“Everyone in the world – no matter their race, their gender or their culture – wants to be part of the stories they love in an authentic and relatable way. Everyone should be able to unleash the hero they have in them when playing games, and game developers should offer them a wide selection of characters that ensure they can feel represented.”

CEO at Sandsoft Games David Fernandez Remesal shared his view on the cultural significance and economic impact of video games in the MENA region in April’s Issue of Gulf Business Tech.

What is the cultural significance of video games in the MENA region?

The gaming industry is a major player in the entertainment and cultural industries. In fact, it’s larger than the movie and music industries combined. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is one of the fastest growing both in terms of revenue and in players. Video games is a unique industry which blends art and science, humanities and technology, intuition and data. Although there’s been substantial progress in localising and culturalising games in the MENA region, there’s still work to do in making players from the region feel represented and in telling stories from this part of the world that have global appeal.

Tell us about the economic impact of video gaming in the Middle East for job creation and revenue generation in line with Vision 2030.

Saudi Vision 2030 is a driving force for change in the Middle East, representing a tremendous opportunity to build a more sustainable economy in future. The National Gaming and Esports Strategy provides a more comprehensive plan on how esports can contribute to the change and growth of Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East. As shared by Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, president of the Saudi Esports Federation, the National Gaming and Esports Strategy will contribute 1 per cent of GDP by 2030. In addition to this, the expectation is to create 39,000 jobs in the gaming industry by 2030 in Saudi Arabia.

We are deeply committed to supporting the strategy and Vision 2030. In October 2022, we announced our game development studio in Riyadh, which expanded our corporate and publishing teams in the kingdom. We will be substantially growing our presence during 2023, trebling the size of our team to reach 100 people based in Riyadh at the end of the year.

How is Sandsoft staying ahead of industry trends, and the importance of embracing new technologies to stay competitive in MENA’s fast-growing gaming industry?

Technology for us is a means, not a purpose. Sandsoft is trying to craft high-end mobile-first gaming experiences that can surprise players and build long-term relationships with them. As such, we’re always exploring new ways of interacting with consumers and we constantly have our eyes open to new technologies. Let me share a couple of examples: we’ve a couple of projects that explore players’ ownership, leveraging blockchain technology and we’re also using artificial intelligence to explore artistic styles and concepts for some of our new games.