CHANGING THE GAME: INTERVIEW WITH HUSSAM HAMMO, FOUNDER OF TAMATEM
BEntrepreneur is thrilled to have the chance to interview Hussam Hammo, the dynamic and charismatic founder of Tamatem; a games publisher, serial entrepreneur, and like most of us a dreamer. Read on to find out why Tamatem is a great idea, the way they are changing the game in the MENA region, and how they localize their games.
BE: Can you give us a brief background of yourself, Tamatem, and what inspired you to start this revolutionary game publishing business?
HH: I studied Computer Science and Programming at the Princess Sumaya University for Technology in Amman and from there looked into working in anything related to the field. I was always so fascinated by the world of computer technology. But like most twenty-something-year-olds, I wasn’t sure how to pursue my passion.
After graduating, I delved into a variety of different projects and companies before launching and co-founding my first company in 2006, ‘Faye3.com’. Faye3 was the first-ever Arabic Social Network with over 1 Million users. It was during that time that I began to realize the enormous need for Arabic content and how much people wanted to consume content in their own language. Faye3.com was integrated with Internet Portal Maktoob, shortly after Maktoob got acquired by Yahoo.
Following the success of Faye3.com, I was persistent in following the same suit of creating content that was in the native language of our region and our people. I entered the world of social online game development and founded a gaming studio named ‘Wizards Productions’. With Wizards, we launched the first Arabic 3D Game on Facebook and developed around 10 games that gathered 500,000 users. Although the games were a big hit, funding efforts failed to succeed and so it had to shut down. Despite the lack of investment in Arabic web online games the need for Arabic content was unquestionable. There was less than 1% of Arabic content available online and an Arabic-speaking market that was 300 million people strong. The market was essentially begging to consume relatable content in their own language and I was fixed on meeting that demand. I spent a year analyzing what went wrong with Wizards and realized that the answer lied in mobile games. Albeit my past experience was more with social online computer gaming I could easily see that the mobile games market was much less saturated, almost even untouched and with that, in 2013, Tamatem Games was born.
BE: Here at Bentrepreneur, we are obsessed with great ideas. Why did you think Tamatem was a great idea. What gap were you trying to fill in the market?
HH: The demand for Arabic content that was culturally relevant to the Arabic-speaking world was the reason why Tamatem Games was born. People want to be entertained with content they can relate to. The market opportunity was tremendous and very much in our favor. There were almost zero mobile gaming companies that published mobile games that fit the language and culture of the Arabic-speaking market and demand was growing day by day. With less than 1% of Arabic content available online and an almost completely untapped market, the answer was simple, Tamatem Games.
BE: What’s your money model? How do you monetize this idea?
HH: Tamatem partners up with mobile game developers from across the world to bring their games to the MENA market. We receive the game and localize it from A to Z making sure that the game perfectly fits the language, culture, and world of the market and fully meets the demands of the Arabic-speaking user. Monetization happens within the game through in-app purchases and in-game advertising from there we work on a split share revenue model with the developers we partner with.
BE: Let’s talk about culture and localization. How do you localize games that were bought from other areas/ regions? Are there specific things that you need to include?
HH: It is very important to differentiate between translation and localization. Of course, when launching a game in a foreign market it is important to have the language in the mother tongue of the user so they are able to maneuver the game, but it doesn’t stop there. A simple translation job won’t do it. The users need to feel that the game was made for them, not just translated from one language to another.
Translation is a part of localization but not a substitute for it. The ultimate goal of localization is to have everything from the language, design, characters, storyline, and even social media pages custom-made for the user.
Before we take on a game, we assess its potential success rate through a rigorous testing phase based on certain metrics. Once we see that the game could potentially sell and succeed in the market we take it on and begin with our localization process. Each department at Tamatem is dedicated to a specific localization procedure. We handle everything from data analytics, design, social media, marketing, translation, and community support. Our games are not only fine-tuned in design and text to enhance user experience but are also launched into the market with massive data-driven marketing efforts that amplify user acquisition, app store optimization, growth, and monetization. This whole process is overseen by our product management team that also manages the post-launch phase of the game to ensure that the users are constantly engaged, entertained, and satisfied with the product.
BE: What is the future that you can see for Tamatem?
Tamatem’s future is extremely bright. Our growth process over the past couple of years has been outstanding. With over 100 million game downloads and more than 40 games launched we are dominating the market. In 2013 we started off with 10 employees, now we are a team of more than 75 people. The future for Tamatem is to continuously bring the best mobile games to the Arabic-speaking market, games that entertain and satisfy our customers. Whether it’s expanding into developing our own mobile games or multiplying our partner portfolio we will always strive and grow to bring only the best mobile games to the Arabic-speaking world.
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