15 December 2006

eGames Massive Hit

According to Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) and organizer of the annual eGames conference: Electronic games are quickly finding their way into the oil industry, tourism, heritage and culture, defense, banking, healthcare, education and corporate training. It was more than evident from the seven conference panels that the potential market for games is expanding rapidly. Indeed, small and large projects in the "serious games" field are growing and savvy developers are using such new opportunities to smooth their cash flow, increase their R&D capabilities and find new customers for existing IP that might otherwise have laid dormant, added Al Maskari.

Al Maskari announced that KOM will sign a serious gaming MoU with Coventry University's Serious Gaming Institute before year end and that ties are also being developed between the Rusayl-based technology park and De Montfort University's Department of Imaging and Communication Design.

Abdullah Al Jufaili, Director, The Knowledge Mine business incubator program commented: "We're delighted to have had so many prestigious partners on board – Oman Mobile, Ericsson, Sun, Oman Economic Review, Java, MECIT, Infocomm Group, TIGA and ANGILS. Over the two-days we had speakers from Canada, UAE, Britain, Singapore, Oman and Sweden, their support helped build the event's international significance and proved invaluable in delivering an exceptional experience for delegates."

The conference challenged the preconceptions that electronic games are aimed purely at the teen market. "Today, gaming isn’t just about entertainment and children it’s about education and training. It’s about using games to help people learn about managing money, preparing emergency services to deal with natural disasters, training air force pilots, guiding geologists on digging oil wells, through to helping surgeons rehearse complicated medical procedures," said Al Maskari.

Susie Houh of Ericsson - a lead sponsor of eGames 2006 - said: “eGames is probably the most important event in the Gulf's electronic games calendar and we were delighted to be part of this year's event. eGames is both entertaining and informative and what we particularly liked was the focus on the future of mobile and serious gaming and how we, as an ICT industry, can shape that future.”

Peter Anderssson, Ericsson's Country Manager, said: “The presence of top flight Ericsson speakers (Andreas Johnsson - pictured above) along with the Sony Ericsson brand, was an important part of the eGames 2006. We're staunch supporters of this annual Knowledge Oasis Muscat initiative and intend to bring new and exciting elements to the conference in 2007.”

10 December 2006

Maskari Delivers eGames Opening Speech

Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, Knowledge Oasis Muscat deliver the opening address at this year's eGames: The State of Play Conference: Here it is.

It's a great pleasure to welcome you to eGames – Knowledge Oasis Muscat’s annual electronic gaming conference.

This two-day event will focus on mobile and serious gaming. We have attracted distinguished speakers from Oman, the UAE, Britain, Canada, Sweden and Singapore. Indeed, the eGames blog has had hits from countries as diverse as France, Saudi Arabia, the US, Canada, Romania, South Africa and Brazil. People across the globe have been learning about KOM, eGames and beautiful Oman.

Today, Gaming isn’t just about entertainment it’s about education and training. It’s about using games to help people learn about managing money, fighting disease, preparing emergency services to deal with natural disasters, training air force pilots, guiding geologists on digging oil wells, through to helping my children learn English and keeping them occupied at the weekend!

This morning I’d like to talk a little about mobile gaming - Advances in mobile telephone handset technology, such as large colour screens, larger memory capacity and compact physical size, in addition to developments in 3G, EDGE and Java will enable the market to realise the potential of mobile handsets as fully-fledged gaming devices.

What makes mobile gaming so different from any other type of console based gaming is the fact that the ‘potential mobile gamer’ already owns the platform on which they can play the game.

The penetration of game enabled mobile devices, which stands at 40% of the 2 billion devices worldwide today, is set to grow to 97% of all mobile phones sold in 2008. Compare this to videogames where over the past 25 years 500 million consoles have been sold, compared to the 600 million mobiles sold just in the past 12 months. The figures are staggering and so are the opportunities. It's clear that mobile gaming is definitely not a market to be ignored.

But who's playing mobile games and how are they playing? Figures reveal that more women than men are playing games on handsets. When we look at the behaviour of the average mobile gamer, we find that games are played in short bursts of time - it’s a virtual snack in comparison to the four-course banquet offered by the consoles.

