Turkish Okey creator makes its MENA mark with Kammelna [Interview]

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Baloot by KammelnaIf you think social games are big in the West and the Far East, take a look at the Middle East. Peak Games, the Turkish creator of games like Okey (a Facebook rendition of a timeless Turkish board game pictured right), has acquired Saudi social games maker Kammelna. The latter is responsible for games like Baloot, a social rendition of a classic Saudi Arabian card game, and Peak was right to gobble up Kammelna when it did.

The company expects social games to reach 400 million players in the MENA region (the Middle East and North Africa) by 2015, and Peak looks to be at the forefront of it all. And how the developer slash publisher looks to do just that is to create and publish games that are culturally relevant to its audience. Peak has already localized Facebook games like Meteor Games' Island Paradise and RockYou's Zoo World 2 for Turkish and Middle Eastern audiences.

"We're making sure that the products we bring in aren't just the next trend off the block," Peak Games CSO and co-founder Rina Onur tells us. "We analyze our games really well, and try to pick the ones that will fit the culture here. We really localize these games truly. We don't leave it at just translating and then launching."

Peak has successfully localized a Chinese farming game (pictured below) for its players, which now sees 2.4 million monthly players, thanks to the company's extensive localization process. With this approach, Peak has amassed 20 million monthly and 7 million daily players, according to Onur. The company hopes that this move will only strengthen its position in the MENA region as Facebook (and the games on it) becomes even more popular for its people.
Peak Games
Kammelna's Baloot will be released on Facebook through Peak Games, and the studio will serve as Peak's Saudi Arabian arm, creating new games for the company. Peak also plans to take Baloot to Android, iPhone and iPad. And expect to see more games like Baloot and Okey (pictured right) from Peak, an interesting approach when compared to Western social games.

"A very core strategy of Peak Games is core, synchronous games. These games that have existed for years offline before they even moved to the online world," Onur says. "Those are inherently social games, because you need multiple people to play at the same time, usually at least four."

Synchronous gaming has had trouble taking off on Facebook in the West, save for a few core strategy releases and the occasional Facebook game based on a popular game show. In fact, only two of the top 10 games on Facebook feature real-time play. But in Turkey and the MENA region, this form of play keeps players hooked not just for hours, but for months.
Happy Farm by Peak Games
"With these games that are very specific to the region, we see average session plays start from one hour and upwards. [Baloot is] this obsession-based game where each hand you play takes 15 to 20 minutes, but one hand is never enough," Onur admits. "It ends up being that you keep these people playing for a couple of hours and they stick with the game for about a year."

According to Peak Games, more than two-thirds of Internet users in Saudi Arabia play online games, one of highest rates globally. The Turkish game maker looks to release even more of these types of games through Kammelna to become the de facto leader in not just Saudi Arabia, but through Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. With that, Peak Games could be the Zynga of the MENA region before Zynga even steps foot there.

Have you ever tried games like Okey or Baloot? Why do you think gamers from that region are more interested in real-time social games than we seem to be here? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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