Jordanian company dives into Arabic mobile games market

AMMAN (AFP) – Its logo is a tomato, not an apple, but in just eight years Jordanian company Tamatem has already bitten a chunk out of the lucrative market for Arabic mobile games.

“Less than one per cent of Internet content is in Arabic, even though there are 400 million Arab users,” said the company’s founder and CEO Hussam Hammo.

“There is a very big gap in this market that we are trying to fill,” added the 38-year-old entrepreneur, sitting in his elegant Amman offices.

Hamo founded Tamatem – which means tomato – in 2013 and it was the first Arab company to win investment from the ‘500 Startups’ programme based in Silicon Valley, California.

Eight years on the company has grown to about 80 staff who convert mobile phone games into Arabic, also adapting content to fit Arab culture.

“Language was a barrier to mobile games growth” in the region, said founder and chief executive of games developer Maysalward Nour Khrais.

“The Arabic language connects (the player) emotionally.”

Developers are pictured at the office of Tamatem, a Jordanian mobile game developer and publisher, in the capital Amman. PHOTO: AFP

With offices now in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Tamatem has published more than 50 mobile games, which have been downloaded more than 100 million times on Apple and Google Play stores.

“Seventy per cent of smartphone users in the Arab world have set their phones in Arabic, which means they like to use content in their mother language,” said Hammo.

“Sadly when you search in English for a game in app stores you will find millions of games, but when you search in Arabic there are only a few thousand,” he added.

But competition is fierce, and Khrais said the Middle East and North Africa region was “the largest growth region in the world in the field of electronic games”.

Market analysts Mordor Intelligence said the global gaming market in 2020 was valued at USD174 billion, and was expected to reach USD314 billion in 2026.

Tamatem, which has partnerships with companies in the US, China, France, South Korea, Bulgaria and Croatia, converts games by replacing characters’ voices and names, adapting music and clothing, adding Muslim holidays like Ramadhan and even changing car licence plates.

“We don’t only do translation, we do the most important thing which is educating by making the content relevant to the Arab culture,” said Chief Operating Officer Eyad Al Basheer.