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Arab world gets new online gaming company

Former Maktoob CEO launches Tahadi as new addition to Jabbar Internet Group portfolio

Arab world gets new online gaming company
Tahadi will focus on localising existing online games initially and then develop their own.

Former Maktoob CEO Samih Toukan has officially launched a new online gaming company - Tahadi - that's become the latest addition to the Jabbar Internet Group portfolio.

Tahadi, which means ‘challenge' in Arabic, is expected to fuel adoption of Massively Multimedia Online Role-Playing Gaming (MMORPG) in the Middle East, which Toukan believes is "virtually non-existent" in the region at present.

The $20 million Jabber Internet Group got as part of the Yahoo!-Maktoob acquisition has gone into funding Tahadi, which now has three titles to its name - Ragnarok, Crazy Kart and the Runes of Magic which is expected to release in the Arab region early next year. The company aims to launch three games every year - all for free - with an eye on generating revenue through in-game advertising and the optional purchase of virtual items in each individual game.

While Tahadi's strategy initially only involves localising successful games to cater to cultural sensibilities, it will look into developing their own games in the future.

Tahadi CEO Steve Tsao stated that the team is currently 25 strong with employees from across the region including Lebanon, the UAE, Sudan, Egypt and Jordan, but adds that that number is expected to grow to 60 by the end of 2010 with 20% of the team focusing purely on localisation.

That localisation involves not only making games available in Arabic but also modifying in-game graphics and backgrounds to reflect cultural norms.

"For Ragnarok, we actually had announcements of prayer times to be respectful to traditions and cultures. For our other games, like Ruins of Magic for example, there are clothing settings and graphical settings, especially for the female characters, so that it would not be interpreted or misinterpreted as offensive to the region," Tsao explained.

But Tsao is more than aware that countries in the Middle East can differ in their view of what is acceptable and what is not, and has a plan in place to address this.

"Let's be specific and say that KSA sensitivities are the ones that are the most acute; we do work closely with our partners in KSA to abide by all their wishes. The other option is to provide certain players from certain regions with specific settings, so you're not limiting everybody else in the region as well," added Tsao.

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