By Sam Koch, ANDi Games Ltd CTO & Co-founder
Talking at GXP Summit was a great way to network and interact with others looking to do the same as us, expand internationally. As a company, we’ve already experienced some growth in particular key markets, but have also struggled to retain customers. Especially in areas like the Middle East and North Africa. This isn’t a challenge only we have encountered. The mobile gaming market in MENA is growing, but not fast enough due to the age-old issue of language barriers.
Arabic is world’s fourth largest spoken language. Yet just 1% of content available in the localised Google Play Store & Apple App Store is in Arabic. There’s massive potential here, but for some unknown reason, neither Google or Apple have stepped up to lead the way.
So what’s the real potential in MENA?
- MENA is made up of 17 countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and Turkey
- There are more than 100 million Arabic speakers in the world
- The MENA region has an estimated population of over 411 million in 2016
- Of that figure, 252 million of the people are active smartphone users (that’s more than half!)
- 60% of the apps downloaded are games compared to just 37% which are social media apps.
- Ramadan is the hottest month for mobile games in the MENA (pre-dine entertainment)
- Revenue in the mobile games segment amounts to US$291m in 2017, and it is expected to show an annual growth of 8.2% resulting to a market volume of US$400m in 2021
- Average revenue per user currently amounts to US$10.08. Although low compared to the US’s average revenue per user of US$77.6, it’s comparative considering the US is predicting mobile game revenues to exceed US$4,796m in 2017.
In a nutshell, these figures show no signs of slowing down and as the economic condition improves, it is undeniable that the demand on the mobile gaming industry would also continue to rise. Thus, a lucrative market to go after for even the smallest of development studios. And if they needed further convincing;
In MENA, it was reported that 40% of mobile users paid to download apps in 2015 with 44% spending money on in-app purchases. These figures are expected to grow year on year, especially in wealthier countries, like Saudi Arabia, where the penetration of high-end smartphones is very high.
So, in addition to localisation of games being a prevalent issue in MENA, could there be further challenges facing the growth of the games industry?
We believe that there are two other main contributing factors to the slow growth and lack of localised games available. The first being the lack of game development studios in the region, delivering content to their audience. The second is down to users not using the right search engines and platforms to find games they’ll want to play.
This is where ANDi, our first app, can make a real difference. ANDi is a machine learning recommendation system applied to mobile gaming. To provide a truly personalised experience, ANDi is a standalone app that tracks the games a user installs, uninstalls and plays, along with their location, language preferences, activity (still, sitting, walking, in a vehicle) and the time of day. ANDi stores each game, including their genre, price, file size, key words and developer details, in their own database, which is gathered through screen-scraping the app stores. The games are broken down further to include sub-genres, types of characters, interface controls and reward schemes. By tracking each user’s gaming patterns, enough data has been collected to produce Machine Learning models which in turn can provide very focused recommendations. To find users the best games, at the best times. Games they are increasingly likely to download and remain engaged with for longer.
Using ANDi, mobile game players in MENA will be recommended games that are localised to them, based on their likes and at times they are likely to engage and download. It’s a complete solution.
Despite the slow growth, the region is known to have several influential gaming startups. Game Cooks, based in Beirut Lebanon, have been iconic in creating arcade-inspired games for both Android & iOS devices and have looked to expand outside of mobile gaming and into the realms of Virtual Reality. Girnaas, based in Doha, Qatar is another mobile gaming developer creating some great localised titles including Go Fahed released to coincide with the Qatar 2015 – 24th Men’s Handball World Championship. ANDi is reaching out to and looking to work with several independent game developers and studios in the region, to work on improving not just our own platform, but helping developers to get their games in front of the right audience.
ANDi supports the work of mobile game developers from around the world, not just the UK and Europe. We’re building a suite of tools and packages to help independent developers, small and large studios connect and engage with more users than ever before. Since our launch in January 2017, ANDi has attracted over 5,000 users to the app, collecting over 50,000 swipes on our ‘Tinder for games’ style discovery feature, which has resulted in over 20,000 games being downloaded via ANDi. Further analysis of initial data gathered shows that users could be matched with a game they’d want to play in less than 60 seconds. Additionally, games downloaded via ANDi are being kept up to 25% longer than those via the Google Play Store.
For more information on ANDi Games Ltd, please visit www.get-andi.com to learn more.
Download ANDi on Android and discover new games today.