Gaming revenue is predicted to reach $6 billion by 2027 in the Middle East and North Africa, almost double the figure from 2021, according to a new report.
The industry is being driven by the presence of a young and digital-savvy population, high levels of digital connectivity and sufficient government support in the region, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre said in its latest Future of Trade 2023 report.
“Gaming has come to the fore of entertainment globally, driving rapid growth especially in the Mena region, which now constitutes 15 per cent of the global player base,” said Ahmed bin Sulayem, executive chairman and chief executive of DMCC.
“The rise of gamification in areas such as education, healthcare and other sectors has demonstrated gaming’s role in facilitating economic activity more broadly … as DMCC seeks to solidify Dubai’s reputation as a global trade and economic hub, efficiently activating opportunities within the gaming sector will prove essential.”
Among the most closely watched gaming segments is e-sports, which is expected to post a revenue growth of 23.3 per cent between 2019 and 2024 in the Mena region, the report said.
Covid-induced lockdowns prompted a surge in interest as people stayed indoors and turned to gaming for entertainment, while improvements in technology and connectivity have boosted the user experience.
The demographic profile is also evolving to include more participants from older age groups, and more women, as the sector becomes more inclusive, the report found.
By 2025, there will be more than 318 million e-sports enthusiasts worldwide, up from 215.2 million in 2020. Meanwhile, around 322.7 million people are projected to be occasional viewers of e-sports by 2025, according to the report.
“Similar to other entertainment sectors, gaming benefited from Covid, but it was already growing steadily before the pandemic. There has been strong growth momentum,” said Jad El Mir, partner at Strategy& and member of the technology, media and telecommunications practice in the Middle East.
The global gaming market is expected to reach about $340 billion by 2027, from $198.4 billion in 2021, DMCC said. China and the US alone accounted for around half of global gaming and e-sports revenues in 2021.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia – the Arab world’s largest economies – will lead the region, supported by “high income levels, strong digital engagement, and public investment initiatives”, the report found.
In December, DMCC teamed up with Yalla Esports to launch the DMCC gaming centre to support the growth of the industry in Dubai by providing gaming businesses with access to capital and industry talent.
Due to the UAE’s business-friendly environment, various international gaming developers have set up their regional headquarters in the country.
French video game publisher Ubisoft is based in Abu Dhabi, while Chinese gaming company Tencent has established its regional headquarters in Dubai.
In February, AD Gaming, the organisation responsible for developing the gaming and e-sports industry in Abu Dhabi, went into partnership with Sawa Group, a game-publishing and e-sports company, to support gaming in the UAE capital.
Saudi Arabia has included gaming as a core element of its $500 billion mega-city project Neom and has already made investments worth over $1.7 billion on the gaming industry, the DMCC report said.
The gaming industry in Saudi Arabia is poised to grow 250 per cent by 2030, with e-sports leading the growth, a recent study from YouGov found.
The growth would mean that its contribution to Saudi Arabia's gross domestic product had surged about 50 times by 2030 compared with 2022, the London-based market research company said.
Mena economies must develop appropriate regulatory safeguards to ensure privacy, security and safety online in the digital gaming ecosystem, the DMCC report said.
It also recommended offering a business-friendly environment – including smoother visa systems to allow e-sports professionals and audiences to attend live events and attract global talent into the region.