The MBC Group, the biggest broadcaster in the Middle East and North Africa, has formed a joint venture with Neom, the $500 billion high-tech mega-city being built in Saudi Arabia, to set up the first AAA games development studio in the region.
Currently being incubated with developers from all over the world, the studio will relocate to Neom’s media hub next year and aims to produce high-production-value games for local, regional and international gamers.
AAA is a classification within the gaming industry that label games produced and distributed by midsized or big publishers that usually have higher budgets.
“We know there is a growing convergence between gaming and the media sector more broadly, so by building one, we are helping the other grow,” Neom’s chief executive Nadhmi Al Nasr said.
Establishing a gaming studio will create “future-proof career paths and job opportunities in an environment that fosters creativity, entrepreneurship and talent development, in line with Saudi Vision 2030”.
Further to the core studio disciplines of game design, programming, art and audio production, the facility is expected to create significant job opportunities across many directly linked industries, the entities said in a joint statement on Thursday.
The gaming studio will create opportunities for Saudi Arabia and regional gamers and developers seeking to build a career in the industry.
“We are now developing promising opportunities locally, regionally and globally by nurturing the Saudi game-development market,” Mr Al Nasr said.
The gaming market across Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt will be worth $3.14 billion by 2025, California-based market research and consulting firm Niko Partners reported.
Gaming consumption in Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's largest economy, is projected to reach $6.8bn by 2030 and is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 22 per cent through 2030 from $959 million in 2020, another report by Boston Consulting Group said.
Along with eSports, the sector — which has about three billion active participants globally — is poised to generate substantial revenue, high-quality jobs and various reputational benefits in the kingdom.
The latest joint venture comes as the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, Public Investment Fund, launched a new gaming company — Savvy Gaming Group — to strengthen its position in the fast-growing gaming and eSports industry.
“Our partnership with Neom unlocks new opportunities in the region’s media industry, which will enable Saudi Arabia to emerge as a leading global media hub,” said Waleed Al Ibrahim, chairman of MBC.
“MBC will put all of its expertise behind this project to become an economic and technical incubator for a new generation of media talent, in keeping with the kingdom’s efforts to support all aspects of the industry,” said Mr Al Ibrahim.
The entities are also working on a series of television shows and films that will be announced soon. This follows their collaboration on the production of the major Hollywood film Desert Warrior in 2021.
Gaming was one of the rare industries that registered massive growth amid the Covid-19 pandemic, when millions of homebound users went online for entertainment, shopping and work.