationally more as a strong consumer market rather than a source of games, and greater efforts were needed to raise international awareness of local developers.