Driven by strong incubation programs, Saudi gaming startups doubled in 2022 

RIYADH: Reflecting Saudi Arabia’s ambition to become one of the world’s major gaming centers, the number of games startups in the Kingdom almost doubled to 24 in 2022 from 13 last year, according to a report by Nine66. 

The company, an integrated support system for game developers, said this growth was driven by incubation programs.  

The report went on to add that most of the companies employ one to five, or six to 10, staff, putting them in the independent studios category. However, only six companies employ more than 10 people.  

Nine66 is a Savvy Games Group company, which is owned by the Public Investment Fund. It offers global infrastructure, skills development, network, capital, publishing and advisory services to game studios and developers. 

About 80 percent of those who have set up a game studio in Saudi Arabia said the experience was “relatively easy,” according to the report. There is also a strong collaborative spirit in the Kingdom’s gaming industry.  

The report stated that almost 84 percent of the respondents have linked up with other local developers at some point.  

The survey report interviewed 51 game developers from a mix of solo developers, mid-sized teams, and large companies between April and June. 

Even though gaming is extremely popular in the region, there is a comparatively small number of studios compared to the 5,000 across Europe and more than 3,000 in the US, the report said.  

Nearly 67 percent of respondents said financial risks and the lack of a safety net prevented them from establishing startups.  

Almost 35 percent stated that the lack of knowledge of how companies work is a significant factor in why developers cannot start new studios.  

The report noted that access to funding has been challenging for some developers as investors either do not fully understand the sector or have been hesitant to invest in gaming companies, the report said.  

The fact that all game developers interviewed in the report were self-funded indicated a lack of investor support.  

The report stated that most developers — 65 percent — have never tried to seek investment, with the most common reason being that they were not ready to pitch their games.