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Saudi Arabia overtakes Turkey in mobile games consumer spend amid Covid-19

Eyad Al Basheer, COO at Tamatem
(Image credit: Tamatem)

Jordan-based mobile games publisher for the Arabic speaking market – Tamatem – sees 2020 to be dominated by smartphone gaming despite Covid-19 pandemic.

Eyad Al Basheer, COO at Tamatem, told TechRadar Pro Middle East, said that they have seen a 250% increase in spend so far and Saudi Arabia has overtaken Turkey in consumer spend this year.

“The Middle East and North Africa is a high-growth market and Saudi Arabia has seven times more average revenue per user [ARPU] than China, highest in the world. Monetisation is very strong in the region,” he said.

The seven-year-old company has more than 50 games from more than 15 developers and the genres of games include racing, drifting, MMO-RPG, strategy, puzzle and word, story-based games and trivia games.

 “We partner with international game developers that have successful games globally and help them localise their games and launch them in the region. Till today, we have more than 100m downloads on our portfolio,” he said.

(Image credit: App Annie)

(Image credit: App Annie)

Even though Arabic is the fourth most spoken language worldwide, he said that Arabic content available online still has less than 1%.

So, he said that there’s a huge demand for Arabic apps and Tamatem helps international developers to enter the region and accelerate their growth.

 “We do the user acquisition, app store optimisation, marketing, user support and product management, apart from these, we do all kinds of monetisation techniques, analyzing the data and perform actions based on that,” Al Basheer said.

From localisation to culturalisation

(Image credit: Tamatem)

Moreover, Al Basheer said the Arab region has a cultural sensitivity such as having a casino but it is changed in the local version and sometimes places are changed to relevant cities in the region.

In one game, he said they even changed the original music as it wasn’t culturally accepted in Saudi Arabia.

“You can’t change the culture. It’s difficult for international developers to have an idea of what to expect when they enter the region but we can anticipate what Arabic players want from a game,” he said.

Tamatem is a data-driven company and he said that they have grown significantly year over year and have also hired 15 employees during the pandemic.

The company is seeing a growing opportunity for female gamers despite being a male-dominated world.

Al Basheer said that most of the Arabic games in the app stores target male audience and “we saw a lack of games targeting the female audience. We did extensive research on games to see whether targeting female audience will be a success or not but we found none of it.”

(Image credit: App Annie)

However, Al Basheer said that they have one game – Fashion Queen - targeting females and it has proved that it is working well and have just signed another one - My Story, a huge game in the US.

Having the localised version, he said made Fashion Queen ten times more successful than the original one - Hollywood Story - from Nanobit.

“We evaluate the games and the developer capabilities and see if it will fit into the local market before we bring in. We see the metrics of the original game and build a financial mode on top of that,” he said.

Among the app stores, he said that app downloads are much higher on Google but the app monetisation is much stronger on Apple store.