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Netmarble to Churn Out More Arabic Games by Fusing AI and AR

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Gadget Voize speaks to Barış Özistek, the President of Netmarble EMEA about how Netmarble has become one of the top mobile gaming companies offering Arabised and localized games in the MENA region.

Tell us about Netmarble. What does it do? When was the company launched?
Established in South Korea in 2000, Netmarble is the fastest growing mobile game developing company as well as one of the best mobile developers and publishers in the world. Netmarble is currently one of the leaders in the Korean gaming market and the number one gaming company that managed to enter the global market.

Netmarble is constantly growing and increasing its revenue as a company. More than half of the revenue comes from global markets meanwhile the company’s performance in global markets is steadily escalating. With the momentum gained with the launch of our game Lineage 2: Harb albakaa, which was released in 54 Western countries following Asia and Japan in the past year, Netmarble left behind a record-breaking year with its biggest annual revenue yet. Netmarble’s 2017 revenue exceeded $2 billion.

Much like our previous partnerships with “Jam City” and “Kabam”, in April, we have purchased a 25.71 percent stake in the Korean company Big Hit Entertainment and developed business synergies between the two companies, which are both very active in global gaming and music markets. In addition, we plan to make further mergers and acquisitions in the global market, via the funds obtained through a public listing in the future.

 

How is the game industry progressing both worldwide and in MENA region?
The gaming market has exceeded $110 billion worldwide. Mobile gaming industry makes up half of this amount. We can say there is a similar situation in MENA as well. The mobile gaming industry has taken over more than 50 percent of the market. The time spent in the game by players in the region is above the world average. If we were to look at the per person expenditures, the GCC region shows similar characteristics to the markets with high per person expenditures on games such as America, Japan and Korea.

Entertainment habits of the region seem to be in parallel with mobile games. We observe that men and women of all ages have fun with mobile games, especially when the games are in Arabic. Recently, we also observed that the games that are not only in Arabic but also highlights the Arab culture, which consists of the region’s favourite characters and places and are enriched with cultural localizations receive much more attention.

If we were looking at the economic size of the MENA mobile game market, it seems to be over $1.5 billion. Personally, by the end of 2020, I expect this amount to reach $3 billion.

Which of your games are most played in MENA region?
Lineage 2: Harb albakaa comes first as Netmarble’s most played games. Lineage 2: Harb albakaa has more than 32 million players worldwide. The game accumulated over $924 million in global revenue within the 11 months since its first launch.

The second most played games from our stable is Travelling Millionaire. This is one of the games with the highest income which has a large number of players in the MENA region as well. Players in the region have been playing Travelling Millionaire for a very long time. Therefore, we are always working on keeping the game fresh and producing more content to be able to fulfil our players’ expectations.

As Netmarble, what kind of investments are you making for Arabic players?
Although translating the whole game into the regional language is a huge step, we don’t think it is enough. By making cultural localization in the games whenever possible, we localize the characters in the game along with all visual designs and sometimes even the design of the whole game according to the expectations of Arab players.

If we were to give an example from our games, we have attracted the attention of the players by adding local characters to our Traveling Millionaire game and showed them that we care and value our players. Nasser, with his hawk and ethnic outfit, is one of the players’ favourite characters. Selahaddin Eyyubi, who is a historical figure, is a strong character with his special warhorse and sword for the players who want to conquer Travelling Millionaire. Moreover, Assi gets a lot of attention from the players as the most fun character of the game who dances Lebanon’s traditional dance Dabke very well.

Likewise, as a result of our continuous effort, Lineage 2: Harb albakaa has been completely translated into Arabic for our Arab players. With that, new costumes, mounts like camels, lions and horses in the region have quickly taken their places among the favourites of our players since day one.

Apart from localizing the game, we are also taking local actions in terms of communication with our players. For example, social media, especially YouTube, is the region’s most popular entertainment channel. Therefore, we asked the popular streamers in the region to play and review our game during the promotion phase of our game. As the result, we have received exceedingly positive feedback both from them and the players.

How was the year 2018 for Netmarble?
I think I can say 2018 was a year that Netmarble focused completely on the MENA region. Two of our very special games have entered the region fully localized this year. The unrivalled Iron Throne game is the first among these games with its high-end graphics quality, different features from the best strategy games and unique MMORPG characteristics. Of course, Arabic language support and region-specific cultural localizations make the game completely different for the region.

We are also very happy and proud to present the world’s most popular mobile MMORPG Lineage 2: Harb albakaa to our players in the region in a fully localized state. In June, we have brought together our players with the Arabic version of Lineage 2: Harb albakaa, which attracted great attention from the GCC region in its first launch in Western regions.

What do you think about incorporating new technologies into your games in the future? Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and so on?
Artificial intelligence plays an important role in games since the perception of reality in games has increased and players have started demanding more challenging as well as more competitive scenarios. The rise of artificial intelligence was inevitable as technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality gained huge popularity in the game world, especially in recent years.

