Pandemic provides spark for growth in Arabic mobile games industry
The mobile games industry is arguably one of the fastest-growing industries in the Middle East and North Africa. There has been a rise in the number of mobile gamers in recent years, which leapt further after the global pandemic struck in 2020.
It was one of the few industries that actually boomed as a result of lockdown restrictions. The health crisis accelerated the growth of the industry and has prompted investors to take a closer look at MENA mobile games companies.
Gaming revenue in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey surged 15 percent annually to $6.5 billion in 2021, according to consultants Redseer. Saudi Arabian gamers accounted for $1.3 billion of this market.
Around the world, there are about three billion gamers, with MENA players accounting for 15 percent, or 434 million gamers, according to gaming market data platform Newzoo.
But ten years ago, people did not understand the massive opportunity presented by the mobile games industry across the region. This was mainly because Arabic content online was extremely limited and Arabic mobile games were practically non-existent.
There are over 400 million Arabic speakers, but there was less than 1 percent of Arabic gaming content available a decade ago. A massive gap in the market was clearly being overlooked. But in 2012, entrepreneurs such as Hussam Hammo — CEO & founder of Tamatem Games — realized there was an opportunity to entertain native Arabic speakers with content they could understand.
Despite a vast need in the gaming industry, the industry’s growth in the MENA region was on a relatively steady incline. Investors were still reserved about investing in MENA mobile games, even though the gap was massive.
The market has grown consistently over the last decade but it wasn’t until the pandemic struck that everything changed. During lockdown, most people turned to their mobile phones for entertainment, predominantly to play mobile games. In 2020, 85 percent of mobile phone owners in the region played mobile games to pass the time, according to the Coronavirus Impact Survey.
Forcing millions of people to stay at home changed the way people used technology and consumed content. Millions of new players joined the mobile games world, lapsed players came back and existing players spent more time and money on gaming.
The pandemic accelerated the growth of the industry in the region, and those who once doubted its creative potential are now taking an interest. As the pandemic eased, the MENA mobile games market witnessed a flood of investment. South Korean games developer Krafton, the firm behind the blockbuster PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, was a majority investor in Tamatem Games’ Series B funding round that raised $11 million in Dec. 2021.
Now that the MENA mobile games market has finally attracted some much-needed attention, the industry players will be able to focus on entertaining the Arab world with the latest and best mobile games.
• Elena Hinnawi is a PR specialist at Tamatem Games.