‘Test and learn’ approach to Saudi female gamer boom

How advertisers engage with this powerful audience is critical says Power League Gaming’s Matthew Pickering

Saudi Arabia’s gaming market has exploded in recent years with a 20.2 per cent CAGR in gaming revenues from 2017 to 2023 and an estimated 23.5M gamers according to Newzoo research.

To propel this further the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund this year announced a $38 billion investment into gaming via its subsidiary Savvy Games with the ambition to become the world’s leading hub for gaming and esports by 2030.

Unlike any other territory in MENA, females make up a near equal percentage of the gaming community as males. Some 89 per cent of the nation’s population are gamers, with 48 per cent of active gamers being women and this percentage is steadily rising.

Saudi female gamers are a highly attractive target for advertisers, the majority of them being young, well-educated with high purchasing power and with a deep understanding of digital platforms. 

How advertisers understand and engage with this powerful audience is critical – we see that they exhibit unique gaming behaviours influenced by their social and cultural orientations.

One key aspect is their preferred gaming platforms. According to a recent survey by Gaming Analytics, 61 per cent of Saudi female gamers prefer playing on their smartphone vs 24 per cent who opt for consoles and 15 per cent for PCs.

We see this preference for smartphone play being down to the availability and accessibility of smartphones as well as the introduction of high quality mobile games into the market. 

The rise of e-sports takes their gaming passion one step further.

A study published by the Arab Esports Federation in 2021 found that 34 per cent of Saudi female gamers expressed an interest in e-sports, a proof point of the competitive nature and confidence of Saudi female gamers and their readiness to engage in branded e-sports, with many taking part in local tournaments and participating in online gaming communities.

Beyond gaming and e-sports, the Saudi female gaming community is highly active across social platforms where they connect with friends and share interests and content, where advertisers can follow through their marketing messaging.

At PLG we are passionate about serving the needs of this rapidly growing and important segment of the global gaming community. Our first step has been to develop specialised female gaming platforms that meet their needs.

We launched Miss eSports™ back in 2019 and it is now the region’s leading incubator and accelerator program for female gaming and e-sports talent. 

Following on from this we introduced Saudi Girl Gamer which provides gaming content, experiences and competitions designed to engage and entertain the female Saudi gaming audience. We see that their behaviour and preferences tend to differ from the wider female MENA gaming audience and notably that they represent the highest ARPU in the region.

The platform has seen notable success through its organic TikTok content creation delivery strategy which sits firmly around trending content creation to position brands at the forefront of shifts in gaming content consumption. We see the average organic engagement on Saudi Girl Gamer’s TikTok sitting at 7 per cent, well over the industry average. 

Clients are jumping on the opportunity to reach female gaming audiences in Saudi and gaming audiences across the region in general. When we look at MENA data we see that 30 per cent of the total MENA population (+170 million) identify as gamers with 44 per cent of this segment being female.

Of this group we know that 46 per cent play  games daily and a further 29 per cent play weekly with an average of 7.5 hours gameplay per week. They are highly engaged when they interact with our platforms and receptive to brands who come with relevant, targeted messaging.

The category appeals across all age groups and nationalities, bringing together a community of passionate players and spectators who are hungry for new content. 

Typically, brands that are motivated to build relevance amongst MENA gaming audiences enter with a phase of ‘test and learn’ over the first 12 months of engagement.

They then increase spending significantly at the point of entering the second year of activity with the core objective of monetising audiences and shifting their gaming and e-sports endeavors from a cost centre to an audience retention, brand value driver and monetisation opportunity. 

In the past 12 months, PLG has seen a sustained uplift in brands seeking to engage this highly engaged female audience segment, including L’Oreal’s Maybelline brand, Beiersdorf’s Nivea, Logitech G’s Aurora and a pipeline of new and existing brand partners to activate over the coming year.

Globally, brands including Sephora, MAC, Chanel, Balenciaga and Gillette Venus have also focussed campaigns toward this rapidly growing demographic of gamer. 

Brands that begin their relationship with gaming audiences in Saudi now will be well placed to enter this booming market should they choose to, increase market share if they are already present, but above all be visible to the generations that will help shape the exciting future of the Kingdom.