Social gaming in the MENA


2010 was a very successful year for Zynga the developers of the hit social games such as Farmville and Mafia wars they utilized Facebook to get users playing and competing with each other, Zynga is now well worth in the billions of dollars. But the question is can any social game from the MENA region achieve the success of Zynga? Can there be a Zynga of the MENA region in 2011?

If anybody does try to reach such that success they will have to consider and appreciate the cultural differences throughout the MENA region. For example in the MENA region only 37% of the users are female in comparison to the 56% in the United States. That fact alone should have game developers re-thinking their approach.

Social gaming has a great potential in the region where there are around 15 million users from the MENA who are supposedly on Facebook which will most definitely grow in 2011 given that there are more than 63 million users online.

Would the game use the English or Arabic Facebook interface?

Well that depends, because throughout the region the numbers are different, for example in Saudi Arabia its a 50 – 50 split between the English and Arabic interfaces and is one of the highest countries with the Arabic interface penetration that’s well above 1 million users. Yemen is the only country where the Arabic interface has a significant upper hand over the English interface with 65% of the users opting to use the Arabic interface however the total number of users from Yemen on Facebook is only around 96 Thousand users.

65% of users in Egypt prefer the English interface that’s a good percentage considering that the total number of users from Egypt are well above 3.3 million users.

But that’s not the complete story once you venture further west into Northern Africa you get an extremely high percentage of french users up to 95% in Tunisia of an estimated 1.5 million users. Its the same in Morocco and Algeria with 82% and 87% french users respectively.

Therefore whatever social game (or application for that matter) you have in mind it has to have the option of changing the language preferences throughout the game to ensure that all users are accounted for as well as to make sure users can connect with their friends that are using different language interface.

But Language is not the only obstacle facing game developers, they have to keep in mind the cultural differences between the countries throughout the MENA region as well any governmental regulations or restrictions that may be applied in the future. Take for example the recent news in Saudi Arabia requesting bloggers to obtain a license to blog, although its a long shot but this might happen for developers one day you never know!

Ok so is anybody doing any Arabic social games?

Aranim media Factory so far have a portfolio of 4 Arabic games on Facebook and are currently working on 2 more as suggested on their Facebook page. They have titles such as Music Sultan “Sultan il tarab” with 823 Monthly active users, Happy oasis with 741 monthly active users, tribe wars with 9,362 monthly active users and Special Forces: Element Zero with 4,519 monthly active users.

Aranim Facebook page screenshot

They set a good example for social gaming in the region. However I feel the success of Zynga was the ability to drive users to spend money on virtual goods through their games, that could be another serious issue facing developers in the MENA region given the fact that payment gateways are tricky over here, maybe they can utilize the prepaid online cash card systems such as Jabbar’s cashU cards.

If you have any tips on any social games, or would like to let us know about your favorite games on Facebook drop us a line below and we’ll review those games in the near future.

*Data and stats based on “Spot On PR” report on the MENA region.

Let us know your comments


author avatar

Having worked with top digital agencies in the MENA region for the past several of years I'm now looking now to venture on my own with small side projects in online, social and mobile. Things I like include: gaming, sports, technology, social media, start ups, funny things and reading about new bright ideas.


  1. Hi All, my name is Suleiman Bakhit founder of Aranim. thank you for the article. We have just started publishing our games in soft beta, which is why the number are low. Our official launch will be end of Feb for all of our games.

    We are using Cashu One Card. payment is an obstacle, but we believe this will improve in the near future. OneCard and Cashu are doing a great job helping developers like us. They will be critical to the success of the social gaming industry.

    While the ME market is challenging, we believe there is a very good opportunity for the success for indigenous social games.

    I am personally proud of my team, all of our games are developed in-house. This is a testament to the incredible potential our youth have in the region when given the opportunity to learn and excel.

    Stay tuned for our major official release coming end of Feb. Got some really exciting stuff.

    Feel free to contact Aranim if you have any questions: ,

    GAME ON !!!

  2. Hi Tariq,

    I agree with you there’s large room for improvement and a very long way to go before we can say that the social gaming market in the region is mature.. we’re learning how to deliver the best social gaming experience to the Arab world..

    We do have CashU implemented on Tribe Wars. In the following few months CashU will be implemented on our three games Tribe Wars, Element Zero and Happy Oasis.

    We are currently working on major releases on Tribe Wars and Happy Oasis. if you need any info or details please don’t hesitate to contact me.

    Fadia Hamdi

  3. I’m guessing this will be driven by developers and agencies at the outset. Mobile app development seems to be working that way with developers and agencies pitching ideas to brands, rather than brands queuing up for new apps. Interesting times though!

  4. Hey Carrington, quick question do you think MENA brands will jump on board? Or will it mostly independent developers?

  5. You raise interesting questions! As Facebook adoption in the region moves faster towards 50/50 Arabic/English, we could see Facebook Arabic users top 15 million by the end of 2011 and that starts to look like an interesting base for Arabic Facebook apps of many kinds.

  6. Hi Tariq,

    Great post and interesting data but we would like to draw your attention to one thing:

    Aranim already accepts cashU payments on a number of their games such as Tribe Wars.

    Thank you,
    cashU Team

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