His logo is a tomato, not an apple, but in just eight years the Jordanian company Tamatem has already bitten a chunk out of the lucrative market for Arabic mobile games.
“Less than one percent of the Internet content is in Arabic, even though there are 400 million Arabic users,” said company founder and CEO Hussam Hammo.
“There is a very large void in this market that we are trying to fill,” added the 38-year-old entrepreneur in his elegant Amman offices.
Hamo founded Tamatem – which means tomato – in 2013 and was the first Arab company to win investments from the “500 Startups” program based in California’s Silicon Valley.
After eight years, the company has grown to around 80 employees who convert mobile games into Arabic and also adapt content to Arabic culture.
“Language has been an obstacle to the growth of mobile games in the region,” said Nour Khrais, founder and chief executive of game developer Maysalward.
“The Arabic language connects (the player) emotionally.”
With offices in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Tamatem has released more than 50 mobile games that have been downloaded more than 100 million times in Apple and Google Play stores.
“70 percent of smartphone users in the Arab world have their phones set in Arabic, which means they like to use content in their native language,” said Hammo.
“Unfortunately, if you search for a game in English app stores you will find millions of games, but if you search in Arabic you will only find a few thousand,” he added.
But competition is fierce, and Khrais said the Middle East and North Africa region is “the world’s largest growth region in electronic games.”
Mordor Intelligence’s market analysts said the global gaming market was valued at $ 174 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $ 314 billion in 2026.
Tamatem, which has partnerships with companies in the U.S., China, France, South Korea, Bulgaria, and Croatia, converts games by replacing characters’ voices and names, customizing music and clothing, adding Muslim holidays like Ramadan, and even changing car license plates.
“We don’t just do translations, we do the most important thing, which is education, by making the content relevant to Arabic culture,” said Chief Operating Officer Eyad Al Basheer.
Nanobit.com’s “Hollywood Story”, in which players can become movie stars, strut the red carpet, hang out with fans and even shoot blockbusters, has been renamed “Malekat al Moda” – or “Queen of Fashion”.
Instead of locations in New York and Los Angeles, the avatars travel between Dubai, Beirut and Cairo in an Arabic game that has now been downloaded more than 15 million times.
The strategy multiplayer and civilization game “Clash of Empire” from the developer Leme Games has released its Arabic version “Tahadi Al-Molouk” or “Challenge of Kings” this year.
In order to do justice to the Arab audience, the figure of the infamous crusader Richard the Lionheart was replaced by the legendary dynastic Muslim leader Salah al-Din al-Ayubi.
One of the company’s biggest hits is “Shake the Metal,” which appeals to the popular sport of drifting. With car models popular in the Arab world, it has now been downloaded five million times.
However, Tamatem’s most popular Arabic mobile game is “VIP Belote”, which is based on the French card game and has been downloaded more than 20 million times.
In a 2019 report by the World Economic Forum, Tamatem was selected as one of the 100 best Arab companies to “shape the fourth industrial revolution”.
And the Covid-19 pandemic has proven to be a blessing as the number of mobile gamers has increased 150 percent, Hammo said.
“Tamatem made the games easier and we understand things we didn’t understand before because it was in English,” said player Khader Hamid, a 28-year-old civil engineer.
Mona Rummaneh, a 30-year-old who works in e-marketing, said Arabic games made her “confident that all content is appropriate for our culture and morals”.
She remembered how she and other players showed solidarity with Lebanese players after the Beirut port explosion in August 2020.
“So it’s more than just a game,” she said.