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Gamers dominate MEA online payment system

MMO games enjoy loyal Middle Eastern following.

Sixty percent of the revenue of cashU, the largest Internet payment system in the Middle East and Africa, is derived from young online gamers who enjoy games such as World of Warcraft, Maplestory and Runescape.

cashU's prepaid card gives young gamers without credit cards the means to access and purchase online products and services on the Internet. The service, launched by Maktoob in 2002, is available to 28 countries around the world. The e-commerce solution also plays on the fact that only a minority (13%) of Internet users are willing to use their credit cards online, according to a survey by Maktoob.

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as Maplestory boast over five million users. Because of its popularity in the region, a Middle Eastern version of the game is being developed, due for release in the fourth quarter of this year.

While many of the titles can be freely downloaded to play during a trial period, there is a market whereby players pay additional (and optional) fees for in-game items such as armor, weapons and spells. cashU benefits substantially from this market.

"Game publishers and developers are realising that they have increased interest from the Middle East, based on their website analytics," said Martin Waldenstrom, general manager, cashU.com. "Adding cashU as a payment method has significantly increased their conversion rates over traditional payment methods. Our prepaid card model offers provides merchants with competitive commission fees and a zero chargeback guarantee," he added.

Another of cashU's top gaming merchants is Travian, a browser-based online multiplayer game with over 500,000 users and Arabic language support. Because browser-based titles don't require any software installation and tend to target more casual gamers, this is a growing area in gaming - particularly as Internet penetration in the region improves, and more households have access to a PC.