Startup of the Week: Otagu - Taking Saudi video game marketplace to the next level

Updated 22 October 2019

Startup of the Week: Otagu - Taking Saudi video game marketplace to the next level

  • Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 national transformation program includes a target of increasing spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the Kingdom from the current level of 2.9 percent of total domestic expenditure to 6 percent

JEDDAH: The entertainment industry and the creative economy play key roles in the reforms that aim to transform the Saudi economy and reduce its reliance on oil and gas revenues.
Along with efforts to promote and encourage entrepreneurship, this has created great opportunities in the digital field, and encouraged young Saudis to work to make their ambitious dreams reality.
One such entrepreneur is 27-year-old Ahmed Bakhashwin, the founder of Otagu, an online community for fans of video games, animation, movies and TV shows, a group he feels has been unfairly treated and exploited by retailers. The platform aims to improve the marketplace by providing a space where enthusiasts, merchandisers and retailers can get together and deal directly with each other.
“Otagu is derived from the Japanese word ‘Otaku,’ which means a person who is obsessed with a particular thing; for example, an otaku of Marvel movies,” said Bakhashwin. “Otagu is also an acronym for ‘Online, TV, Animation and Gaming Universe.’”
The idea for Otagu grew from his dissatisfaction with the local video games market.
“The market for second-hand video games was made to trick and exploit customers,” he said. “Shops would buy used games for very low prices from their owners and then sell them at a much higher price.”
Bakhashwin said that he wanted to help consumers get a better deal by giving them more power.
“At first I wanted to take the shops out of the equation and allow people to sell their products directly to those who want them for a price they agree on,” he said. “However, the idea grew further and now we want to target the entertainment industry as a whole.”
One of Otagu’s main aims is to bring better organization to the Kingdom’s entertainment marketplace, including the second-hand video-game market, by providing a platform that connects sellers of gaming, animation, movie and TV merchandise with the collectors, fans and enthusiasts most interested in their wares.
Work began on Otagu a year ago and it is due to launch its website, otagu.com, in two weeks. A mobile app is coming soon, too.
Although Saudi Arabia only embraced and opened up to the global entertainment industry relatively recently, the potential value of the sector and its contribution to the local economy is immense.
“The market that we are targeting is bigger than ever, so it’s the perfect time for us to launch,” said Bakhashwin.
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 national transformation program includes a target of increasing spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the Kingdom from the current level of 2.9 percent of total domestic expenditure to 6 percent.
Bakhashwin aims to give fellow entrepreneurs in the Kingdom the chance to participate in this expanding market by helping small businesses grow and open their own online stores.
“Every business owner in any field related to our target audience can have an independent store page on our website,” he said. “We help small business and shops too.”
He added he has lofty ambitions for Otagu, which he believes has great potential to grow and become a major force in the region. He said his team has worked hard to create and develop the best platform to match their plans and ambitions.
“Our biggest challenge has been finding the right investor, so we could move ahead faster with the company’s plans,” he said. “Up until now all the funds have come from me, but with an investor we can move even more quickly to help our company realize the vision that we have for it.”


Six Flags: “We will break records for the fastest, biggest and longest rides.”

Updated 1 min 49 sec ago

Six Flags: “We will break records for the fastest, biggest and longest rides.”

  • Speaking at the Misk Global Forum, Centola said the efforts made for Qiddiyah would make it the city of the future
  • The Oscar-winner and mind behind the “Born a King” biopic of King Faisal explained that the story of the Saudi monarch was a great external promotion for the Kingdom

RIYADH: Mario Centola, the vice president of international operations and business development at Six Flags Entertainment, said government support for Qiddiyah was facilitating expansion that would help the company attract tourists and business to Saudi Arabia.

Speaking at the Misk Global Forum, Centola stated his firm was aiming to build “the biggest, fastest, longest, steepest roller coaster by far in the world ... you will only get to experience that type of ride and this type of park right outside Riyadh.”

He explained during his participation in a session at the forum, entitled “Entertainment is serious business,” that the efforts made for Qiddiyah would make it the city of the future, pointing out that the latest technology would be in every part of the city.

He mentioned how innovation in the Kingdom was creating great job opportunities, especially in the field of entertainment, and he called on Saudis to seize the opportunities ahead of them.

Also speaking, the Spanish producer and CEO of Lola Films, Andrés Gomes, pointed out that his relationship with Saudi Arabia began 10 years ago.

The Oscar-winner and mind behind the “Born a King” biopic of King Faisal explained that the story of the Saudi monarch was a great external promotion for the Kingdom, given its international storyline, with 70 percent of its events taking place in the UK.

“We have to make films that people like … Saudi Arabia should be very careful to not be invaded by foreign cultures for your movies and TV,” he said.

“Of course, you have not had the time to develop your own productions, but that’s what you have to ask your government for — you have to ask for support.”

Shinji Shimizu, senior director and producer at Toei Animation, talked about his own first visit to Saudi Arabia a decade ago, and his vision of the interest of young Saudis in Japanese animators.

“Animation was established 63 years ago. I had been working with the company for 42 years … Japanese animation was gradually enjoyed by young people, by lots of people.

“Young people are very talented and they absorb very quickly, and they want to express Saudi culture. We are working with a Japanese crew and we are having a tremendously enjoyable time together.”

Alabbas Bin Alabbas, the founder of Alsahar Animation, stressed the importance of this period for the Saudi people, as the country opens up to entertainment and the arts, stressing the importance of animation as a magnet for children, in addition to the great energy that exists among young people encouraged and supported by the government.

“I think now it’s our turn to contribute to the world, to show who we are, what our stories are,” he said.