George Maktabi, CEO of Webedia Arabia Group talks to Communicate about their latest acquisition and the rise of gaming in Saudi Arabia.
In February, gaming experts Webedia Esports Agency, part of the Webedia Arabia Group acquired SaudiGamer.com, a publication platform for gaming and esports. Communicate spoke with George Maktabi, Chief Executive Officer of Webedia Arabia Group to learn more about the acquisition and the potential that lies in the KSA gaming market.
Could you explain in detail why gaming is booming at this rate in KSA?
In a nation where 63% of the population is made up of the ‘gaming’ age, it is not surprising that they have created this boom and given rise to a generation of gamers. This generation is playing a pivotal role in not only transforming Saudi Arabia, but also accelerating the progress. They are the ones who have placed KSA among the top 20 in gaming and e-sports markets in the world. They are digital natives, curious by nature, entrepreneurial in spirit and open to new cultures.
Generation Z in particular, have access to more opportunities than all other previous generations and they represent a big portion of digital natives whose cultural influence is reshaping traditional beliefs about online entertainment and the e-sports ecosystem. Another reason is the strong empowerment and attentiveness by the leadership in the Kingdom, that has been watching this industry closely and have taken a keen interest in supporting gamers and e-sports teams.
With the development of the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS) and the recent announcement by the Saudi Public Investment Fund which just acquired more than $3 billion worth of stock in three U.S. video-game makers, we will continue to see a huge boom in this industry in the years to come.
Also, in this ‘new normal’ - a post-pandemic era - we see more youth from the Kingdom adapting to more indoor activities and venturing into this competitive world where they get to unwind, meet new players or connect with friends.
What are the trends dominating the KSA gaming market?
The first trend we see is an economic one, due to the fact that the purchasing power of gamers in the Kingdom is higher in comparison to other markets in the region. GDP levels in KSA show that the people have the means to invest and to buy advanced model consoles and PC kits in addition to other mobile and gaming devices.
The second is a technological one, as KSA is one of the first countries to launch a 5G network. That has resulted in a significant increase in more sophisticated gaming based on the technology available in the Kingdom.
The third trend is attributed to demographics, where we have seen a massive surge in female gamers who now make up about 42% of the gaming population.
The growth trend is here to stay, and according to our statistics, mobile gaming leads the market with 19.3 million mobile gamers. Console gaming comes in second with 13.9 million console gamers, while PC gaming ranks third with 13.4 million PC gamers.
The level of gaming in the Kingdom is so evolved that there are several “gamer personas” ranging from the hardcore gamers who invest in the hardware and software of gaming, or compete in local and global tournaments, to the types who play games to fill their time or the ones who like to watch others play.
What are the main revenue streams for gaming in KSA?
Revenue streams are generated from different aspects in gaming. The biggest chunks come from the high profile on-ground activities such as tournaments, events and sponsorships. In addition, these activities are supplemented with content creation and streaming to channel for further monetization and advertising.
It is also important to mention that the gaming industry represents a huge opportunity for local and international brands. Today, content related to gaming, e-sports, or activations play an influential role in the marketing sphere. Rarer are the marketing vehicles that can provide precise targeting in the same way that gaming does.
Gaming and the connections it builds with a brand’s audience is any marketeer’s dream: We have a big population to target, who are engaged with relevant content, at the right time and in exactly the right touch-point where the conversion to commerce can happen at any moment.
During the past year we have witnessed a growing interest from our clients in gaming and e-sports. Simply put, we are offering them unique opportunities to engage with their audiences through creative products that maximizes their reach.
Esports are still nascent in the region. What trends do you see that could support its growth?
The e-ports industry in the region has seen a significant growth in the past years, with KSA and UAE being the main drivers of this push. The hosting of world renowned tournaments like the PUBG Mobile Global Championship in Dubai and PUBG Mobile Star Challenge World Cup in Riyadh, have put the region on the global gaming map.
The support from SAFEIS in KSA has also played a big role in boosting the e-sports scene with their hosting of major tournaments in KSA like the Saudi eLeagues and in the rest of the world with Gamers without Borders. In order to sustain and further grow this industry, more investment has to be made into gaming development, content creation, streaming as well as social media to continue to make an impact.
Our focus is on the prospective of the gaming industry and we are investing in to the future of gaming. We have started with the acquisition of SaudiGamer.com as a publication platform but we have an army of players in the background, that are working on grand marketing initiatives that will ultimately give more to the stakeholders and put them in the driver’s seat.
What are the key data points about Saudigamer.com (audiences, content type, etc.)?
In 2020, Saudi Gamer engaged with 2.5 million users reaching nine million pageviews on its website. On social media, Saudi Gamer boasts over 1.7 million followers on Instagram, half a million on Twitter, and 2.57 million on YouTube.
When we looked into acquiring SaudiGamer.com, we studied the successful model, and we discovered the great potential. This led to the development of ideas and actions that will take SaudiGamer.com to the next level and reinforce it as the go-to gaming hub in the region.
With our involvement, SaudiGamer.com will cover more local and regional e-sports tournaments and events, will develop a variety of new shows on YouTube with gaming celebrities, create exclusive content from the top gaming influencers in the region and offer a bigger playground for gamers to interact, connect, engage and learn.
What is the platform's business model and how will that change (or not) following this acquisition?
SaudiGamer.com, like all our platforms, aims to engage audiences through their passions. To offer some perspective, the Saudi Gamer website attracted more than two million unique users in 2020, it converses with more than 500K followers on Twitter, while 1.7 million users interact through Instagram.
Being able to engage with this core audience allows us to understand this target better, and helps us unearth consumer insights that enable us to become indispensable for marketing brands. Equally, due to our unmatched ability to engage with this unique and important audience, we will be able to enhance the performance of any marketing campaign and create tangible results.
How important will advertising & marketing revenue sources be and how are you educating brands and agencies in that regard?
At Webedia Arabia Group, we are all about offering data-driven and culturally led insights which attract brands and agencies to invest in activations with us. This approach has given us the power to understand the people and personas that brands want to engage with and we link them back into initiatives that truly speak to the desired audiences. Once brands have this type of data, paired with our solutions, insightful content is created, aimed to drive conversations, reshape sentiments and get consumers excited about the messages.
Today we have access to more than 46 million users across web and social channels, and with such a strong reach, great brands can go very far with us. We are creating opportunities for them to get a high level of exposure and to engage directly with their target audiences. We excel at developing the content in different shapes and sizes to fit each brand’s objectives.