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The Top 30 MENA Game Makers of 2022

Our first ever list celebrating the best developers and publishers in the Middle East and North Africa region
The Top 30 MENA Game Makers of 2022

Welcome to something brand new and very exciting! After 14 years of running the legendary PocketGamer.Biz global Top 50 Game Makers initiative, we’re growing the family with more focused, regional siblings – the Top 30 lists.

It’s no coincidence that MENA is our first port of call. Analysts at NewZoo say MENA is the fastest growing region in the entire c.$190 billion global games market, both in terms of revenues ($7.1 billion forecast for 2022, up almost 11%), and player base (488 million, up over 8% YOY).

The passion of the local game makers has always been in evidence since our first trip to the region, but the huge growth of the industry has surpassed even our expectations! And we firmly believe this really is just the start of an exciting story.

We’ve considered a wide string of factors while compiling this list, from the obvious financial performance and downloads to the more subjective review scores and game quality, plus the less tangible innovation and cultural/industry impact Forecasts for the year ahead and latent potential are also fed into the mix, as well as anonymized input from local experts.

We’ve also filtered out large companies who have a subsidiary office in the region but their HQ elsewhere (sorry Sony and Ubisoft!). Suffice to say, the first outing of anything is always a prototype and we’re sure there’ll be plenty of debate about the decisions, but we see this as the first step in a much longer journey of celebrating and promoting the MENA games industry.

We very much hope you’ll join us!

PS... So what does MENA mean?

One of our first tasks was to define what exactly MENA means. There are many different political, economic and cultural aspects to consider. For the purposes of this guide we focused primarily on the Arabic-speaking nations in the Middle East and kept more mature, European-leaning markets like Israel and Turkey on the sidelines. The result is that 14 different countries were considered for the list and 7 are represented (although some may have parent companies and subsidiaries elsewhere). For geopolitical reasons, Iranian companies were also withheld.

#30: Inkline

Inkline

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Inkline »

Based in Beirut, Lebanon, Inkline was formd in 2012 as a design consultancy supporting local and regional brands.

Today, the company is also dedicated to raising awareness and engagement with humanitarian struggles through the medium of interactive gameplay, on PC and mobile.

Its first title, Ayo: A Rain Tale highlights the peril Ayo faces in collecting a 40-pound water container, a task shared by many women and children in the region where some 200-million hours a day are spent fetching water.

The production values are as impressive as you’d expect from a branding company and the game serves as a powerful example of the role our industry can play in not just entertaining, but also educating and engaging our audience.

#29: 2024 Studios

2024 Studios

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2024 Studios »

2024 Studios is an Egyptian game studio founded by a team who all met in the same laboratory room: Lab Room 2024. For the last six years the team has been hard at work creating games for iOS, Android, web and PC.

Today, 2024 Studios’ 100-plus titles range from mini games to large scale releases with the aim of teaching programming and logic to children.
With such diversity of offering it’s no surprise that the team is also working with third parties to bring their titles to life in terms of game development, design, art and more.

Alongside this, however, 2024 Studios is also looking to complete its ‘zen game’, Secrets of a Campfire. The game already has an incredible-looking trailer.

#28: Nomadroid

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Nomadroid »

Big things are expected from startup Nomadroid. The team’s initial offering, Schrodingerr’s Cat, reveals why.

It’s one thing to get a side-scrolling platformer just right. Plenty of developers have been doing that since Mario set the barrel rolling in Donkey Kong decades ago.

But in its fresh, cat-themed take on the genre, Nomadroid upends the game archetype: you don’t go back to the start when your character dies, you leap around the game world, so that dying becomes a part of the process.

A product of the Developer Zone II Incubator program, this team will hopefully be a standard bearer for the initiative and indie development in the region and if they can continue to innovate like this, then the company has a great life (or lives?) ahead!

#27: GameIT

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GameIT »

Many of the companies in the Top 30 have come to the fore because of the talent and determination of their founders. This feels very much the case for Riyadh-based gaming hub GameIT.

It specialises in creating games that improve cognitive, social, learning and behavioural skills in children. You can’t help thinking the drive of founder Dr Heba M Atyah – and her experience in human rights, developmental disabilities, speech language and more – has focussed GameIT’s mission.

