The publisher and developer of video games will focus on player entertainment in the Middle East in North Africa (MENA) market, and is funded by Ajlan & Bros Group, one of the largest family businesses in Saudi Arabia.
They have long been considered an emerging market for video games, with more than 500 million people. But it has few national video game publishers and developers, and most game manufacturers simply locate games for the region, modifying them according to local language or tastes.
Sandsoft Games, based in Riyadh, intends to target the market with games adapted to the culture and tastes of the region, starting with mobile games.
The company was started by CEO Mo Fadl, who was previously responsible for global esports at Wargaming and responsible for publishing for the Nordic countries at Riot Games.
“I think a lot is changing in the industry now,” said Fadl. “And if you look at the markets in the MENA region, I think that in the next three to four years, the big players will understand that the MENA region is one of the main world markets. We must not underestimate it at all. It’s an opportunity because it’s the fastest growing market in the world. 50% of the public is under 30 years old. “
A booming market
He noted that the MENA market has seen 25% annual revenue growth, which is the highest growth rate in the world for video games. In the Middle East and Africa (MEA), gaming revenues are expected to reach $ 4.8 billion in 2020 and $ 6 billion in 2021. In recognition of this, Zynga recently bought Gram Games and Peak Games, both in Turkey. The latter cost $ 1.8 billion.
However, there are very few video game companies in the region. Fadl is well aware that some of the big spenders among players are in the Middle East, and that there is a strong culture of competition among players that has helped to make e-sport flourish in the region. And Fadl is not aware of any other large gaming company in Saudi Arabia.
In addition, the Middle East has a young population, high purchasing power and is an emerging technology center with solid infrastructure. Sandsoft wishes to capitalize on this ecosystem and integrate its local expertise and offer the cultivation of products to ensure the launch of games in a way that will resonate with players.
Ajlan & Bros Group provided the financing. It is one of the largest private sector companies in the MENA region, employing 7,000 people. The textile company can provide a commercial presence, a cloud, a payment infrastructure and other benefits for Sandsoft. Ajlan & Bros has recently formed a future group of projects to provide entertainment to the region, with video games playing an important role.
Internally, Sandsoft will offer comprehensive publishing services on mobile, PC, console, including user acquisition, marketing and localization. The team also has the unique ability to speak the same language as the MENA audience, sharing their interests and passions.
This allows the team to offer relevant and relevant services and experiences to players in the region. In addition, Sandsoft offers internal developers within their product team, ensuring that developers speak to developers in their language, speeding up production while ensuring a high level of quality for the games they launch.
Saudi Arabia has restrictions on content, such as the level of brutality in violent games, but Fadl does not expect this to be a problem for the team’s vision of making games.
“We now have an empty page and are fortunate to sit together to form our content,” said Fadl.
A competitive course
Fadl has 16 years of publishing experience and roles at NCSoft, Blizzard, Riot Games and Wargaming. With his Arab heritage and experience in international publishing, Fadl will strengthen the team with new hires announced soon and will oversee the integration of new products to ensure that Sandsoft always places MENA players first.
Sandsoft will seek to promote diversity, educate the world about the region’s cultural and societal values, publish games that remain true to the culture of the region, and allow the community to grow while creating fun and positive for MENA players.
Abdulaziz Alajlan, member of the board of directors of Sandsoft Games and managing director of Ajlan & Bros, said in a press release that the MENA region is going through a transition, the region being in the process of modernization. He believes video games will play a key role, but the key is to make games and services accessible that can expand the market. He said the Ajlan & Bros group will provide all of its infrastructure to launch games. But Sandsoft Games remains an independent company, said Fadl.
“I have found partners who share the same vision of changing the region, allowing new talent to grow in the region and bringing global talent into this landscape to help train and develop it. ‘uplift,’ said Fadl.
Sandsoft has a number of openings and is recruiting employees on its website. The team now has 24 employees and Fadl hopes to have 64 in the next month in three offices in Riyadh, Shanghai and Dubai.
Fadl said that he grew up as a mixed German and Egyptian citizen in Germany, and that he often felt like an outcast. But online, he said that people don’t care who you are, only that you play games.
“It changed my life personally, and I knew I wanted to join the gaming industry,” said Fadl.
He got a dream job at Blizzard Entertainment. Several years later, at Riot Games, he helped create the Nexus e-sport event in Saudi Arabia. He saw so much passion and enthusiasm for the games. He met with members of the Ajlan family and shared his vision of creating a MENA-focused business with global talent. He finally started the business this year.
The company has an office in Riyadh, but most people work from home. The initial titles will be free mobile games, but they will not be pay-to-win games where the richest players can buy the win.
“Most publishers are localizing their content, and that’s something we want to change,” said Fadl. “We want to create something that is endemic to the region.”