Saudi gamers find their home base on TikTok

August 23, 2022
Fahad Almaghrabi, head of business partnerships, global business solutions for TikTok in Saudi Arabia.
Fahad Almaghrabi, head of business partnerships, global business solutions for TikTok in Saudi Arabia.

By Fahad Almaghrabi*

As Saudi Arabia positions itself as the gaming powerhouse of the Gulf, the involvement of stakeholders ranging from the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund and global gaming companies to world renowned gamers in the regional gaming industry signals its growing importance for the country.

According to a report from RedSeer, the gaming community is expected to hit 20 million gamers across the country by 2025. This rapidly blossoming industry has brought about a surge in interest from citizens and residents alike across Saudi Arabia — and this is clearly reflected in their activity across digital platforms.

Gamers have always been a highly engaged community, happily sharing recommendations, tips and tricks, and video content online — because video games of all sorts and scales rely on some core platforms to be heard and seen.

And with a wide variety of online platforms available today, the question becomes: which platform is right for gamers, giving them a space to express their passion and connect with their wider community.

Consider this: a week before the release of “Before Your Eyes,” an emotional gaming story about a family in crisis where players physically blink to move from scene to scene, the TikTok account for Wholesome Games, an organization that promotes “uplifting, thoughtful” games posted a video about it.

The video not only went viral and garnered more than 1.5 million views in just a few days, but also comprehensively outperformed its counterparts on YouTube and Twitter.

And this took place during the infancy of the gaming community’s warm and unhesitating embrace of TikTok.

Since then, the platform has evolved rapidly to become the hottest destination for the gamers community. Gamers today flock to TikTok to discover and create memes, show off their gaming skills, and spark conversations that shape and redefine the culture of gaming.

TikTok today is where gaming and culture collide and converse.

According to RedSeer's report, the gaming industry is growing at the speed of light, and the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey (MENAT) is one of the fastest growing regions, with a market worth of around $5 billion in 2021 and an estimated 328 million gamers.

With its creative and engaging content, TikTok has flourished into a new hub for hosting this community of gaming publishers, creators, and gamers across the globe — and an incredibly powerful platform for advertisers.

That’s because TikTok’s offer to advertisers is unique, supporting creative and organic campaigns that facilitate global collaborations between brands, creators, and people who play games. TikTok makes sharing this content easier, making it a platform packed with potential for engagement.

That’s why it’s the new destination for global gamers as well as advertisers, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

According to RedSeer’s State of Gaming report, 60% of the adult Internet population in the region are into gaming, which translates into 16 million players in the Kingdom.

But in terms of PC and console adoption, only 30% of the value contribution comes from consoles in KSA and the UAE: with the console industry in USA representing 50% of the contribution, TikTok has certainly shown the way for more room to grow in the region.

What’s more reassuring is that the report found that gaming has neither any age nor a gender: the gaming community in KSA penetrates 60% of Gen X and 73% of Gen Z, while an audience of 7.5 million female gamers across KSA and the UAE are equally willing to spend on their entertainment compared to their male counterparts.

Leveraging the power of TikTok also means riding the momentum on the power of mobiles — and that’s a synergy that has immensely helped attract gamers, especially in a country like KSA which boasts a high rate of smart phone penetration.

According to Newzoo’s Global Games Market Report produced in collaboration with TikTok, mobile generated revenues of $93.2 billion in 2021 and is forecast for a revenue growth to more than $116 billion by 2024, continuing to outpace growth on PC and console. Mobile is clearly not only the world’s biggest and fastest growing gaming platform by both player numbers and revenues, but also a huge opportunity for all companies involved with gaming.

In the first quarter of 2022 alone, the top 100 gaming hashtags in MENA gained a massive 105 billion video views, which represents a 35% annual increase in viewership.

This surging interest is where TikTok comes into play, enabling Creators and users to be their true selves, and providing the perfect platform where brands of all sizes can share in these moments of joy and shared connection centered around their passion with the TikTok community.

In other words, TikTok is the space where the gaming community supports each other and makes genuine connections through mutually shared interests.

And while doing so, gamers can't help but discover new brands and products: the notion of short-burst, full-screen, sound-on entertainment is really what's driving discovery on TikTok.

This is strongly corroborated by the findings of the Newzoo Whitepaper, which found that the Middle East & Africa and Latin America will be the two fastest-growing mobile games markets in the run up to 2024, growing 1.6x faster than the global average from 2019-2024.

The study also found that gaming enthusiasts spent five times more hours watching and almost four times more hours creating top gaming content on TikTok during the pandemic, from the first quarter of 2020 to the same period in 2021.

In delightful news for gamers in KSA, growth in viewership among the Top 100 Most Popular Gaming Topics on TikTok in the Middle East & Africa was up a staggering 841% during the pandemic.

And in a further boost for advertisers, TikTok gamers were found to install 50% more games, spend 36% longer per week gaming, were 66% more likely to pay for games, and 40% more likely to pay for add-ons.

As a platform, TikTok has also provided creators in the regional gaming space additional support: in 2021, it partnered with NASR Esports to bring a spotlight to their gaming content that reached millions of users across the Middle East’s gaming audience.

In a span of few years, the entire gaming community — from console to mobile gamers, diehards to hyper-casuals, Hall of Fame legends to first-time newbies — have come to call TikTok their home to express themselves uniquely and genuinely in shaping gaming culture in the region and beyond.

The result is a win not just for TikTok but the entire community of gamers; the positive impact that creativity and storytelling from gaming brands brings to the platform has paved the way for them to meaningfully connect with their community.

As Saudi gamers and brands gear up for an exciting journey ahead, TikTok will continue to create spaces where the community can share their creativity, tips and tricks and the trends shaping the future of the gaming industry, ensuring that the platform remains a place where gaming and culture converge and converse.

— Fahad Almaghrabi is the Head of Business Partnerships, Global Business Solutions for TikTok in Saudi Arabia.

August 23, 2022
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