That mission to ‘empower and motivate children to learn the skills they need so they can reach their full potential in life’ has not gone unnoticed, and the company is the recipient of the LEAP 2022 Aviatrix Award as well as being chosen by Microsoft for Startups global support program. Suffice to say, we’re keen to add our support.

#26: Wolf And Others

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Wolf And Others »

There’s a breadth of styles and genres to Wolf and Other’s three games that speaks of a love of gaming and what you can achieve with enthusiasm and some raw talent.

Nightmares To Be is a psychological horror game released on Steam in 2021. It’s gory, gothic and creepy. Meanwhile FunBall 3D (to come in 2023 to PC and mobile) is a bright, sunny, casual game with a variety of maps and challenges. Finally, Celeritas (2023) is an action platformer where you play a trainee who has to keep improving in order to progress.

The output and ideas are more impressive when you realise the company was founded by just two students, and indeed it’s precisely this sort of indie development that needs to be encouraged for the region totruly flourish, hence the inclusion in this list!

#25: Rwaa

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Rwaa »

Rwaa Games is on a mission to entertain, and so far it’s accomplishing that. It’s also on a mission to grow and with its talent, passion and values it looks set to secure a place on the main stage of the MENA games scene.

So far it has two titles out and two more in development. 2048FACE is a trivia quiz game where the difficulty of the questions increases as you progress, whilst German War is a strategy-and-conquest title based on European history.

Next up are Shas Wars, part strategic war game and part historical resource that recounts Middle-Eastern history and Fight and Conquer encouraging players to deploy creativity as much as aggression in defeating the enemy. All are currently focused primarily on Arabic-speaking markets.

#24: Gimzat Studios

Gimzat Studios

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Gimzat Studios »

Creating colourful games that reflect their culture, Egypt-based Gimzat Studios has already created a wide range of captivating titles that serve the MENA (and global) market with distinctive visuals and incredibly engaging gameplay.

This should come as no surprise from a studio made up of like-minded, talented and very experienced souls. Independently, the team members have worked on a host of casual mobile games as well as AAA titles like Call of Duty. They have collective games industry experience with Kinect, CryEngine, Unreal Engine and even contributed source code to Unity too.

So far the team’s stand out game has been Speed Maze Galaxy Run with more than 2.5 million downloads. But there’s good reason to expect even bigger things from them.

#23: Table Knight Games

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Table Knight Games »

Founded in 2016 Table Knight Games is a Riyadh-based game-developer who many point to as a rising star in the region.

At the moment the indie company is still arguably in startup mode and was a part of the highly respected TAQADAM Startup Accelerator as well as a regular in Global Game Jams.
Yet, Table Knight already has a number of free to play, hyper-casual titles under its belt and over 3M downloads, having shifted from a global outlook with Flipper Knight to Arabic-language only releases such as Barrah Alsafah.

Its character design is a thing of beauty and worth noting as the team already has a successful merchandise line of hoodies, bags and t-shirts featuring their top performing IP. This also shows a certain marketing nous.

We’re expecting big things from Table Knight Games, and we’re not alone.

#22: Fitnot Games

Fitnot Games

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Fitnot Games »

Egyptian games developer Fitnot has had its fair share of acclaim. It was a 2019 finalist in the African App Launchpad Cup... and a year later the team won it.

Also in 2020, its first release was featured on the App Store Middle East during Ramadan and in 2021 it became a graduate of the AUC Venture Lab, an award-winning accelerator in the region, from the American University in Cairo.

So it’s no surprise that FitNot Games immediately signed a publishing deal with Dubai-based MBC Group for three of its titles, including fast-paced casual cooking Chef’s Abu Ashraf Food Game and puzzle Madame Affaf, taking these titles from thousands to hundred-thousands of downloads and beyond.

Also worth noting is the studio’s assured graphic design. All its games have a distinctive look that feels way in advance of the company’s years.

#21: Elecktron Labs Inc

Elecktron Labs Inc

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Elecktron Labs Inc »

Based in Dubai, Elektron Labs is an award winning mobile games studio that’s laser focused on building global, high-quality, brain training games.

Its team of experts and game designers is responsible for subscription-based brain training games that are played by over 25 million users globally and rank among the top grossing educational apps in both MENA and across the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.

