The Mo­bile Games Land­scape in Saudi Ara­bia

Arabnet - The Quarterly - - Content - By Amir-es­maeil Bo­zorgzadeh

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.

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