The future of the gaming & esports industry in the Middle East
In recent years, gaming has changed radically. Not only have the games themselves evolved so has the way users engage with them. Each player competing against the machine has given way to increased interaction among players (both competitive and cooperative) with multiplayer games gaining popularity. Consequently, gaming has become a much more social activity than it used to be.
All these changes have been both a cause and a consequence of a radically different way of consuming games. Free-to-play games and easier access to games have greatly expanded the number of people playing online. Furthermore, streaming platforms allow gamers to consume games in ways they have never experienced before: they not only allow them to play games but also watch and comment on how other players play them.
The development of new technologies and the integration of initiatives such as virtual reality and the metaverse, combined with these novel forms of consumption, has resulted in a constantly changing industry. It is undeniable that the exponential growth of the industry continues day by day. However, evolution is based on trial and error, until we find what consumers really want and demand. This is why it is difficult to predict where new developments and shifts will take place.
The gaming & esports climate in the MENA region
The MENA gaming industry has experienced faster growth than in any other nearby geographical area with consumption and followers on the rise internationally. It is estimated to reach $5 billion by 2025 and is currently valued at $1.78 billion, establishing itself as an up-and-comer in the global video games industry.
The total revenue of the esports industry in 2021 was estimated by Newzoo to be $833.6 million, and this is enhanced by a rising number of jobs, university courses and opportunities, making it one of the most desirable sectors to lead a career in. Newzoo estimates that in the next five years, this region will account for 15 percent of the entire gaming sector in the world. It currently accounts for 377 million estimated players — a close equal to Europe (386 million) and significantly more than America (210 million).
Due to the talent coming out of the region, many publishers are localizing their games in Arabic and setting up competitions that put the region on the international stage. Moreover, governments such as Saudi Arabia are very supportive and are betting heavily on the development of the industry.
There are a few possible reasons for this growth — an increase in the population under 25, increased spending by current gamers, longer gameplay by users and surging advertising revenue, which may have all boomed due to the pandemic. With the country’s support, this section of consumers who are normally underserved is getting their due. As more people begin playing games, the demographic of players is also diverse.
Careers in gaming in the MENA region
There are a host of careers within the industry. Beyond the players, in-person gaming events require event organizers, planners and managers, advertising, sponsorship, social media promotion, casting, filming and tech support, including participants, which involves players, coaches, and team organizations. This creates a wealth of jobs and opportunities, growing at an all-time high.
In the UAE and KSA specifically, funds have been allocated for various sectors including esports and gaming. This aligns with KSA’s openness to international relationships and foreign tourism. With a large portion of the population being under 25, there is an abundance of youth to create an avid gaming community and progress the market even further.
Building stable careers in the gaming industry
The importance of proper education for any career in the gaming & esports industry is being increasingly recognised by universities, which are creating new courses each year as a result. Courses involving business, management, events, marketing, journalism and design all offer unique skills, which match up with a plethora of new jobs emerging in the esports scene. With the industry growing, the number of these jobs will only rise.
Recently, the KSA Government unveiled the National Gaming and Esports Strategy, which aims at making the country the global gaming hub by 2030 in line with KSAs Vision 2030 objectives to diversify the economy and create new jobs. There are 86 initiatives that are divided into eight focus areas, including tech and hardware development, game production, e-sports, infrastructure, education, talent acquisition and more. With this strategy, KSA aims to improve the player experience, garner more entertainment opportunities for the public and propel the industry to contribute around SAR50bn to the GDP. The strategy will also facilitate the creation of 39,000 new direct and indirect job opportunities by 2030.
These strategies provide gaming enthusiasts with a safe space to compete, enjoy and meet new people, bringing the online community into the offline world. With the government’s support, esports and gaming can become viable academic and career paths.
It is difficult to predict with certainty where and how much the industry will grow. What is undeniable, however, is that growth will not stop, and will continue, perhaps even at a faster pace as the years go by.
About the author
Mario Pérez Guerreira is the CEO at MENATech (a company of GGTech Entertainment). With over 5 years of experience in the e-sports industry, Mario has worked on top professional competitions from publishers like Riot Games, Ubisoft, SuperCell and Electronic Arts, as well as opening offices and regional operations in the Americas for LVP. As a partner of GGTech Entertainment, Mario’s main focus is on opening new markets and the expansion and growth of the GGtech footprint in the MENA region with its Middle East division MENA Tech entertainment.