Plaudits? Oh yes. MindPal, the most popular game from the Elecktron Labs stable, has won both App of the Day and App We Love by Apple and Google respectively . It also won the People’s Choice Award at the International Mobile Gaming Awards and secures very high ratings from user reviews on the stores. All of which makes this smart-app developer a no-brainer for inclusion in our inaugural Top 30 list.

#20: Groovy Antoid

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Groovy Antoid »

Groovy Antoid, as well as having a stand-out name, is a Beirut-based indie game development studio, working across a variety of game engines and on multiple platforms including mobile and PC.

The company is ‘focused on creating a world of cute, colourful characters and quirky games’, and is doing a pretty good job so far.

Launched in 2016, the team has been remote since 2019 with offices in Lebanon and the US. Its biggest game Fat Bunny (a quirky title full of cute characters) launched in China in 2018 and has seen in excess of 2 million downloads. Yet GA also has a rich portfolio of polished casual, arcade and hypercasual titles beyond this, including Sticky Pigeons, Bull City and Tram Trouble, and also provides work for hire - so we suspect it will soon secure the further investment it currently seeks.

#19: Boss Bunny Games

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Boss Bunny Games »

Based across MENA with a headquarters in Abu Dhabi and a business office in Dubai, Boss Bunny boasts a truly global wealth of games industry experience.

Indeed its team’s collective CV is a roll call of some of the world’s biggest gaming companies including King (Candy Crush), Sony Playstation and Capcom among others.

Whilst it’s own roster isn’t yet ready to challenge those illustratious names, the likes ofCamel Dash, Dodge - Space Race 9 and branded titles CZN Burak and DP Logistics Legends ensure that it is well on the way.

As well as launching its own games, like newcomer Freej Match, Boss Bunny is also working with gaming indies and helping them seek out the most effective routes to market in the MENA region.

#18: Spoilz

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Spoilz is going places. The company was formed in 2020 and since then has sought to build partnerships with publishers and studios, to think big and be imaginative.

To that end it has five games released including Jet Warrior, Camel Run and Smack Sack and 10 more in the pipeline. In terms of recognition, the company has received an award for Excellence in Narrative for the game Re-Train from the KAUST Game Jam. And in April this year it secured $700k of funding as a pre-seed round to focus on creating more of its hypercasual titles.

Speaking at the time, CEO Musab Almalki said: ‘MENA’s gaming industry is expected to grow rapidly in the next few months, creating a need for quality content to meet users’ expectations. This fund will enable us to grow and publish games that compete globally.’ And it’s this promise which drives the company into our list.

#17: Shanab Games

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Shanab Games »

This Jordanian mobile game studio plans to be the ‘leading software and mobile gaming studio in the MENA region’.

If you think that statement boasts plenty of attitude then you should see their games roster: fast cars racing down sleek streets in neon-lit darkness or across deserts in bright sunlight, they’re edgy, atmospheric and incredibly slick.

Drift-racing title Desert King has over 5M downloads and been a regular in the top ranking Saudi games on Google Play, whilst action, adventure racing game Grand and Drift Online both top 1 million downloads and DK2 is rapidly catching up!

These impressive numbers, alongside the assured delivery makes Shanab Games’ huge ambition rather more understandable! Watch out for this company to place further up the grid in future Top 30 lists.

#16: Ouaz Games

Ouaz Games

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Ouaz Games »

Ouaz Games is a Morocco-based hypercasual development studio with a bold vision and a growing portfolio of accessible titles.
Since June 2018, it has been creating fun, snackable, pick-up-and-play experiences such as Slice Tower, Overtake All and 2048 Surfer.

In the last five years alone Ouaz has built over 100 games, which have been subsequently published by the biggest names in the hypercasual business, including Voodoo, TapNation, Rollic Games and CrazyLab. This can make data hard to track as games are often rebadged in the process, but Web Master 3D is the standout, notching over 10M downloads and hitting high chart spots in multiple countries.

There are many other success stories and, given how adept Ouaz has proved in terms of delivering on new gaming concepts, you can expect much more to come.

