Games master

Games developer Sobee has added a new dimension to Türk Telekom’s consumer broadband businesses

Tags: FIFA World Cup 2010Turk Telekom (www.www.turktelekom.com.tr)Turkey
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Games master I Can Football allows two teams of 11 people to play the game online.
By  Roger Field Published  June 14, 2010

With the World Cup under way, Sobee, a video game developer acquired by Türk Telekom in 2007, is braced for huge interest in its latest online game, I Can Football (ICF).

While the game is just one of many developed by Sobee since it was founded in 2001, it has already gained a wide following and plenty of publicity in Turkey, and is fast gaining traction around the world.

ICF was in development for three years before its launch in Turkey last November. It is the world's first and fastest server based online 11 vs 11 soccer game, allowing up to 22 people in different locations to play a game together.

The game allows people to create their own teams with friends, organise tournaments and even allows for spectators to watch games being played. Not surprisingly, ICF has already attracted 300,000 members and is gaining new members at a rate of about up to 2,500 a day. The site has 2.5 million visitors a month and about 100,000 matches are played each week.

Sobee CEO Mevlüt Dinc, a video game pioneer with classics such as Last Ninja 2 and First Samurai to his name, expects the World Cup to help take I Can Football to the next level, in terms of both popularity and commercial success.

Sobee is even holding an ICF World Cup at the same time as the FIFA World Cup to leverage maximum potential from the event.

"The World Cup is coming up and there is huge excitement already looming in Turkey," Dinc says. "We have good opportunities during the World Cup. We have planned our I Can Football World Cup in parallel with the World Cup. We are talking to many major brands in Turkey to arrange sponsors for the event. We have already got one of the biggest banks in Turkey and Turkish Airlines and we are talking to a few other major brands to take part."

Dinc reckons that by the end of the World Cup, ICF could have more than 300,000 members in Turkey, and that this could increase to more than half a million by the end of the year.

Sobee is also keen to expand ICF in other markets in the region and around the world. The company has recently reached marketing and sales agreements with both STC and Telecom Egypt for I Can Football. The game is already being launched in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and should be ready when the World Cup starts, and other countries will follow.

Dinc adds that the relationship with Türk Telekom has been instrumental to the success of ICF, with the operator being the leading ISP in Turkey and also having close ties with major ISPs in other countries.

Revenue stream

Like most major online games, ICF is free to play, but the game generates revenues from what Dinc describes as "a unique business model."

Sobee charges ISPs and local partners a monthly fee which allows them to offer their customers the game as a service, which in turn attracts many players to the game. The game itself also generates money, through advertising within the game, and through sales within the game, such as kits and special subscriptions.

People can join the game using their mobile phones, which means users can also make payments for products within the game from their phones, as well as via their PCs.

Dinc adds that the game also gives puts Türk Telekom in the enviable position of profiting from its rivals. "Turkcell is one of our main competitors but half of our players are Turkcell subscribers," he says. "So we are able to reach everybody in the country including our competition."

Future of games

While people are used to seeing football video games, Dinc stresses the technical achievements of I Can Football, which is in a different league from other soccer games.

"To have 22 people playing the live over the net without any lag or anything is almost impossible, so technically what we have achieved is absolutely amazing and I am very proud of that and we did that with our own custom technology," he says.

When asked if he is looking to use the ICF model for any other sports, Dinc points to cricket as the most viable, and the most likely option.

"We sometimes discuss what else we can do. I Can Football as a technology is suitable for other sports including cricket, which is also very popular around the world, and basketball maybe. Probably our next version will be cricket, because India would be a huge market."

Super heroes

Another significant development from Sobee was the recent deal it struck with US entertainment giant Marvel. "Toward the end of last year we signed a very interesting, unique agreement with Marvel which allows us to use their amazing characters in our products," Dinc says.

The deal gives Sobee  special rights to use Marcel characters such as Spiderman in major games and short animations. Sobee also gains the right for the hosting of a local Marvel kids web portal, opening Marvel stores and an e-store, production and sales of local merchandising, use of Marvel characters in promotions and adverts, and the broadcasting of Marvel films on WebTV and IPTV, as well as mobile content.

The deal will allow various Marvel products featuring Marvel Super Heroes to be customized and translated into Turkish. Products include animated shorts, animated TV series distributed on mobile phones and the internet, casual games, as well as the opening of Marvel Mini-Stores featuring Marvel merchandise at Türk Telekom's stores and websites.

Sobee will also be translating the Marvel kids web site into Turkish and will develop and release animated shorts featuring Marvel's most popular Super Heroes.

Additionally, Sobee will develop new flash-games and introduce Marvel Super Heroes into Sobee's innovative games, such as I Can Football and Super Can Oyun, both of which have been developed by Sobee and Dinc.

"This has already created a lot of buzz in Turkey and we we have already had Marvel heroes visit Turkey. We had a very good reaction from people, so we are already starting to use TTs power and reach to start doing global things with major brands like Marvel," Dinc says.

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