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Steer Studios CEO Yannick Theler on Grunt Rush, MENA region growth and a new console division

"We aspire to develop a diverse range of games across various platforms, including consoles. In fact, we started building our console division at the beginning of this year"
Steer Studios CEO Yannick Theler on Grunt Rush, MENA region growth and a new console division
  • "We aspire to develop a diverse range of games across various platforms, including consoles"
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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, MENAAs part of our run up, we caught up with Yannick Theler, CEO of Saudi Arabia-based video game company Steer Studios to discuss the unique landscape of the gaming industry in the MENA region right now.

Steer Studios is the new company formerly known as Savvy Games Studios and remains a subsidiary of the major firm Savvy Games Group.

Having previously spent nearly two decades at Ubisoft, Theler shared insights on how player preferences in the Middle East and North Africa differ from other markets, explained how Steer Studios is capitalising on the region's rapid gaming growth and gave us all the details on their debut game Grunt Rush

PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a bit about Steer Studios and what you’re up to right now?

Yannick Theler: Steer Studios is a game development studio headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, dedicated to creating games experiences worldwide. At present, we're focused on expanding our team and crafting innovative games for players everywhere, alongside preparing to attend Gamescom - where we’re excited to talk to players and professionals alike!

As an industry veteran who spent nearly two decades with Ubisoft, how has the experience of leading Steer Studios in the KSA been for you personally?

It has been an incredible journey for me. It's a privilege to cultivate a nurturing and dynamic environment guided by our core values: Empowerment, Leadership, Imagination, Teamwork, and Empathy (ELITE). Drawing from my experience at Ubisoft, including founding the Abu Dhabi office and serving as managing director, I'm honored to lead such a diverse and passionate team and continue my work in a region that embraces innovation and creativity.

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

We currently employ over 80 people, 50% expats and 50% Saudi employees. We've 21 different nationalities and 25% women, all being based in Riyadh and working at our office here.

Tell us about Grunt Rush. What inspired its creation and how has the soft launch gone so far? 

Grunt Rush has seen a promising start, thank you for asking! We're thrilled to have it in the market and will soon unveil more details about its future and potential global release.

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What challenges have you encountered while developing an arcade title and how have you addressed them?

In developing Grunt Rush we embarked on a journey that was not just about creating an arcade game but also about building something from the ground up. This effort involved integrating more than 60% new talents, many of whom were experiencing game development for the first time so we've encountered typical challenges. 

However, we believe in transparency and continuous learning. Addressing these hurdles involves fostering an environment of openness within the team. This approach ensures we evolve and enhance our games, including Grunt Rush, and sets a strong foundation for our future projects.

As one of the key games studios in Saudi Arabia, what are you doing to foster collaboration and recruit local talents? 

Nurturing collaboration and sourcing local talent is integral to our mission. Our ELITE internship program has been instrumental in empowering local talent. To date, six interns have transitioned to full-time roles within the company, and an additional 10 new Steer interns will begin their six-month journey with us on July 1st, 2024.

“We aspire to develop a diverse range of games across various platforms, including consoles. In fact, we started building our console division at the beginning of this year.”
Yannick Theler

What changes have you observed in the local games industry, especially in consumer behavior and market demands, and how do player preferences in the MENA region differ from other markets?

The local games industry in Saudi Arabia has witnessed significant shifts, driven by various factors:

The Public Investment Fund is driving industry growth and spearheading exciting projects like the development of the groundbreaking Qiddiya city. Government grants empower local studios to create culturally relevant games, reflecting the popular lifestyle choice of gaming among Saudi Arabia’s young population. 

We are strategically positioned to capitalise on this growth by aligning with government initiatives, fostering talent, and exploring international partnerships. Vision 2030 prioritises the gaming sector through investments in projects like Qiddiya and educational initiatives such as the ELITE internship program. 

Esports' Emergence: Saudi Arabia is making waves in the esports scene with major events like Gamers8 and the Esports World Cup attracting global attention, creating employment opportunities, and setting new standards. Mobile Games Dominance: With widespread smartphone accessibility, mobile gaming thrives, offering lucrative prospects for revenue and community building.

“We are fortunate to have Savvy Games Group as our owner, the National Champion for Games and Esports with a $38 billion strategy to invest in and grow the global sector.”
Yannick Theler

What factors do you believe are driving the rapid growth of the gaming market in the MENA region and how is Steer Studios positioning itself to capitalize on this growth?

Vision 2030's commitment to economic diversification includes robust support for Saudi Arabia's gaming sector, making it one of the few countries in the world with a comprehensive national strategy for games and esports. We are fortunate to have Savvy Games Group as our owner, the National Champion for Games and Esports with a $38 billion strategy to invest in and grow the global sector.

The Saudi Esports Federation (SEF) is enhancing competitive gaming through initiatives like the Esports World Cup. Significant investments from entities such as Savvy, Ignite (run by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology), NEOM, Qiddiya, SEF, and the National Development Fund are driving industry growth and spearheading exciting projects like the development of the groundbreaking Qiddiya city. 

Furthermore, government grants empower local studios to create culturally relevant games, reflecting the popular lifestyle choice of gaming among Saudi Arabia’s young population. Steer Studios is strategically positioned to capitalise on this growth by aligning with government initiatives, fostering talent, and exploring international partnerships.

The Steer Studios team at their HQ in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
The Steer Studios team at their HQ in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Does Steer have plans to explore other genres in the future? If so, what genres are you considering?

Steer Studios isn't limited to arcade games like Grunt Rush. We aspire to develop a diverse range of games across various platforms, including consoles. In fact, we started building our console division at the beginning of this year. While we can't disclose specifics about our upcoming projects yet, we are excited to share that we are also working on a second project.

What are your plans for the rest 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?

In 2024 and beyond, our focus remains on nurturing our team and delivering exceptional games experiences. While we're tight-lipped about specific initiatives, we encourage you to stay tuned to our social channels for updates on our journey and forthcoming projects.


Want to know what's hot in MENA? Be part of Pocket Gamer Connects Jordan on November 9th and 10th, 2024. You can secure your Super Early Bird ticket today to guarantee your spot and discover what makes this such a vibrant video games hub and network with the global industry.

What can you expect at PG Connects Jordan 2024? 

From insightful keynote speeches and interactive panel discussions to hands-on workshops and networking opportunities, the event is always a hub of innovation, creativity, and collaboration. Gain valuable insights from industry veterans, discover the latest games industry trends, and make connections that could propel your business to new heights.

Don't miss out on savings of up to £300 - book your tickets before June 28th. Prices will increase after this date, so act now to ensure you don't miss the chance to grab your tickets at their lowest price! Tickets are available via the official event website.