#15: Digital Mania Studio

Digital Mania Studio

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Digital Mania Studio »

With games like The Infinite Loop (a multi award-winning team-building game) and Warshmallows (a fast-paced, personality-packed, platform battler) you’d imagine that PC/Console/VR developer DigitalMania Studio had a pretty predictable origin story.

Not so. For one thing, the launch team was entirely self-taught. Finding no educational resources in its native Tunisia, the team turned to YouTube for tutorials and, incredibly, managed to build and launch a game. From that, they managed to raise interest and started making games for third parties, as well as websites and apps. It has now created more than 30 titles for publisher partners and corporate clients companies since 2011. Now DigitalMania says it is focussed on the dream: creating an original IP. We should all be watching this space!

#14: Instinct Games

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Instinct Games »

Triple A PC/console studios are not exactly thick on the ground in the region yet, but 12 year old Egyptian studio Instinct Games is well on the way.

First it co-developed the popular action-adventure survival game Ark Survival Evolved, which launched back in 2015 and rapidly sold more than 1 million copies. Published by Studio Wildcard, the game has continued to be popular, thanks to patches and expansions and registered a peak of 250K concurrent players in June 2022.

Whilst Ark continues to evolve, Instinct has subsequently moved on to work on the even more ambitious Atlas, a vast open-world pirate MMO published by Grape Games on Steam and Xbox. It’s been a long voyage, developing in early access since 2018, but we suspect Instinct’s talent will be rewarded soon enough.

#13: Chick Mania Entertainment

Chick Mania Entertainment

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Chick Mania Entertainment »

With 50,000 daily players and more than 5 million downloads, Chick Mania is definitely a player on the MENA games scene.

Based in Amman, Jordan, the developer has put together a solid and diverse portfolio with a great mix of shoot-’em-up (Cars! Boom! Boom!), racing (Gomat: Drift & Drag) and classic board games (Carrom) titles amongst it’s 10 released apps.

Most have been very popular in the domestic market as well as enjoying some breakout success, but it is Gomat that clearly leads the field with several million downloads so far and a recent peak into the Saudi top-grossing charts.

It’s not just the players who are impressed by Chick Mania’s games either: it also offers games marketing and video production services to third parties, which have been taken up by the likes of Unicef and Orange.

#12: Tarboosh Games

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Tarboosh Games »

There are some 40 games listed on Tarboosh’s website... and then a disclaimer that there is a lot more (“but we got too tired adding them here!”).

Given the diversity and quality of its portfolio, ranging from US top downloaded titles like Bikes Hill and Police Runner to Escape: Close Call, Desert Zombies and Draw Rush, it’s easy to believe the developer has just been too busy!

Their slick hypercasual titles have been enjoyed by tens of millions of players on mobile and steam so far and generated successive hits for publishers like Voodoo. So it was little surprise when the French hypercasual giant acquired this Dubai-based publisher earlier this year. Whilst the amount was undisclosed, we hope it was a good deal and that this small, diverse team, can continue to innovate in its own right.

#11: Mad Hook Games

Mad Hook Games

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Mad Hook Games »

Mad Hook may be a relatively new company, having only been established in 2018. However, in its short time it’s packed in a great deal and it is growing VERY fast!

The company has launched 14 games to date and between them those titles have had more than 40 million downloads and 5.5M active users. Those impressive numbers are in part thanks to their games’ global appeal, as they’ve found success in Japan, the US and Germany as well as topping the charts in KSA.

Highhway Drifter is the standout with well over 10M downloads, but parkour title Rooftop Run isn’t far behind, nor is comic racer The Chase.

In 2019 this team beat 1,700 global rivals to be chosen for Google’s Indie Game Accelerator. Since then it has never looked back, and we see no reason this explosive growth won’t continue.

#10: Yayy

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In recent years many companies have experienced a tough time, and just like the rest of us Yayy had to cope with the Covid crisis. But it also had the Beirut explosion of 2020 to deal with, which wrecked its offices and hospitalised some team and family members. And then there was the Lebanese inflation crisis in 2021 that destroyed the company’s capital.

Despite this, Yayy has been undeterred and managed to get back together and develop Dodge Agent. It has already had an impressive 10 million downloads for Lion Studios.

