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Spoilz CEO Musab Almalki on exploring AI in game development, MENA growth and funding challenges

"There's a discernible shift towards mobile gaming, with players increasingly seeking high-quality, localised content."
Spoilz CEO Musab Almalki on exploring AI in game development, MENA growth and funding challenges
  • "Our objective is to solidify our leadership in the mobile gaming industry."

Pocket Gamer Connects Jordan returns on November 9th and 10th, 2024, offering you a chance to gain insights into the world’s fastest-growing games market, MENA. As part of our run up, we spoke with Spoilz CEO Musab Almalki to discuss the significant changes in the MENA games industry and the shifting consumer behaviour towards gaming.

Almalki also delves into the potential of emerging technologies such as AI, AR, and VR, and discusses how Spoilz plans to incorporate AI into their game development process to solidify its leadership position in the mobile games industry. 

PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a bit about Spoilz Studio and what you’re up to right now.

Musab Almalki: Spoilz is a dynamic and innovative gaming company developing and publishing mobile games that inspire, entertain, and reward players daily. Our current focus is on expanding our portfolio with new and engaging titles, enhancing player experiences, and integrating more immersive features. We're also deep into the development of culturally rich games that resonate with our MENA audience while having universal appeal.

How many staff do you currently employ and where are they based?

At Spoilz, we have a talented and dedicated team with more than 10 years of experience working at billion-dollar companies on some of the most well-known and beloved titles. Our staff is spread across various locations, with a significant presence in the MENA region, particularly in Saudi Arabia. This diverse geographic distribution allows us to bring a wide range of perspectives and expertise to our game development process, ensuring we create engaging and culturally relevant experiences for our players.

The Spoilz team at the KSA office
The Spoilz team at the KSA office

How are you contributing to the local gaming communities in MENA? Do you nurture local talent? 

We are deeply committed to nurturing the local gaming community in MENA. We actively recruit local talent and provide extensive training and development programs to help them excel in the gaming industry. Also, we host and participate in local gaming events, game jams, and workshops to foster creativity and innovation within the community.

With over 15 games localised for the Arabic market, how have your games been received internationally outside the MENA region?

Our games have received positive feedback from players worldwide. While our primary focus remains on the MENA region, we are delighted to see our games gaining traction in international markets. Not all of our games are localised for MENA and we have several titles with a global appeal in our portfolio. Their engaging gameplay, storytelling, and unique cultural elements resonate with audiences everywhere.

“For decades, MENA players have been high consumers of gaming content; now it's time for the region to emerge as a powerhouse of producers, showcasing our talent and creativity to the world.”
Musab Almalki

What do you mean when you say you are 'co-op partners in gaming'? How does this influence your approach to development and player engagement and why is that important?"

Being 'co-op partners in gaming' means we view our relationship with players as a collaborative journey. This philosophy influences our development approach by prioritising player feedback and fostering a strong community. Engaging directly with our players helps us create games that truly resonate with them, ensuring a rewarding and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Spoilz staff showcasing products
Spoilz staff showcasing products

What changes have you observed in the local games industry, particularly the MENA games industry and consumer behaviour towards games?

The MENA games industry has experienced remarkable growth and evolution, driven by a significant increase in developers across the region, particularly in Saudi Arabia. The national strategy for gaming and esports has been pivotal in accelerating this development, to position Saudi Arabia as a global leader in the industry. The Esports World Cup, the first of its kind worldwide, is set to further solidify Saudi Arabia's status as a gaming hub. For decades, MENA players have been high consumers of gaming content; now, it's time for the region to emerge as a powerhouse of producers, showcasing our talent and creativity to the world.

“We are exploring AI for procedural content generation and player behaviour analytics to create dynamic and personalised experiences.”
Musab Almalki

There's a discernible shift towards mobile gaming, with players increasingly seeking high-quality, localised content. Consumer behaviour is evolving, demonstrating a greater appreciation for culturally relevant games and a heightened willingness to engage in social and competitive gaming experiences. This transformation reflects our commitment to not only meeting but exceeding the expectations of our diverse and dynamic audience.

What are your thoughts on emerging technologies such as AI, AR and VR in gaming? And do you have plans to incorporate AI into your game development process? 

I am incredibly excited about the potential of emerging technologies in gaming, especially AI. These technologies are transformative forces that are reshaping how games are developed and experienced. Interestingly, Spoilz began its journey as an AR product company. However, due to COVID we pivoted to focus on mobile casual games to meet the growing demand for engaging entertainment during the pandemic.

I think AI offers unprecedented opportunities to enhance gameplay and user experience. We are exploring AI for procedural content generation and player behaviour analytics to create dynamic and personalised experiences.

What do you see as the current opportunities and challenges facing the games industry in Saudi Arabia and the wider MENA region?

The games industry in Saudi Arabia and the MENA region is ripe with opportunities, especially with the growing demand for localised content and the increasing accessibility of advanced technology. However, challenges remain, such as securing funding, navigating regulatory environments, and building a robust ecosystem for talent development. Addressing these challenges is crucial for sustained growth and innovation.

A Spoilz product presentation, spelling out their methodology
A Spoilz product presentation, spelling out their methodology

Tell us more about funding and support for gaming studios in MENA, what has been your experience navigating the funding landscape?

Navigating the funding landscape in the MENA region has been an evolving journey. At Spoilz, we have witnessed firsthand the increasing support and investment in the gaming industry, particularly in Saudi Arabia. The recent announcement of Saudi Arabia deploying $120 million to boost the gaming and esports industry is a significant milestone. This investment reflects the nation's commitment to becoming a global hub for gaming and esports, providing invaluable support to studios like ours.

This funding not only opens up new opportunities for growth and innovation but also highlights the region's dedication to nurturing local talent and creating a vibrant ecosystem for game development. Our experience has been greatly enhanced by these initiatives, allowing us to focus on delivering high-quality, culturally relevant gaming experiences while benefiting from the robust support framework being established.

What are your plans for the second half of 2024? Will you be exploring new platforms? And are there any specific initiatives or projects on the horizon that we should look forward to?

Our focus is squarely on scaling our games within the competitive mobile gaming market, leveraging innovative features to enhance player experiences. This year, we are particularly excited about two major initiatives that began with the support of a grant from one of the world's largest companies. These initiatives are slated for a soft launch early next year and are designed to introduce more immersive gameplay, advanced social interaction capabilities, and unique cultural elements that distinguish our games.

Our objective is clear: to solidify our leadership in the mobile gaming industry by continuously pushing the envelope of what mobile games can achieve. We invite you to stay tuned for our upcoming experiences!