Let's briefly consider one of the world's most dynamic gaming markets, Japan. In fact, when it comes to mobile gaming, the Japanese are at the bleeding edge. Only a few years ago, nearly every twenty-something Tokyo commuter spent their entire journey sending e-mails on their phones, now they’re playing mobile games. The Japanese mobile games market is thriving and in time we should expect to see the same boom in Oman. We want to be ready and we want to lead it in the region.

The mobile gaming sector is the fastest growing segment of the gaming market. It's more than evident that the opportunities are there for those who understand the dynamics of this rapidly growing industry. We hope that eGames will motivate Oman-based telco operators and content providers to drive this industry on and up and achieve its true potential. Oman has a lot to offer.
I wish you a pleasant and profitable two days.

Thank you.

05 December 2006

Ericsson Exhibits Hot Games

Ericsson is a lead sponsor of this year’s eGames Conference which is scheduled to kick off on Sunday 10 December at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

According to Charlotte Skanstad, Project Manager, LM Ericsson the worldwide total market for digital games is worth over US$30 billion. The primary platforms have been PC and consoles but she believes mobile phones are taking an increasingly bigger part of the pie.

Ericsson recently conducted extensive research in the Middle East markets that revealed 32% of users in the UAE and Saudi Arabia play games at least once a week. These numbers outperform other mobile services like MMS, portal browsing and listening to music or even mobile TV. Ericsson’s research also showed that the game market today is worth US$67 million and could reach US$377 million by 2011 when considering the strong growth in the Middle East. “Gaming is very big business and universities, banks, clothing stores, soft drink manufacturers and airlines across the world are tapping into the gaming market to push their experience and brand image,” said Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, KOM.

“In co-operation with SonyEricsson, we’ll have an exhibition booth at eGames and we’ll be encouraging delegates to try out the latest mobile multimedia handsets and the hottest mobile games currently available in the Omani market,” said Skanstad.

Delegates will have he opportunity to experience the latest technology – IMS - that will radically enhance the possibilities for mobile gaming applications. According to Skanstad: The new IMS-based multimedia services will change the users’ communication experience where they will be able to combine various content and communication, share with others and invite multiple contacts. This is a very exciting development in the gaming space. Adding, online gaming can run between mobile phones and PCs and fixed line phones and PDAs.

eGames Conference Agenda

Knowledge Oasis Muscat (www.kom.om) will hold eGames 2006, 10 - 11 December at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Muscat, Oman. Now in its second year, eGames is the premier conference for the Gulf’s gaming community. With speakers from leading operators, developers, publishers and academics worldwide, eGames 2006 will focus on Mobile and Serious Games. Attendees will walk away having shown, discussed and seen state of the art innovation in the mobile and serious games industry.

Only at eGames will you gain access to:

  • Developer training and education specific to serious and mobile game development.
  • Advanced sessions on top-line design, production, implementation and assessment issues related to the use of serious and mobile games.
  • Case studies pertaining to game-based solutions and simulations used within education, healthcare, training and marketing.
  • Results on cost-effective development and regulations for serious and mobile games.
  • Expert sessions on the future roles of serious and mobile game development and extensive networking opportunities.

Free Pre-conference Workshop (9 December)
A key component of this year’s event is the free pre-Conference workshop scheduled for 9 December (9:00am - 4:00pm) at the Middle East College of Information Technology based on KOM. Delivered by staff from De Montfort University’s Faculty of Art and Design this high-octane full-day workshop is limited to 100 attendees and will cover: storyboarding, character design and development, animation, narrative storytelling and visual effects. To reserve your seat e-mail your name and contact co-ordinates to: mulkie@kom.om

Day 1 Schedule

Welcome Remarks (8:30am - 8:40am)
Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, Knowledge Oasis Muscat

Keynote Address: The Mobile Content Economy (8:40am – 9:10am)
Andreas Johnsson, Director Business Development, Connected Media Centre, Middle East, Ericsson

The keynote address will consider:

o What is the business model for mobile content?
o How is the multimedia value chain structured?
o How does the ability to target different consumer markets impact on content creation?
o Different markets for mobile content – who are the players?
o Immersing your brand in mobile in content

