The Mobile Games Landscape in Saudi Arabia
Huge Opportunities that the Top App Analytics Aren’t Telling You about
Nowadays, game developers increasingly ask about the nitty-gritty details on Saudi Arabia’s mobile gaming industry. It’s easy to see why. Recently, I ran a survey to elicit insights about mobile players who pay between SAR 50 and SAR 500 ($13-$133 approximately) per month on in-game purchases. These are the gems that pay us back, and pay us well in terms of lifetime value if they stick around.
But finding solid data on this demographic is not as easy or straightforward as we’d think. Most professionals will immediately cite App Annie as the top authority for the latest stats on mobile app markets. But in Saudi Arabia’s case it is a grave mistake. The app analytics tool only tracks countryspecific stores. In Saudi Arabia, those only account for a partial share of total app store revenues because a significant portion of Saudis prefer to use US app stores. To get a sense of what the Saudi market is like, I collected and collated secondary research - which is shockingly scarce - from Superdata and Newzoo.
According to Newzoo the 2015 revenue of the total games market in Saudi Arabia was $203 million. Based on the global average mobile share of this revenue (30%-35%) I estimated Saudi Arabia’s mobile slice at $70 million. By comparison, App Annie clocked total annual revenue to somewhere in the vicinity of $25 million. Both Superdata and Newzoo confirmed that the App Annie figure didn’t make sense, and that my figure was more or less a reasonable estimate. The two research firms apply different bottom-up methodologies, so it looks like App Annie has a blind spot here. “If just 10% of the population played mobile games and spent just $1 per month, that would already surpass the App Annie figure,” said Sam Barberie, VP Product and Business Development at Superdata Research, Inc. I checked in with one of my developer pals who currently has a top 20‐ranked game on the Saudi IOS game charts, and he said that their Arabic‐only title receives 60% of its revenue from the US App Store, of which 90% are from Saudi Arabia, based on their Ip/location - not on the country store.
The moral of the story is that App Annie falls very short in tracking emerging markets like Saudi Arabia. It also reveals a striking challenge that app stores face: the localized editorial teams at Apple and Google are engaging a segment of users that contribute only one-third of total Saudi revenues.
Check out this infographic for a summarized overview of my research results on the Saudi mobile games landscape.