Sweden's Stillfront Group acquires Abu Dhabi gaming studio in $205m deal

The transaction marks one of the largest deals within the Arab world's gaming sector, according to the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office

Gamer Safi Zahid at his home.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

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Sweden's Stillfront Group has acquired mobile gaming studio Jawaker, which counts media hub twofour54 Abu Dhabi among its owners, for Dh753 million ($205m).

The transaction marks one of the largest deals within the Arab world's gaming sector, the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office said.

Under the terms of the deal, Stillfront will acquire 100 per cent of the shares in Jawaker and pay 74 per cent in cash and 26 per cent in 8,540,092 newly issued shares in Stillfront.

“These investments not only create financial value but also contribute significantly to building Abu Dhabi’s gaming infrastructure and developing homegrown talent capable of driving the growth and development of the sector and creating content that expresses the aspirations of Arab youth,” Michael Garin, chief executive of twofour54, said.

The gaming industry – which consists of mobile games, e-sports streaming, console purchases and more – is currently the most profitable form of entertainment in the world. The industry has also benefitted from the pandemic-linked movement restrictions as homebound users flocked to online games to offset the lack of physical entertainment.

Worldwide, the gaming industry is worth $148.8 billion, while the market in the Middle East and Africa is valued at about $4.8bn, just 3 per cent of the global value, according to a November report by market research firm Newzoo.

Jawaker, which was founded in 2009 by Mohamad Hasan and Yousef Shamoun in Jordan, is card gaming network which include games like Tarneeb, Trix, Hand, Baloot, and Estimation. The company is based in Abu Dhabi but has offices in Amman as well, according to its website.

The deal will help Stillfront Group expand further within the Middle East, the statement added.

The e-gaming market in the GCC alone will be worth $821m by 2021, almost $130m more than its value in 2017, a separate report from Strategy& showed. The UAE, the second-biggest Arab economy, was the largest e-gaming market in the region in 2019 but is likely to be surpassed by Saudi Arabia this year.

Abu Dhabi has also tapped into this trend with Abu Dhabi Gaming, an initiative it rolled out earlier this year to develop the gaming and e-sports industry in the UAE’s capital.

The initiative will support game developers, players, consumers and businesses, and will be backed by companies such as Unity Technologies, Flash Entertainment, UAE Pro League, Emirates Esports Association and the Media Zone Authority, twofour54 said.

In addition to the gaming hub, twofour54 also plans to establish The Gaming Centre of Excellence in Yas Creative Hub. The centre will provide on-the-ground support to students, professionals and small businesses throughout the Middle East and Africa, and is part of a 10-year partnership with gaming company Unity Technologies.

Updated: September 16, 2021, 10:46 AM