The Rise of Game Development in Saudi Arabia: Nurturing Local Talent

Saudi Arabia is undergoing a transformation in its gaming industry, with a growing emphasis on local game production and a vision to become a hub for game developers. The kingdom’s passion for gaming and eSports has been evident, and its national gaming and eSports strategy aims to foster creativity and innovation within the industry. As part of this strategy, Gamers8, an eight-week festival of eSports tournaments, has been organized in Riyadh, featuring a museum of video game history and game labs designed to inspire the next generation of Saudi game developers.

Fostering Local Talent

One of the key objectives of Gamers8 and the national gaming and eSports strategy is to encourage Saudis to not just consume games, but to actively participate in their production. The festival provides crash courses in skills like coding and animation, allowing aspiring developers to learn and refine their abilities. With nearly two-thirds of the non-immigrant population in Saudi Arabia aged under 30, there is a vibrant young population that can contribute to the growth of the video game market.

While Saudi Arabia has seen success in the gaming industry, there remains a challenge in designing a breakout gaming hit that also showcases Saudi culture. Faisal bin Homran, chief eSports officer at the Saudi Esports Federation, acknowledges the difficulty of achieving this goal. Currently, there are 25,000 developers, both Saudi and foreign, working on this challenge. The expertise brought in from outside sources, combined with the transfer of knowledge, is expected to lead to the development of games with international appeal.

Inspiration from Saudi Characters

One potential source of inspiration for Saudi game developers comes from Saudi characters that have already been featured in global franchises. Characters like Shaheen in Tekken and Rashid in Street Fighter have resonated with gamers. Rashid, in particular, hails from an unspecified Middle Eastern country, possibly Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. These characters serve as a testament to the potential of Saudi game developers to create globally recognized and appreciated characters.

Ambitious Goals for Game Production

The national gaming and eSports strategy sets an ambitious target of developing 30 globally competitive games in domestic studios by 2030. While this may seem like a lofty goal, there have already been instances of Saudi-made games resonating with local audiences. These early successes provide encouragement and motivation for aspiring Saudi developers to continue pursuing their passion.

Riyadh’s Gaming Push and International Investments

Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the gaming industry is evident through its ongoing investments and acquisitions. The purchase of Scopely, a California-based mobile games company, by Savvy for $4.9 billion, showcases the kingdom’s determination to establish itself as a game development powerhouse. Additionally, the Public Investment Fund now holds more than eight percent of Nintendo. However, this potential rise in Saudi Arabia’s game development industry may also bring concerns about censorship, similar to China’s influence over the industry.

An Unleashed Creative Potential

Amid the aspirations and investments, many young Saudis are finding their creative potential unleashed through Gamers8. Abdulaziz Maher, a 23-year-old participant, discovered his passion for game development and sound design during the festival. The opportunity to learn and explore different aspects of game development has provided clarity and purpose to his ideas. He now sees a path ahead and is eager to contribute his talents to the gaming industry.

Saudi Arabia is positioning itself as a promising destination for game developers, with a vision to become a leading producer of globally competitive games. Through initiatives like Gamers8, the kingdom is nurturing local talent and providing opportunities for young Saudis to learn and create in the gaming industry. With continued investments and support, Saudi Arabia has the potential to make its mark on the global gaming scene, while simultaneously showcasing its rich culture and traditions.

Saudi Arabia’s dedication to the gaming industry is evident through its investments, initiatives, and nurturing of local talent. The kingdom’s vision to become an “Eden for game developers” is slowly but steadily taking shape. As young Saudis experiment, learn, and create, the future looks promising for a vibrant and culturally diverse Saudi gaming industry.


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