Saudi gaming market set to grow more than threefold as interest in e-sports rises

Riyadh and several companies have increased their investments into the sector to spur economic benefits, including job creation

The international e-sport gamers' forum, Next World, was held in Riyadh in September 2022. About 29 per cent of Saudi Arabia's population is interested in e-sports. AFP
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Saudi Arabia's gaming industry is poised to grow by more than threefold by 2030, with e-sports leading the growth, a study by YouGov has found.

The 250 per cent growth in the gaming industry over the next eight years would mean that its contribution to Saudi Arabia's gross domestic product will have surged about 50 times by 2030, compared with 2022, the London-based market research company said on Monday in a study conducted with Populous, a US-based company that designs e-sports venues.

The growth in the gaming industry has prompted Riyadh and several companies to increase their investments to accelerate the sector's development and spur economic benefits, including job creation, it said.

“Gaming and e-sports have seen dramatic growth in Saudi Arabia in recent years, driven by a rapidly-expanding fan base and significant investment from government and industry to build and develop world-class facilities, infrastructure and events,” the study said.

Gaming has become big business globally, with new-age technology providing both an opportunity to reach a wider audience and develop new titles to cater to consumer demand.

About 3.2 billion people globally will play games in 2022 and spend a combined total of $196.8 billion, from $180bn in 2021 in 2021, representing growth of more than 2 per cent, year on year, latest data by research company Newzoo showed.

By 2025, the gaming population is expected to rise by about 10 per cent to 3.5 billion players, who will boost revenue by about 15 per cent to $225.7bn, the study showed.

The Middle East — along with Africa, the Asia-Pacific and Latin America — will drive the growth in players over the next several years, Newzoo said.

Gaming consumption in Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's largest economy, is projected to hit $6.8bn by 2030, growing at a compound annual rate of 22 per cent through to 2030, the Boston Consulting Group said in a recent report.

Meanwhile, the e-sports segment is expected to generate about $1.5bn in global revenue in 2023 on viewership of about 646 million, with the investment expected to grow more than ninefold, Populous said.

In September, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled the National Gaming and Esports Strategy, outlining a comprehensive investment programme for the industry, with the ultimate goal of making the kingdom a global gaming centre by 2030.

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Riyadh also created the Saudi E-sports Federation to hasten the industry's development. Its president, Prince Faisal bin Bandar, was appointed as vice president of the Global E-sports Federation last December.

About 29 per cent of Saudi Arabia's population, which is estimated at about 36 million, is interested in e-sports, the YouGov and Populous study showed.

This significantly outpaces other established markets, including the US (11 per cent), Japan (8 per cent), Germany (8 per cent) and the UK (4 per cent).

E-sports are also becoming a driver for personal development, with 53 per cent of people surveyed considering it a hobby to help them to develop “useful life skills” such as creativity, collaboration and leadership, the report showed.

About a third of e-sport participants said they wished to forge a career in the industry.

“That e-sports is viewed as beneficial in this way is yet another indication of its huge growth potential in Saudi Arabia,” the study said.

Updated: November 01, 2022, 5:45 AM