“About 75 percent of our capital is not yet invested” | Pocket Gamer.biz

As a new year begins, it’s time to reflect on the past year and strategize for the year ahead. For Savvy Games Group, 2023 was certainly a busy year with events, new investments and – of course – one of the biggest gaming deals of the year – the $4.9 billion acquisition of mobile developer Scopely.

We spoke to Brian Ward, CEO of Savvy Games Group, to look back on the challenges and successes of the last year, in addition to growing the MENA region as a gaming hub and what we can expect from Savvy in 2024.

PocketGamer.biz: How do you assess the situation of Savvy Games Group in 2024?

Brian Ward: We are very happy with how things are going. It was a busy past year! We saw the continued success of ESL FACEIT Group (EFG), welcomed Scopely to the Savvy family, made a significant investment in VSPO, made key additions to the leadership team, and attended a number of key events, from GDC in the US to Gamescom in Germany and the exciting announcement of the E-Sports World Cup here in Riyadh.

Our Nine66 company is also in discussions with more than 20 gaming companies around the world who want to come to Saudi Arabia. These companies see great growth and development potential in the region and we look forward to welcoming them and others here.

Savvy is expanding rapidly, and that creates both opportunities and challenges as it scales.

Brian Ward

Where do you currently see growth and success?

With the support of our Chairman, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, our Board of Directors and the PIF, Savvy is growing rapidly, and this creates both opportunities and challenges as we scale. At the end of November we celebrated our second anniversary and are drawing on the wealth of experience and expertise of our established business areas such as Scopely and EFG. As you know, the gaming industry is constantly evolving and through this internal collaboration we have the people and strategy to keep up with a dynamic landscape.

Our subsidiary Steer Studios has just announced a new brand identity that will allow them to increase their creative potential. Steer is working on several projects, starting with mobile, and is aiming to release his first title next year.

What is Savvy’s game plan for the near future? Further expansion or consolidation?

Since around 75 percent of our capital is not yet invested, we will continue to push our strategy forward.

We are actively building a strong gaming ecosystem and have ambitious plans to localize the gaming and esports sector by 2030. Our goals include transforming Saudi Arabia into a global gaming development hub and making it a global epicenter positioning for e-sports. We achieve this by unlocking the potential of our Saudi Arabia-based business units such as Steer Studios and Nine66 and helping them achieve their growth objectives.

At the same time, our team strives to be a “force for good” in the wider gaming sector, working with other players and organizations to ensure the continued success of the sector.

From Savvy Games Group’s perspective, which areas of the games industry are most interesting for investment?

Savvy has three areas of focus: game developers and publishers, esports organizations and supporting the ecosystem here in the Kingdom.

While the mobile gaming market offers great opportunities, it is only part of the story.

Brian Ward

Where does mobile currently fit into Savvy’s plans? Are there any other mobile studios coming up for takeover or investment?

Scopely’s Monopoly GO!, launched in April 2023, was a record-breaking success as the highest-grossing casual mobile game launch of all time, reaching $1 billion faster than any other casual mobile game in history. It is a global sensation, including in the Kingdom, with more than 4.5 million hours of gameplay in KSA and more than four million people playing the game in the MENA region.

While the mobile gaming market offers excellent opportunities, it is only part of the story; Our strategy aims to involve all parts of the sector.

What does Savvy hope the acquisition of Scopely will bring to the studio’s portfolio?

Scopely will continue to pursue its long-term ambitions beyond mobile. In addition to the diverse gaming experiences Scopely already offers on mobile, web and PC, they are also preparing to release Stumble Guys on console next year.

Scopely came after Monopoly GO! to Savvy. has been developed for years and rolled out worldwide, so they know exactly what they are doing. Savvy is here to support our businesses like Scopely and help them achieve their goals.

We want to be a leader when it comes to free-to-play games with live services, leveraging the proven talent and innovative spirit of the Scopely team.

Tell us about the growth of gaming in the region and Saudi Arabia’s role as a gaming hub.

Saudi Arabia is a fascinating and rapidly growing market. There are over 21 million gamers in the kingdom, 70 percent of the population, over 40 percent of whom are women.

The region has seen the creation of gaming and e-sports leagues, the development of state-of-the-art e-sports arenas, and significant sponsorships of international e-sports events. As part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 strategy, we are currently focused on Saudi Arabia and the region is showing strong signs of development. According to Niko Partners, gaming revenue in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt will grow by 56 percent by 2026, rising from $1.8 billion in 2022 to an estimated $2.8 billion in 2026. This corresponds to an annual growth rate of almost 10 percent. That’s pretty impressive.

And mobile e-sports is an important part of this growth?

Yes, Saudi Arabia is a booming market – the 19th largest in the world. In general, e-sports are also very popular in the region. Take the recent Gamers8 festival as an example. it generated over two million viewers in the 2023 season.

Several factors have contributed to the growth of eSports in Saudi Arabia, including government support from entities such as the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Misk Foundation, NEOM and Qiddiya. The Kingdom’s young demographic, infrastructure development, emerging talent and events such as Gamers8 and Next World Forum also had a major impact. Investments in technological infrastructure such as high-speed internet and cellular networks have laid the foundation for this thriving mobile esports community and enabled global competition.

I look forward to seeing more events in the region to spread the word about the huge potential of the MENA region.

Brian Ward

We look forward to returning to the region later this year for our Pocket Gamer Connects events. What role do you think events like this play in raising awareness of the region?

These events are incredibly important in showcasing MENA as a thriving gaming hub and forging meaningful connections between industry players. Whether virtual, in-person or hybrid, these events allow industry leaders, developers, investors and gaming enthusiasts to come together and facilitate discussions and collaborations that would otherwise be difficult to achieve.

Many of our teams at Savvy have participated in PocketGamer events. I look forward to seeing more events in the region to promote the MENA region’s enormous potential in the global gaming market.

Edited by Paige Cook

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