Fahy Studios charts ambitious course to reshape Saudi Arabia's games scene

The company's founders discuss their Kwalee partnership, upcoming projects and their plans to leverage the KSA's gaming landscape

Fahy Studios charts ambitious course to reshape Saudi Arabia's games scene

In a new collaboration, British game developer and publisher Kwalee recently penned a development publishing agreement with Fahy Studios, marking Kwalee's first partnership with a Saudi-based game studio.

The KSA company has garnered attention for its commitment to creating easy-to-play hypercasual games and through this partnership, now envisions expanding into the realm of casual games and venturing into more polished and established genres.

We spoke to Fahy Studios founders Fahad Alshibl (top left), Hani Hashem (top right) and Owis AlSaour (bottom left) to learn about the company's plans for the future, explore how partnering with Kwalee will shape their trajectory, redefine their work ethic, and play a part in Saudi Arabia's growing prominence within the global gaming industry.

PocketGamer.Biz: Tell us about Fahy Studios and your focus on hybridcasual.

Hani Hashem (Studio Head): Fahy Studios is a young and ambitious development studio building games in Saudi Arabia. Our hearts beat for bringing the joy of gaming to people on the go! We're particularly drawn to the exciting potential of the hybridcasual space as we think of hybridcasual as a window to bring mechanics that we love and enjoy on console, distilling them into experiences that are optimised for mobile and are accessible to the casual gamer. When done right, this creates mobile games that are both instantly fun and endlessly rewarding.

Through our games, we aim to not only entertain the world but also showcase the vibrant future of Saudi Arabia and the broader region on the global stage
Fahad Alshibl

What inspired the shift from hypercasual to other genres? 

Hani Hashem: From our perspective as a young studio, we have always viewed hypercasual as an early stepping stone rather than a destination. To us, hypercasual games served as a fertile training ground where we honed our skills in rapid development and data-driven iteration. That being said, our focus on hybridcasual isn’t just a stylistic shift but a creative evolution. While we learned a lot from the accessibility and reach of hypercasual games, we craved deeper storytelling and richer gameplay systems as creators, as well as the chance to connect with players on a more meaningful level.

At the same time, we also acknowledge the evolving landscape of mobile gaming. Today's casual gamer no longer evokes an image of someone satisfied with a fleeting experience. They crave accessibility, yes, but also depth and meaningful progression. They're a sophisticated audience and we believe that hybridcasual is the answer to their demand for games that are both instantly fun and endlessly rewarding.

What are you working on right now?

Hani Hashem: We currently have two projects in the making planned for 2024. Unfortunately, we cannot reveal the details yet but our first project is an ambitious and fresh take on the roguelite genre with an engaging meta around it. As for our second project, we are exploring a multiplayer competitive game around a unique mechanic that we haven’t seen before on mobile. We have also just finalized a week-long bootcamp to craft our pipeline and I can assure you that we all came out of this motivated and excited to execute the ideas and concepts we produced.

Tell us about your aspirations to create Saudi Arabia's first truly global hit game. How do you aim to achieve this?

Hani Hashem: This aspiration is not just about Fahy Studios; it's about showcasing the creative potential of Saudi Arabia. We stand on the shoulders of a thriving gaming community, fueled by young, driven individuals who dream of leaving their mark on the world stage. By achieving global success we hope to inspire a generation of creators to push boundaries and put Saudi Arabia on the map as a force in the gaming industry.
We realise that competing on a global scale is no easy feat but we hope to achieve our aspiration by focusing on three elements:

Firstly, we will embrace collaboration. Our recently announced partnership with Kwalee was a huge step in that direction. Learning from their wealth of experience in launching global hit games and relying on their capabilities in user acquisition will surely bring our aspiration closer to reality.

Secondly, we will innovate. The Saudi gaming landscape is still unexplored, presenting us with an opportunity to bring new perspectives into game design that could be a refreshing change from what saturated markets have to offer.

And thirdly, we will obsess about gameplay quality. Global success hinges on creating experiences that transcend borders and resonate with players everywhere. Our focus is on building universally fun games, offering depth and challenge alongside instant accessibility.

The Fahy team celebrate a successful 2023

How does your studio perceive the cultural and economic significance of gaming in Saudi Arabia, and how does this influence your game development strategies?

Fahad Alshibl (Head of Business): Over 60% of Saudi Arabia's population is under 30 years old. This young and tech-savvy population grew up with games. Its cultural significance is apparent as you walk through the streets of Riyadh or Jeddah and see buzzing gaming cafes and people casually gaming on their phones while running errands. This is also apparent when you look at social media top charts and influencers, many of which are gaming content creators. We have always been consumers of games but today things are shifting.

Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia's ambitious economic diversification plan, is placing strategic emphasis on the gaming industry with major investments in infrastructure, talent development, and esports. This presents unprecedented opportunities for us as game developers. At Fahy Studios, we like to think of ourselves as more than just a game developer; we're cultural ambassadors. Through our games, we aim to not only entertain the world but also showcase the vibrant future of Saudi Arabia and the broader region on the global stage.

What challenges do you face building your studio in Saudi Arabia when trying to achieve your ambitious goals?

Owis Alsaour (Head of Tech): Reflecting back on our journey, three challenges come to mind:

Visibility: Breaking into the broader gaming industry as a Saudi studio can be tough. International perception might underestimate or dismiss our creative potential due to a lack of existing success stories from the region. This can make it harder to secure partnerships, attract talent, and gain recognition for our work. However, the Saudi government’s growing focus and investments in the gaming industry is shedding more light on the local scene.

Limited pool of experienced game developers: The Saudi game development scene is still relatively young, and finding skilled professionals with strong experience can be difficult. That being said, we are witnessing the launch of numerous programs focused on upskilling local talents. Additionally, with the lure of Saudi’s bold game industry ambitions, we have found good success at attracting talents from the broader Middle East and even globally.

Funding and Investment: While the Saudi government is actively supporting the gaming industry, venture capital funding for game development is still in its early stages. Potential investors are also not yet familiar with the intricacies of the gaming market. This is why success stories coming from Saudi are more important than ever today as they'll build confidence and facilitate a bigger flow of private-sector investments into the gaming industry.

What specific lessons or insights do you hope to gain from Kwalee's experience and knowledge in the games industry?

Owis Alsaour: We approach this collaboration with an eagerness to learn and are confident that Kwalee’s insights will bring us closer to our ambitions. More specifically, we are hoping to grow our knowledge and experience across three areas:

Creating games for global audiences: We're eager to learn from Kwalee's expertise and insights on preferences across different markets. Their ability to identify universal themes and mechanics while adapting them to cultural nuances is something we would want to emulate.

Scaling games across production & live-ops: Scaling a game effectively requires planning and efficient resource allocation. Kwalee's track record in growing their teams, optimising development pipelines, and managing post-launch operations is something we want to closely observe and adapt.

Building sustainable monetisation: We're keen to learn from Kwalee’s experience in balancing player experience with revenue generation, ensuring a positive experience for players and a sustainable business for us as a studio.

The Saudi gaming landscape is still uncharted territory, making it fertile ground for fresh ideas and new ways of doing things, in contrast to what we typically see in saturated markets
Fahad Alshibl

How do you see your partnership with Kwalee impacting the gaming industry in Saudi Arabia?

Fahad Alshibl: The announcement of the partnership is already showing an impact in the local game development scene. We have been approached by multiple local studios and indie developers who have expressed how the announcement gave them a boost of inspiration and motivation to keep going. We need more success stories in the region and although our journey with Kwalee is still in its early stages, the fact that a global publisher sees potential in our work and believes in our capabilities to deliver, says a lot. We find ourselves in a unique position to both share the knowledge we are gaining through this journey with our fellow local developers and also serve Kwalee by connecting them to other aspiring studios that are eager to partner with global publishers and take their games global.

What unique opportunities does the KSA gaming market present compared to other regions?

Fahad Alshibl: The Saudi gaming landscape is undergoing a dramatic shift that presents unique opportunities. We believe this to be driven by three primary factors:

First, the Saudi gaming market is growing rapidly, propelled by a young and tech-savvy population with rising disposable income and a strong appetite for mobile gaming. Moreover, as the leading economy in the Middle East, Saudi can be a gateway to the rest of the region, providing access to talents and millions of gamers across the region.

Second, the unprecedented government support. Vision 2030, Saudi’s ambitious economic diversification plan, is placing strategic emphasis on the gaming industry, with major investments in infrastructure, talent development and esports. This gave rise to many initiatives that are tailor-built to develop and accelerate local studios, such as NEOM’s LevelUp program, which Fahy Studios is taking part in.

Third, as we highlighted previously, the Saudi gaming landscape is still uncharted territory, making it fertile ground for fresh ideas and new ways of doing things, in contrast to what we typically see in saturated markets.

With these factors in place, we believe the future of gaming is brighter than ever in Saudi and we are excited to be taking part in shaping it.

Staff Writer

Isa Muhammad is a B2B writer and video games journalist with 5+ years experience covering games, interviewing industry professionals, tracking industry trends and understanding the market.