Nazara game plan proving a winner

An Indian mobile-games distributor plans to take its business to the next level in the Arab world by teaming up with regional telecoms operators.

An Indian mobile-games distributor plans to take its business to the next level in the Arab world by teaming up with regional telecoms operators.

Nazara Technologies, which has an office in Dubai, reports strong demand in the region and has set its sights on North Africa and Sudan as it looks to boost sales of mobile-game subscriptions.

"The mobile gaming sector is pretty interesting. We are the first ever mobile subscription service at a fairly low cost in the region," said Savio Saldanha, the chief executive of Nazara for the Middle East and Africa.

Users pay a daily rate of Dh2 to have unlimited access to Nazara's suite of games. Since April 2011, there have been five million game plays in the UAE through the mobile operator du.

The company claims to have more than 180,000 subscribers across the Middle East with a monthly growth of 10 to 15 per cent.

Nazara is expected to partner with an Egyptian mobile operator to begin offering their games to one of the region's largest mobile markets by the end of this month. It also plans to launch in other North African countries and Sudan, intending to partner with local mobile operators in each country.

"We invest time and money in each new market and we have been picky in terms of operators, we do not work with just every telco. We want to see customers use our portal and play the games, it is not something you keep on the shelf." said Mr Saldanha.

The company is also looking to introduce advertising on its portal as a new revenue stream in addition to its current subscription model.

Headquartered in India, Nazara branched out to the UAE two years ago when it opened an office in Dubai. It has already partnered with Middle East telecoms companies Etisalat, du, Saudi Telecoms Company, Omantel and Viva Bahrain.

Nazara in November became the exclusive distributor of the Electronic Arts collection of mobile games across 49 countries in Africa, a market that comprises 770 million mobile-phone users. While Nazara's portals are all available in Arabic, the company said the demand for Arabic games is sparse at the moment.

"We are trying to develop them, but we have not heard of Arabic games that have done well," said Mr Saldanha.

Videogames are big business globally. The total gaming market is expected to grow by 7.2 per cent annually to be worth US$83 billion (Dh304.86bn) by 2016, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The consultancy firm's latest Global Entertainment and Media Outlook found that the market for online and wireless games - which includes those played on smartphones - is set to overtake console and PC gaming this year.

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 a billion downloads.

Videogame companies that have grown out of this region include Piranha Byte, Tahadi Games and Jawaker.