Today the team is 15-strong, has an incredible roster of games, and operates across Beirut, Lebanon and UAE. Currently Yayy is fund-raising to create a publishing studio in Abu Dhabi and to realise huge plans for mobile games. Surely anyone would back a company with such resilience.
As well as resilience though, Yayy also has skills in the casual and hypercasual games space, with a range of attractive titles on the Google Play store.

One game there stands out and that’s A Day in The Life of Shoujaa. This is a game that’s been developed to be played on site at the Mseilha fort in the north of Lebanon. Visitors to the site can link to the game via QR codes and then, by listening to the character Shouiaa on headphones, they are guided around the fort and through a variety of minigames that bring history to life. It’s a game that’s miles away from the big download numbers of Dodge Agent, but it serves a unique purpose and underlines the team’s breadth of talent.

#9: Falafel Games

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Falafel Games »

Back in 2017, Forbes spotted Falafel Games and included it on that year’s Top 100 MENA Startups at the number 25 spot, and it’s easy to see why. Falafel has been behind firsts in the MENA games scene on a number of occasions.

It created the first MMO with authentic Arabic content from scratch (Forsan el Majd), and as a result broke through to millions of users and millions of USD in revenues. It created the first cross-platform strategy MMO (Har bel Hurub) in MENA, years before that was even a thing globally. Then it turned to TV advertising in 2013 way before anyone in the region.

It’s safe to say that as innovators Falafel has been streets ahead, and was also one of the first gaming studios to emerge in the MENA region when it raised $2.6 million in funding in 2016. This wealth of experience and success means that everyone’s waiting to see what’s next.

Another thing to note about Falafel is that its focus is predominantly on the MENA region, as the website states: ‘We make games for Arabic speakers first.’ This means that while it has a huge roster of great-looking and engaging games, they are all focussed on their own region. This focus means they find themselves hired for their core competencies by companies trying to get a  foothold in MENA.

Falafel’s approach to this is that, if they like your game and are happy to publish it, they’ll contribute all publishing activities and be paid on a DAU basis upon the game’s launch in the region.

#8: Maysalward

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Maysalward »

In terms of MENA-region games studios, Maysalward, which was founded in 2003, is the distinguished elder statesman of the region. The company established the foundations of the region’s mobile gaming industry, growing the region’s ecosystem under the auspices of CEO and industry champion Nour Khrais.

This early start meant Maysalward has been able to expand, shifting into virtual and augmented reality in 2016 and opening a UK studio in 2017.

Underlying Maysalward’s respected status is the fact that Nour Khrais has been positively proactive in the community. Maysalward has led several initiatives to build the MENA gaming scene with boot camps, developer events and an annual gaming summit. The team developed the Jordan Gaming Lab and the App Challenge Competition with the King Abdullah II Fund
for Development.

Meanwhile in 2020, Maysalward worked with the World Health Organisation on #PlayApartTogether, an initiative that encouraged gamers to follow the Covid-19 guidelines. In November 2020, Maysalward developed and published a game with the International Labor Organization (ILO) aimed at introducing vocational studies to school-age students in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia. And most recently, in 2022, it developed and published WeRise, a mobile game highlighting the empowerment of women to youth in the MENA region.

Just being involved in this many initiatives, projects and events is enough to keep any company busy but Maysalward is doing this while working as a successful and commercially-focussed games developer too. Any community would be lucky to have a team like this on side, and that the MENA games industry is now in a phase of rapid expansion is not unrelated to the history and activity of Maysalward.

#7: Game Power 7

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Established in 2007, Game Power 7 was the first Arabic company to enter the online games industry. It’s also a subsidiary of games giant Global New Age Media Group (GNAM). These facts alone mean that the company can be considered a grand statesman in a comparatively youthful business sector. So it’s no surprise to hear that its aim is to “become the Arab world’s leading video game publisher and developer”. Right now Game Power 7 is well on its way to achieving that aim.

Back in 2008 the company released Rappelz, the MENA region’s first MMO, and this is still considered the biggest virtual Arab community today. The latest version of the game (The Siege of the Citadel) is the 16th update and it shows no signs of losing its mass appeal. Alongside the success of Rappelz, Game Power 7 has also launched a succession of smart and well-received casual games, most recently Sniper Shoot, on both Android and iOS.

Along with its in-house game development, Game Power 7 also works with third parties and offers localization and distribution services. All of which has proved incredibly useful for Western companies looking to get a foothold in the lucrative MENA region market.

