Regional gaming startups now have a champion in the form of MEGAplay — the Middle East Gaming Alliance, an organization dedicated to nurturing regional gaming startups. The launch was announced Tuesday by David Munir Nabti, CEO of Lebanese startup space AltCity.
Choosing the afternoon of the first day of ArabNet Digital Summit 2014 in Dubai to unveil the new group, Nabti explains that MEGAplay is an initiative to help Middle Eastern startups take advantage of the appetite for games in the Middle East. “Gaming is a huge sector regionally, but startups are not tapping into that,” he says.
Nabti announced that MEGAplay will provide various support to gaming startups. It will offer workshops — both online and offline — using expert know-how to put regional companies on a more competitive footing in a global market worth perhaps $70 billion. The idea is “to help people start games [and] develop new concepts that are at the leading edge of trends, rather than behind the curve,” says Nabti. It will also hold competitions and help connect startups to investors.
MEGAplay is the brainchild of AltCity, with seed funding from the Netherlands Embassy in Lebanon. The initiative builds on AltCity’s involvement in gaming events in Beirut, as well as its lighter dabbling in the region. One such event was the group’s Beirut hackathon on May 3, which brought together developers, designers and entrepreneurs to build mobile apps and games within a 12 hour time frame.
But gaming is also a notoriously tough industry. An often cited example is the story behind Angry Birds, where Finnish developer Rovio failed 51 times at creating a viral game before producing an overnight success. This makes gaming startups inherently risky.
And regionally, the sector is quickly evolving, with promising names such as Jordan’s Taktek fizzling. Walid Hanna, managing partner at regional venture capital firm Middle East Venture Partners, told Executive in December that while the group had invested in gaming startups, they were trying to refrain from investing in them in the future because of the uncertainty of business.
When presented with these concerns, Nabti remains convinced of the potential of the market. He explains that the volatile nature of the business makes it all the more important how companies build themselves, learn to appreciate risk and increase their chances of success by developing the best methods.
“Gaming is already a huge market, and is becoming more connected to people’s lives,” he says, even to the point of overtaking cinema and TV.