We’ve been developing an artificial intelligence search engine called “Columbus” which customizes the user experience utilizing big data analysis and artificial intelligence together. I can tell that you’ll be able to see the features of the “Columbus” in our games in the near future.

The artificial intelligence games will be able to respond to different users in different ways to create customized content. Netmarble is considering employing more people in artificial intelligence and is planning to invest in this technology more.

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‘Black Panther’ and its Science Role Models Inspire More Than Just Movie Awards

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Written by Clifford Johnson, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

It has been said many times that the Marvel movie “Black Panther” is an important landmark. I’m not referring to its deserved critical and box office success worldwide, the many awards it has won, or the fact that it is the first film in the superhero genre to be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards.

Instead, I’m focusing on a key aspect of its cultural impact that is less frequently discussed. Finally a feature film starring a black superhero character became part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a successful run of intertwined movies that began with “Iron Man” in 2008. While there have been other superhero movies with a black lead character – “Hancock” (2008), “Blade” (1998), “Spawn” (1997) or even “The Meteor Man” (1993) – this film is significant because of the recent remarkable rise of the superhero film from the nerdish fringe to part of mainstream culture.

Huge audiences saw a black lead character – not a sidekick or part of a team – in a superhero movie by a major studio, with a black director (Ryan Coogler), black writers and a majority black cast. This is a significant step toward diversifying our culture by improving the lackluster representation of minorities in our major media. It’s also a filmmaking landmark because black creators have been given access to the resources and platforms needed to bring different storytelling perspectives into our mainstream culture.

2017’s “Wonder Woman” forged a similar path. In that case, a major studio finally decided to commit resources to a superhero film headlined by a female character and directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. Female directors are a minority in the movie industry. Jenkins brought a new perspective to this kind of action movie, and there was a huge positive response from audiences in theaters worldwide.

And beyond all this, “Black Panther” also broke additional ground in a way most people may not realize: In the comics, the character is actually a scientist and engineer. Moreover, in the inevitable (and somewhat ridiculous) ranking of scientific prowess that happens in the comic book world, he’s been portrayed as at least the equal of the two most famous “top scientists” in the Marvel universe: Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic). A black headlining superhero character written and directed by black artists is rare enough from a major studio. But making him – and his sister Shuri – successful scientists and engineers as well is another level of rarity.

Scientists On Screen

I’m a scientist who cares about increased engagement with science by the general public. I’ve worked as a science adviser on many film and TV projects (though not “Black Panther”). When the opportunity arises, I’ve helped broaden the diversity of scientist characters portrayed onscreen.

Jason Wilkes is a black scientist on ‘Agent Carter,’ whose character emerged from the author’s talks with the show’s writers.
Panels from ‘The Dialogues,’ including a black female scientist. ‘The Dialogues,’ by Clifford V. Johnson (MIT Press 2017).

I’ve also recently published a nonfiction graphic book for general audiences called “The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe.” Its characters include male and female black scientists, discussing aspects of my own field of theoretical physics – where black scientists are unfortunately very rare. So the opportunity that the “Black Panther” movie presents to inform and inspire vast audiences is of great interest to me.

The history and evolution of the Black Panther character and his scientific back story is a fascinating example of turning a problematic past into a positive opportunity. Created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, he’s the first black superhero character in mainstream comics, originally appearing as a guest in a “Fantastic Four” Marvel comic. As a black character created and initially written by nonblack authors, guest-starring in the pages of a book headlined by white characters, he had many of the classic attributes of what is now sometimes controversially known as the “magical negro” in American cultural criticism: He ranked extremely highly in every sphere that mattered, to the point of being almost too unreal even for the comics of the time.

Black Panther is T’Challa, king of the fictional African country Wakanda, which is fathomlessly wealthy and remarkably advanced, scientifically and technologically. Even Marvel’s legendary master scientist – Reed Richards of the superhero team Fantastic Four – is befuddled by and full of admiration for Wakanda’s scientific capabilities. T’Challa himself is portrayed as an extraordinary “genius” in physics and other scientific fields, a peerless tactician, a remarkable athlete and a master of numerous forms of martial arts. And he is noble to a fault. Of course, he grows to become a powerful ally of the Fantastic Four and other Marvel superheroes over many adventures.

While likening Black Panther to a ‘refugee from a Tarzan movie,’ the Fantastic Four marveled at his technological innovations in ‘Introducing the Sensational Black Panther.’

The key point here is that the superlative scientific ability of our hero, and that of his country, has its origins in the well-meaning, but problematic, practice of inventing near or beyond perfect black characters to support stories starring primarily white protagonists. But this is a lemons-to-lemonade story.

The Fantastic Four were amazed by the scientific ingenuity of Wakanda in ‘Whosoever Finds The Evil Eye.’