Morning Coffee & Networking Break: (9:10am – 9:30am)

Session 1: Mobile Game Development 101 (9:30am – 11:45am)

  • Stefan Niemiec, Sun Microsystems
  • Jerome Tillotson, Vignette EMEA
  • Aneth Arosemena, Oman Mobile
  • Abdullah Al Zakwani, University of East London
  • Raed Dawood, Nawras

Session 1 will focus on frameworks, approaches and organizational techniques that help build better mobile games. Participants in Session 1 will trade success and horror stories and share their approaches to improving the mobile games development process. How do you tap into the US$2.43 billion worldwide mobile gaming market?

Coffee & Networking Break: (11:45am – 12 noon)

Session 2: Mobile Game Development: The Business Angle (12 noon – 1:45pm)

  • Alivin Yap, Nexgen Studio
  • Bilal Saleh, Motorola
  • Dr. Irfan Ahmad, Yahoo!
  • Raza Ashraf, Total Alignment
  • Jaffer Mir, Game Frontier
  • Martine Parry, ANGILS

Session 2 will be an open discussion about the business side of mobile gaming. What are the biggest risks and mistakes? How do developers make, raise and spend money? Who do they work with? How do they convince a telco to carry their game?

Lunch: 1:45pm – 2:45pm

Session 3: Telcos & Mobile Entertainment (2:45pm – 4:45pm)

  • Amru Al Sharif, Seeb Systems
  • Mohammed Al Shibli, Soharsoft
  • Andreas Johnsson, Ericsson
  • Firas Al Abduwani, Hussam Technology

We now have wireless access to the web, e-mail, chat and entertainment. Over the last 5 years, Gulf-based telcos have changed the way we talk, built a new way of communicating (SMS) and created new channels for distributing and playing games. In this session, representatives from leading ICT firms will discuss how mobile games fit into the telco world and what that means for the future of mobile entertainment.

Day 2

Session 4: Gaming is Serious Fun (8:30am – 10:30am)

  • Kevin McNulty, Terris Hill Productions
  • Martine Parry, ANGLIS
  • Alinah Aman, ASM Technologies
  • Professor Andrew Self, Serco

Session 4 will look at how we can take the tools of game design for entertainment and apply them to serious purposes. Games entertain in many ways - through gameplay naturally, but also through aesthetics, story-telling, novelty, creative play and much more. They can all be adapted to present and reinforce learning content and Session 4 will show how through demonstrating some recent examples this can be achieved.

Morning Coffee & Networking Break: (10:30am – 10:45am)

Session 5: Designing Learning Based Games (10:45am – 12:15pm)

  • Steve Abrahart, De Montfort University
  • Chris Hinton, De Montfort University
  • Michael Powell, De Montfort University

Computer Games are getting serious. Not only as a modern popular entertainment format, but also as a powerful vehicle for education, cultural dissemination, training, public policy, healthcare, simulation and many other applications which fall outside the entertainment software norm.Historically, educational games have been a bit like a cabbage sandwich - not very tasty. Indeed, more people are discovering the pedagogical potential of games. Session 5 will bring together leading players to discuss key issues and emerging trends that may help educational gaming achieve its promise. The goal is to get educators and the gaming industry talking and working together to see what can be achieved.

Games are a powerful teaching tool, allowing kids to explore, create and learn from their own mistakes, Session 5 will offer attendees an in-depth forum through which to examine and further the role of games in education.

Lunch Break: (12:15pm – 1:45pm)

Session 6: Avatar-Based Marketing: What’s the Future for Real-Life Companies Marketing to Second Life Avatars? (1:45pm – 2:45pm)

  • David Wortley, Coventry University
  • Gavin Dudeney, The Consultants-E

Just when you think that you've got your head around the online world and the possibilities of blogs and Wikis, someone comes along with a whole new world for you to think about. Second Life is an online world which is free to enter, has its own currency with an exchange rate to US dollars and has almost 300,000 worldwide registered players. How do public and private sector organizations tap into this virtual gaming world to market their products and services?

