We speak to Hussam Hammo, the CEO behind his culturally-innovative approach to mobile gaming.
According to Newzoo research, in 2018 the global games market was predicted to be worth $134.9 billion; the size of the mobile gaming industry is estimated to be almost half of that. With this growing boom, Arab entrepreneurs have also been tempted to have a share of that pie (chart). One issue, however, that is prevalently highlighted is the lack of Arabic content in mobile game stores. This is the market gap that Tamatem aims to fill.
As one of the few mobile game publishers in the Arabic-speaking market, Amman-based Tamatem works hand-in-hand with developers all over the world to localise, and make their games culturally relevant for the Arab gamer. So far, Tamatem has published 45 Arabic games for both iOS and Android users to enjoy, which have achieved more than 65 million downloads collectively.
“In my early career, I created the world’s first Arabic social network in 2007, called faye3.com, which was since acquired by Maktoob," CEO of Tamatem Hussam Hammo tells Startup Scene in a conversation about his first steps in his entrepreneurial journey. "My friends and I were obsessed with a browser game called Travian, which alerted me to the lack of Arabic language content in video games. I left Maktoob and founded my own company called Wizards Productions with my friend, and started creating Arabic web browser games."
As technology started to evolve and shift to new territories, the company was shut down, which incidentally gave birth to Tamatem when Hammo applied to Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups and became the first Arab to join the programme. Throughout his time there, Hammo began to work on Tamatem and gathered his first investment, while developing his own games until 2017, where Tamatem became a full-on game publisher.
From its establishment in 2014, Tamatem went from three employees to 60, as of today, locating Tamatem at an optimal position to create the world’s next generation of game developers. Launching a game is not easy, and has various steps that are intertwined within one another. The process of how Tamatem adds a new game to their portfolio is very thorough, according to Tamatem's founder.
“After we sign a publishing deal, we automatically begin working on the translation of text, localisation of content including art, music and voiceovers. This usually takes the most time depending on the size of content we have to deal with. After that, our product management team begins working alongside the developers to create a long-term plan for the game where a lot of bug and patch testing takes place. Next, a beta version of the game is released to a small segment of users for usability testing and gathering the necessary data to accordingly release the game. Once the game is released, it’s an ongoing process to market the game and keep it running smoothly, with occasional updates and newly added features to improve everything and follow the ever-growing gaming industry when it comes to marketing strategies, new technologies and more, in order to give our users the best Arabic-language gaming experience,” explains Hammo.
But with such great efforts, come even greater challenges. One of the biggest challenges a mobile game development and publishing studio like Tamatem faces is the limited access to funding and hiring. With very few regional investors, it has become difficult to gain access to funding. Moreover, hiring and building a startup culture in today’s rapidly expanding ecosystem is not an easy task.
“That is why I encourage and empower all of our employees to be the best in their fields, because one person’s success is everyone’s success, and is celebrated by everyone,” explains Hammo about the work ethic, emphasising the importance of openness and honesty where tasks are collaboratively achieved, and project information is openly accessible across all departments.
Due to the lack of education on the gaming industry, it's not easy finding talent that is fully experience in this field. However, Tamatem has an overall scope of mobile games publishing like no other, as they utilise industry-leading methods to market and promote their games, such as social media marketing, along with an extensive network of influencers that work closely with Tamatem to regularly spread brand awareness and loyalty. As a startup, Tamatem’s efforts to disrupt the ecosystem include hiring fresh graduates to familarise them with the industry and teach them everything from marketing and PR, to product and community management, design, and user support.
“I believe the games that we publish at Tamatem are changing the gaming industry in the MENA region, as our consumers crave localised Arabic content. The games we are publishing are of high quality, and are super relevant to the interests of the people in our region, ” explains Hammo, citing the popular card game VIP Baloot as an example. Since its release, the game has become the #1 card game on the App and Google Play store for the region.
Sign up for the daily Startup Digest.