Black Panther eventually got to star in his own series of comics. He was turned into a nuanced and complex character, moving well away from the tropes of his beginnings. Writer Don McGregor’s work started this development as early as 1973, but Black Panther’s journey to the multilayered character you see on screen was greatly advanced by the efforts of several writers with diverse perspectives. Perhaps most notably, in the context of the film, these include Christopher Priest (late 1990s) and Ta-Nehisi Coates (starting in 2016), along with Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey, writing in “World of Wakanda” (2016). Coates and Gay, already best-selling literary writers before coming to the character, helped bring him to wider attention beyond normal comic book fandom, partly paving the way for the movie.

Through all of the improved writing of T’Challa and his world, his spectacular scientific ability has remained prominent. Wakanda continues to be a successful African nation with astonishing science and technology. Furthermore, and very importantly, T’Challa is not portrayed as an anomaly among his people in this regard. There are many great scientists and engineers in the Wakanda of the comics, including his sister Shuri. In some accounts, she (in the continued scientist-ranking business of comics) is an even greater intellect than he is. In the movie, T’Challa’s science and engineering abilities are referred to, but it is his sister Shuri who takes center stage in this role, having taken over to design the new tools and weapons he uses in the field. She also uses Wakandan science to heal wounds that would have been fatal elsewhere in the world.

Black Panther isn’t an isolated genius – his half-sister Shuri is a technological wiz herself.

If They Can Do It, Then Why Not Me?

As a scientist who cares about inspiring more people – including underrepresented minorities and women – to engage with science, I think that showing a little of this scientific landscape in “Black Panther” potentially amplifies the movie’s cultural impact.

Vast audiences see black heroes – both men and women – using their scientific ability to solve problems and make their way in the world, at an unrivaled level. Research has shown that such representation can have a positive effect on the interests, outlook and career trajectories of viewers.

Improving science education for all is a core endeavor in a nation’s competitiveness and overall health, but outcomes are limited if people aren’t inspired to take an interest in science in the first place. There simply are not enough images of black scientists – male or female – in our media and entertainment to help inspire. Many people from underrepresented groups end up genuinely believing that scientific investigation is not a career path open to them.

Moreover, many people still see the dedication and study needed to excel in science as “nerdy.” A cultural injection of Black Panther heroics helps continue to erode the crumbling tropes that science is only for white men or reserved for people with a special “science gene.”

The huge widespread success of the “Black Panther” movie, showcasing T’Challa, Shuri and other Wakandans as highly accomplished scientists, remains one of the most significant boosts for science engagement in recent times.

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TP-Link to Showcase Neffos X20 and X20 Pro at MWC 2019

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Neffos, TP-Link’s sub-brand for smartphones, will be exhibiting at the Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, Spain, on February 25. The theme for the year’s biggest technology convention for mobile products and innovations is intelligent connectivity, which is in line with TP-Link’s slogan of “Faster Wi-Fi, Better Signal Phone, Smarter Home.”

At the MWC 2019 tech show, Neffos will display Neffos P1 as well with a built-in projector feature for beaming HD content onto a large wall. Neffos P1, which adds a laser projector that can throw a picture as large as 200 inches wide onto a wall or any flat surface in high resolution.

For the first time, the company will also showcase its new Neffos X20 and X20 Pro flagship phones. The two models are expected to hit the market sometime in June, along with Neffos’ own NFUI 9.0 software based on the Android 9.0 Pie operating system. As NFUI 9.0 hasn’t launched yet, the X20 and X20 Pro will be the first devices to run the latest user interface out of the box.

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OPPO’s VOOC Charging System Gets TÜV Rheinland’s Certification

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OPPO has received a new safety certification for its proprietary flash charging technology known as VOOC, which can charge a flat smartphone batter up to 40% in just 10 minutes. “The company recognizes that fast charging is now one of the most important demands from smartphone users globally who want a device that can fully charge in minutes, not hours,” said the company in a statement.

OPPO’s VOOC flash charging uses a special adapter and cables to charge devices safely at 25W without overheating—far above the industry standard. The company also offers a Super VOOC system that boosts the charging power to a massive 50W, capable of charging a flat battery to a full charge in just 35 minutes. Most high-end smartphones today take around 2 hours to fully charge.

The latest certification from renowned international safety authority TÜV Rheinland acknowledges that OPPO’s VOOC charging system has undergone rigorous testing across multiple sessions and test cycles to ensure its safety for daily usage. The VOOC system also allows users to safely use their smartphone during charging without it overheating.

OPPO’s VOOC flash charge technology is already used in more than 100 million smartphones worldwide including several models available in the Middle East today. The system is featured in OPPO’s flagship premium handset, the OPPO Find X, as well as its mid to high-end OPPO R17 and R17 Pro devices.

“Such innovations will continue as OPPO plans to raise its global R&D investments to around $1.43 billion in 2019, a 150% year-on-year increase,” said the company.

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