Startup nations | In growing genre of casual gaming, Israel is top scorer

Remember those old-school, archetypal video games — first Pong, then Pac-Man? They seemed like the height of technology when they came out. Since then, the world of gaming has gone through countless transformations, rendering this multibillion-dollar industry virtually unrecognizable from those original arcade games.

If you’ve ever played Angry Birds or Farmville, you are among the many millions of users who enjoy “casual” games. Nearly half of gamers say it is their favorite genre. And while the perception of the average gamer is a nerdy teenage boy, the growing popularity of casual gaming has moved that demographic: Now it’s actually a 31-year-old female.

Smartphones and social networks have taken casual gaming to a whole new level, bringing the social experience to the mainstream. Israeli startups have hopped onto the craze, with a number of successful companies. In fact, of the 10 leading games on Facebook in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, half were made in Israel.

The Israeli Economic Mission to the West Coast recently hosted a delegation of 10 Israeli casual-gaming companies at the Casual Connect San Francisco Conference, a gathering of the “best and the brightest in the video games industry.” The companies met Aug. 11-13 with some top players in the industry, such as Zynga, Facebook and Google, to facilitate partnerships and secure new funding.

Among the delegates were Israeli gaming companies Planet of the Apps and Tacticsoft, each with large portfolios of innovative games, and the Idollz, which has created a music game combining “creative musical features with a full life simulation experience.” Other companies represented are more involved in back-end development, such as Gingee, which allows for easy conversion of apps across multiple platforms. Look for many more exciting casual games from Israel in the near future.


Startup of the month

Israeli startup MUV Interactive has come out with an exciting wearable technology. Bird is a finger-mounted, ringlike, Bluetooth-connected device that combines 10 sensory technologies, including touch, voice and depth, turning any space into a touch screen–like interactive surface. Bird technology has applications across a number of fields, including medicine, architecture, education and entertainment.

Another startup created with advanced Israeli design is Kapau, an outdoor game that merges the traditional beach racket with professional tennis-racket technology. The Kapau racket features lightweight strings, allowing for maximum speed and virtuosity.


Acquisition of the month

Pebbles’ virtual-reality technology

Facebook’s Oculus acquired Pebbles Interfaces — an Israeli virtual-reality headset maker — for a reported $60 million this month. Pebbles technology detects and attracts hand movement, allowing for 3-D human interaction with electronic devices. According to the Wall Street Journal, Pebbles “enables users to see images of their own arms and hands in their virtual-reality display. In some other technologies, users can’t ‘see’ their bodies, or only see generic digitally-generated versions. Pebbles’ technology can show unique features like clothing, scars or items held in one’s hand.”

Also this month, Microsoft reportedly acquired Israeli cloud security company Adallom for $320 million, though the deal is still yet to be signed. Reports also say Adallom is set to become the center for Microsoft’s cybersecurity business in Israel.