In addition to its game development and publishing prowess in the region, Game Power 7 has another distinction. There are a number of companies in our Top 30 whose boundaries stretch beyond their native states and Game Power 7 from Dubai is one such. Its ‘Arab-flavoured games’ have a presence in 22 countries now, and it has five offices worldwide.

#6: UMX Studio

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UMX Studio »

With 55 million downloads, 2.1 million players per month and 600k followers on social media, UMX Studios has quite the stat roll call and genuine mass appeal. The company was launched in 2014 in Riyadh where its main office can still be found. The first launch was founder Ali Alharb’s car game Climbing Sand Dune Cars, a game that played directly to the region’s mores and they’ve followed that up with (among others) King Of Steering, Sheesh Ludo and also a retooling of Missile Command that’s just as tense and just as addictive as the original 1980s Golden Age classic.

That quick glance at the UMX games roster tells us a couple of things about the company. One, that it knows its local audience and can serve its various demographics – for example, from the dune racing fanatics to the board game crowd that remains so prevalent in the region.

And two, that it knows a classic game when they see one and can do a fantastic job of updating it for mobile gamers in the modern era.

When you consider the strategy that’s gone into the games UMX launched it feels almost guaranteed that the company’s going to do huge numbers in terms of audience. But it also hasn’t ignored the fundamentals like great gameplay and build quality.

Over the last eight years UMX has launched more games, established an office in Gujarat in India, and opened its doors to third parties.

And it’s no surprise that the latter are queuing around the block to exploit the firm’s publishing, localisation, marketing and software development services.

#5: Sandsoft

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The last year has been a wild ride for Sandsoft. In 2022 alone it launched three games; there are two more in the pipeline; and Sandsoft has opened offices in Spain, China and Finland. Being very much aligned with Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision, this is the moment to appreciate Sandsoft’s potential.

It’s worth noting that two of the games the company soft launched are based on Hollywood IPs. Those IPs were Pacific Rim and Rambo no less, two huge blockbuster properties with a great deal of traction around the world. Launches like these don’t happen overnight and Sandsoft is obviously a well-oiled machine. The leadership team includes veterans from EA, Natural Motion, King and Rovio.

While Sandsoft has properties and offices that are West-facing, its flagship studio and global HQ is in Riyadh. The new HQ opened just this year, creating some 80 jobs in the capital city, and the company is very much at the heart of the MENA gaming revolution. Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision is wide-ranging, multi-sector and built around the key themes of ‘a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation’. With companies like Sandsoft coming out of the gate with such assured games and huge properties the vision is on track.

As well as Riyadh being its HQ, it’s also the location for a very special project: Press Start. This is a talent programme that’s targeting people in KSA who are passionate about entering the global games industry, and will give a select few the opportunity to develop their games using Sandsoft resources.

#4: Babil Games

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Babil Games »

One of the big hitters in MENA, Babil Games has made a huge impression on the games market both within and beyond the region.

It launched in 2012 and in 2016 was acquired by Swedish games powerhouse Stillfront Group (who would later strengthen their MENA presence by also acquiring Jawaker).

Historically Babil is probably best known for the Nida Harb series (currently in it’s third iteration) as well as highly rated Strike of Nations, both of which have secured over 5 million downloads and regularly trouble the top grossing tables in Saudi Arabia (as well as US and Portugal). This year’s big release for Babil was AI General, which reached the million download mark in a matter of months and looks set to follow the successful path of its forbears delivering high-quality F2P action with localized content and art.

With a headquarters in Dubai and another branch in Amman, Babil is well established in the region and that, combined with its connection to Stillfront, certainly helps when third party companies come looking for localisation. And they do come, drawn by the potential of an audience of 570 million and one language across more than 25 countries.

Babil can also be commended for its community engagement. As well as working with aspiring game developers and promoting the region as a whole, it also has a popular set of art tutorials on YouTube.

Ultimately, Babil is a brilliant model of a MENA studio: packed with talent, embedded in its region, active in its community, and producing great, localised games that have mass appeal both in MENA markets and beyond.

