"Gaming in MENA is just starting. Investment will bring more attention to the region and create more opportunities"

Tamatem Games' CEO Hussam Hammo explains the state of play for MENA and how the region is set to surge ahead

"Gaming in MENA is just starting. Investment will bring more attention to the region and create more opportunities"

As gaming in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) continues to see unprecedented growth, a company that typifys the region's innovation and vision is Tamatem Games. Founded by CEO Hussam Hammo, Tamatem has become a pivotal player in shaping the future of gaming in MENA. 

As part of our MENA Month, leading up to our next event, the Dubai GameExpo Summit powered by Pocket Gamer Connects on May 1st and 2nd, we spoke with Hammo to found out more about what lies ahead for the company and the region throughout 2024 and beyond. 

From challenges in the localization process to dissecting the transformative changes witnessed within the local games industry, here are the issues that are shaping the MENA gaming narrative today.

PocketGamer.Biz: Tell us a more about Tamatem and what you’re up to right now.

Hussam Hammo: Tamatem is the leading mobile games publisher in the MENA market. We help developers from around the world to unlock the full potential of the region. Tamatem distributes games and increases visibility of games.

Given your position as a key player in the Middle East gaming scene, what are you doing to foster collaboration and recruit local talents?

We work a lot with regional universities and educational institutions to bring in fresh graduates and interns. Last year, we opened our own gaming academy to give workshops and sessions to young passionate candidates. We also participate in the regional events and try to meet as many of our colleagues as possible.

Amidst widespread layoffs in the games industry, Tamatem Games is still hiring. What factors do you attribute to your ability to continue expanding your team during these challenging times?

We started focusing on helping developers receive payments in their local markets, enabling us to sign more publishing deals. We are also launching new games that require more resources. I cannot deny last year was a difficult year but it enabled us to optimize our work force and get things together.

With over 50 games localized for the Arabic market, what are some of the biggest challenges you've faced in the localisation process, and how have you ensured a culturally relevant experience for players?

Code complications and the original developers ability or enthusiasm to make the necessary changes is key to success. If the game is massive in size, you will expect it will have millions of words to be translated, they will need to be inserted in the right places and context has to still make sense. The better documentation the game has, the easier it will be for us to localize it.

This year, I am seeing a strong comeback for old behaviors where users are coming back to play games, enjoy older genres or game styles which is very interesting.
Hussam Hammo

What factors led to the decision to relocate your headquarters to Abu Dhabi, and could you share the opportunities it presents for the company's growth? What will happen to your Jordan office?

Abu Dhabi is presenting itself today as a regional hub for gaming, it started this initiative many years ago and attracted a wide variety of companies to be there. Being around successful gaming companies attracts success and opportunities. We are excited about this expansion as we also opened in office in Riyadh and have a strong presence in Egypt.

What changes have you observed in the local games industry, particularly the region’s games industry and consumer behaviour towards games? And how do you see the MENA region’s games industry evolving in the coming years?

Covid has changed a lot of behaviors. Users started shifting away from games and got their entire time consumed by social networks. This was not good for the industry of course, especially in our region. This year, I am seeing a strong comeback for old behaviors where users are coming back to play games, enjoy older genres or game styles which is very interesting. I believe gaming in MENA is just starting, with the massive investments being poured by Saudi and the UAE, it will bring more attention to the region and create more opportunities.

What do you see as the current opportunities and challenges facing the games industry in Jordan and the wider MENA region?

Lack of investment opportunities for new founders starting gaming businesses are a current challenge. Although this should not be an investment heavy industry, I believe there should be a minimal amount of money to be injected to get things going - hiring a few engineers and designers, hardware, and some money for marketing experiments.

There should be grants for those starting out, or hackathons with significant prizes to help. The focus on esports and esports alone might be less useful in the context of the wider MENA picture, there has to be a focus on creating games.

What are your plans for 2024? And are there any specific initiatives or projects on the horizon that we should look forward to?

We are launching a new game in May called 'Revenge of the Brave' and we are very excited about it, its an action RPG game with very high quality graphics, fully localized to Arabic. We are also experimenting with a few ideas to create fun games.

Be part of our next MENA event!

After a triumphant first year in 2023, The Dubai GameExpo Summit powered by PG Connects returns on May 1st to 2nd, 2024 alongside the Dubai Esports and Games Festival at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

The summit will feature more than 100 renowned games industry speakers from all over the globe delivering insightful talks, panels and seminars across a number of themed tracks.

There will be extensive networking opportunities for anyone looking to get established in the region, whether you're a developer looking for a local publisher, or interested in exporting a hot new game from MENA to find a global audience.

Tickets are on sale now!

Staff Writer

Isa Muhammad is a B2B writer and video games journalist with 5+ years experience covering games, interviewing industry professionals, tracking industry trends and understanding the market.