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A video game developer and publisher is aiming to enter the regional market to provide better ‘localised and culturalised’ offerings to gamers across the region, writes Naman Arora.
Sandsoft Games, funded by prominent Riyadh-based Ajlan & Bros, is starting off with a team of 26 across three offices in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and China to develop mobile games before expanding to other consoles.
Mo Fadl, who is leading the team after successful stints at NCSoft, Blizzard, Riot Games and Wargaming, said: “MENA has for a long time been an emerging market. There are a number of prominent titles that have been localised for the region but what I’ve often found is the region is an afterthought and products are only translated even though we know just how hungry MENA players are for new gaming experiences.
“It has always been my ambition to push the gaming scene further in MENA. I believe all gamers should be offered the best possible entertainment experience and my goal is to build a team who will help to achieve this. I’m incredibly excited to be a part of Sandsoft, this is my lifelong passion. Sandsoft is international and local, speaking the local language and development language, providing publishing services and access to the wider MENA infrastructure that will allow products of all shapes and sizes to be ‘culturised’, not just localised.”
While the number of Saudi-based game developers and publishers is miniscule globally, it has one of the fastest growing markets of gamers, with more than 60 per cent of the country’s population being aged less than 30.
Sandsoft’s expansion to KSA also comes at a time when the kingdom has been diversifying its economy and investing in attracting technology companies.
Mo told GulfWeekly: “The country is undergoing a rapid change in support of technology-forward initiatives and companies. All indications point to KSA being a big player in the MENA tech space.
“Furthermore, KSA has one of the biggest player bases in MENA. We want to make sure we are located where our players are, to become a part of the community so we can truly offer games which are endemic to all our players in MENA.
“Finally, the 2030 vision of the country is incredibly exciting. We’re in talks with NEOM and we believe that the country has really opened up in terms of access to their infrastructure, opportunities and their views on video games.”
The video game publisher wants to go beyond simple localisation. They want to add and replace elements in a game to make it more relevant to local gamers.
One example that Mo gives is the replacement in an ongoing project of an in-game boar with a goblin, in keeping with religious beliefs, adding, “Religion is intrinsic to Middle Eastern culture. This is something we are respectful and mindful of, and exactly why it’s vital we have local teams in place. This change didn’t affect gameplay and was something that many people wouldn’t focus on but it is in keeping and reflective of MENA culture.”
The publisher also hopes to cultivate more gender diversity in the professional gaming industry, which has become notorious for its abuse culture and low female participation, despite women making up 46pc of active gamers around the world.
The company is currently expanding its team and looking for developers across the country to partner with. Mo concluded: “We have seen considerable growth coming out of the Bahraini game development scene over the years and we are excited by the potential these developers have shown.
“We’re always looking at the local game development landscape and are open to opportunities to grow the market side by side with our development partners.”
Interested developers and studios can learn more or contact the company by visiting: http://sandsoftpublishing.com/