Afternoon Coffee & Networking Break: (2:45pm – 3:00pm)

Session 7: Competitive Computer Gaming and eSports (3:00pm – 4:00pm)

  • Jaffer Mir, Game Frontier

What is eSports? Can competitive computer gaming be recognised as a Sport? What is the current scene and status of the market place? What kind of money is involved in this sector for the industry and the gamers? Jaffer will present a short demo to profile the scene: Video Showcases and Practical (Fun) Challenge.

Jaffer will also consider the developer and publisher perspective. Does an organised competitive gaming activity for a new game make any difference in the uptake and shelf-life of a game? If so, how does this have an impact on games sales and the developer and publisher’s bottom line?

Case Study: Nadeo and Trackmania
How to use competitive gaming to effectively target the demographic of the new gamer, casual (existing) gamers and serious gamers? Clever marketing and branding with competitive gaming and eSports. Finally, what’s the potential for eSports the Middle East?

Conference & Workshop Registration Fees

Workshop: The eGames pre-Conference Workshop (Saturday 9 December) is free of charge. However, it is limited to 100 attendees and places will be allocated on a first come first serve basis.

Conference: eGames is a not-for-profit event, however to help cover general expenses the three (3)registration fees are: RO150 (US$380); RO125 (US$325) for public sector employees; and RO50 (US$130) for full-time tertiary students and academic staff. Said fees include all sessions, documentation, food and refreshment.

To register for the Workshop or/and Conference contact Ibtisam Al Faruji on: ibtisam@kom.om

04 December 2006

Middle East Mobile Gaming: Press “Start” to Play

The worldwide total market for digital games is worth over US$30 billion. The primary platforms have been PC and consoles but now the Mobile Phone is taking an increasingly bigger part of the pie and this is only logical when you look back at successful mobile gaming consoles like the Nintendo and the Gameboy, I so miss my double-screened Donkey Kong…

But games are not all about having fun, its serious business nowadays. In fact, it’s now so serious that there are sub-economies forming around popular games. If you go to Ebay.com you will find that you can buy Warcraft accounts for as much as US$3,000 and last year one person paid US$26,000 for a virtual island inside the MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) Entropia. But why constrict yourself to planet earth when we are in the digital fantasy world? A month later another person bought a space station in the same game for US$100,000. He said he would use it as a “resort” for other players’ characters in the game.

So why should an operator care about something as silly as games? Well, the Middle East telecom market is moving into a more de-regulated environment that will also be more competitive and that meansthat the operator has to do more to stand out from its competition. In this competitive environment, operators will need to differentiate and position themselves with Value Added Services, such as games.

Ericsson recently conducted an extensive research in the Middle East markets that showed 32% of users in the UAE and KSA play games at least once a week. These numbers outperform other mobile services like MMS, portal browsing and listening to music or even mobile TV. Ericsson research also showed that the game market today is worth US$67 million and could reach US$377 million in 2011 when considering the strong growth in the Middle East.

But revenues are not the only benefit from Games in the operators offering to its customers. In an increasingly competitive landscape the cost of acquisition and churn will be eating away on the operators business cases. For some European markets de-regulation and increased competition has meant a decrease in voice revenues between 30-70%. Research show that users who are active VAS users (like gamers) are 50% less likely to churn from that operator and by using attractive games to get new customers attention the cost of acquisition can be lowered by as much as 35%.

So games are important to operators and Ericsson can offer a complete games portfolio for an operator in the Middle East. Ericsson’s game portfolio consists of both single player and multiplayer games, of simple games and more advanced 3D games. With many games to choose from, there is also a HiScore community that will enhance experiences and create the stickiness operator needs to fight churn. All games are screened for cultural, geographical and religious considerations. Ericsson can also provide games that are localized to Arabic and with Arabic environments and contexts.

In addition to its games portfolio, Ericsson is also investing heavily in technologies such as HSPA that will allow higher bandwidth in the 3G networks. This bandwidth can of course be used by our creative game developers to create an even more immersive user experience. Another technology is IMS that will allow game developers to use for instance speech and location as an integral part of a multiplayer game. Here, it’s only the imagination of the creative game industry that sets the limit.