In a magnificent Arabian castle, a Middle Eastern lord, adorned in a robe with a determined gaze, establishes his dominion and achieves greatness through conquest and strategic warfare—this scene is from the large-scale strategy mobile game “Revenge of the Sultan.” It is the first mobile game developed by a Chinese gaming company specifically for Middle Eastern players, created by Dragonfly Game at the time known as “Dragonfly Middle East.”
In September 2015, “Revenge of the Sultan” was officially launched in the Middle East and achieved the top spot on the Google and Apple bestseller lists in various Middle Eastern countries in less than six months. To this day, “Revenge of the Sultan” continues to dominate the top ranks of various game charts in the Middle East, firmly securing its position.
“Through ‘Revenge of the Sultan,’ I have made friends from Morocco, Algeria, and Iraq. It has allowed me to understand the people and cultures of different countries in the Middle East,” says Fady Mohamed, a Middle Eastern youth. Due to the influence of “Revenge of the Sultan” in the Middle East, its gaming community is “very strong.”
The success of “Revenge of the Sultan” has also drawn the attention of Chinese game developers to the previously overlooked Middle Eastern gaming market. Companies of varying sizes, such as Tencent, miHoYo, Lilith Games, Smartisan, and Mooton Technology, have successively entered the Middle East market. According to data from data.ai in the first half of 2022, Chinese game developers occupied four positions in the top ten mobile game revenue rankings in Saudi Arabia, and in another major market, the United Arab Emirates, Chinese mobile games held a significant share of the top ten rankings.
In fact, due to the macroeconomic impact, global gaming market revenue declined for the first time in 2022. However, during this global gaming “winter,” two regions achieved counter-trend growth: Latin America ($8.4 billion, up 3.4% YoY) and the Middle East and Africa ($6.8 billion, up 6.6% YoY).
“By 2030, make Saudi Arabia the global center for the gaming and esports industry.” This is the strategic goal stated in Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” by the country, the largest economy in the Middle East. To achieve this goal, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund has allocated a budget of $38 billion to invest globally, including in listed gaming giants like Activision Blizzard and Nintendo.
Chinese companies that were the earliest to customize localized games for the Middle East have also entered Saudi Arabia’s investment vision. On February 16, 2023, Savvy Games Group, a subsidiary of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, made a staggering $1.8 billion cash investment ($265 million) in the Chinese esports company Hero Sports VSPO, setting a new record for cash investment in the esports industry.
Compared to the overall contracting global market, the Middle East region, where the “scenery is uniquely good,” has become a prime area for Chinese game developers to explore and capitalize on.