#3: Tamatem Games

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Tamatem Games »

Tamatem is the leading Jordanian publisher with an enviable resume that’s packed with incredible stats. To date it has published 50 games and most have reached the number 1 spot on Google Play or the App Store. The company has achieved more than 150 million downloads.

In its most recent round of funding it received US $11 million, with the largest share coming from South Korea’s Krafton Inc (the PUBG owner’s first MENA investment). The Series B round brings its total raised to over US $17 million and values Tamatem at around $80 million, according to TechCrunch. And in addition to this great news the firm can also boast that 50% of the Tamatem staff are women.

All this over-achievement comes from a company that’s only just turning 10 years old. Back in 2013, Tamatem’s vision was to make the most of the opportunity presented by a lack of Arabic content in the gaming world. The strategy worked and soon the team was picking up awards, dealing with success and broadening its offering. It now has a games portfolio that spans multiple genres including cards, strategy, MMORPG, trivia, and narrative-driven titles.

October 2022 saw the launch of the Tamatem Academy, which the company hopes will help educate university students about the different roles available in gaming.

In addition to its own publishing endeavours Tamatem also partners with international studios and developers localising games and making them culturally relevant for the Arab gamer. One of the most recent partnerships announced was in June 2022 with MSA Nova, with plans to both expand into the Chinese market and also bring Chinese games to MENA.

#2: Jawaker

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Jawaker »

Founded in 2009, Jawaker made the smart move of releasing a gaming app that reflected the world around it. In the Middle East, socialising and playing board and card games is a hugely popular activity. The path ahead was clear and it launched the self-titled Jawaker as the first social gaming app in the region. It’s now the go-to game app for card and board games.

That launch title has now collected together some 40 games (including chess, dominos, ludo and different variants of backgammon) with new games being added all the time. It’s incredibly popular, having over 10 million downloads. And it’s not hard to see why – these are some of the most popular games in the world and you can play against humans or AI in various ways on a platform that also serves as a hugely popular social space – especially popular during the Covid lockdown when it was harder for people to play in person.

Following that first game Jawaker has also released two further card game collections, both of which secured over a million downloads apiece. In the last 12 months things have been moving swiftly for the company as it launched 10 new games for the Egyptian and Iraqi markets.

During the same period Jawaker was acquired by global gaming powerhouse Stillfront Group for $205 million. Stillfront subsidiary Babil has given its host company a ton of insight into the MENA region and in a quote at the time of the acquisition Stillfront CEO Jörgen Larsson said, ‘We see significant scaling potential for Jawaker as a part of Stillfront, with opportunities to fuel user acquisition both in the MENA region and among the Arabic-speaking population worldwide.’

#1: Nine66

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More than a publisher, Nine66 is building an integrated ecosystem to support game developers across the globe. Although it’s relatively new to the scene, it features top of this list because of raw potential. When a company outlines a $38 billion investment plan after already spending billions on outfits like esports specialists ESL FACEIT and a stake in Embracer you have to take notice!

Based in Saudi Arabia and headed by CEO Kadri Harma, the recently-formed Nine66 is part of the prestigious Savvy Games Group, and in addition to investments, has been making a number of high-profile hires across the last year, attracting talent from around the global games industry. It will be publishing games for and from the Arabic markets, but its mission is also to connect the game community and promote growth through infrastructure, skills development, and more.

Part of Nine66’s strength is its position as one of the five core components of the Savvy Games Group. It sits alongside sibling companies ESL FACEIT, VOV, the Savvy Games Fund and developer Savvy Games Studios. The startup Savvy Games Studios is led by Yannick Theler, former MD of Ubisoft Abu Dhabi, and it’s on a stated mission to provide world-class facilities to support Saudi Arabia’s gaming community, as well as develop games that will look to compete on the global stage.

Like all of Savvy Games Group, Nine66 is owned by the Public Investment Fund and the chairman of the board is His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. The strategy, announced in September by the Crown Prince, is that: ‘Savvy Games Group is one part of our ambitious strategy aiming to make Saudi Arabia the ultimate global hub for the games and esports sector by 2030’. The news came that Savvy Games Group aims to invest that US $38 billion in gaming. All of which means that Nine66, Savvy Games Studio and their sibling enterprises under the Savvy Games Group banner look set to be the most exciting and powerful force for the region, if not the world.