Abu Dhabi’s media free zone, twofour54, launched an initiative to develop the gaming and e-sports industry in the UAE’s capital.
The initiative, called Abu Dhabi Gaming, will support game developers, players, consumers and businesses and will be backed by companies such as Unity Technologies, Flash Entertainment, UAE Pro League, Emirates Esports Association and the Media Zone Authority.
“The global gaming industry has been growing at an increasing rate over the last few years, and this growth has been accelerated by the pandemic,” Mohamed Al Mubarak, chairman of twofour54, said.
“AD Gaming will bring the emirate’s existing gaming industry together under one strategic brand, and will invest in [building] an ecosystem that fosters creativity and sustainable growth.”
The gaming industry – split into mobile games, e-sports streaming, console purchases and more – is currently the most profitable form of entertainment in the world.
Global gaming revenue is expected to reach $217.9 billion by 2023, up almost 25 per cent from last year's $174.9bn, according to a report by Amsterdam-based market research company Newzoo.
Consumer appetite for gaming rose rapidly in 2020 with the creation of new platforms such as Apple's Arcade and Google's Stadia. Gaming also became more popular after the pandemic restricted people to their homes, industry experts said.
AD Gaming will allow Abu Dhabi to “capitalise on the gaming industry’s significant economic and cultural opportunity”, James Hartt, director for strategy and business development at AD Gaming, said.
This initiative will have a “long-lasting impact, creating job opportunities for local talent while simultaneously developing professionals with the skills that gaming firms need to grow their businesses”, he said.
Abu Dhabi’s media and entertainment hub, twofour54, will provide space within the free zone for businesses that make use of its gaming, e-sports and virtual reality licences, as well as subsidies for new partner companies.
Fifteen new gaming and e-sports businesses will join the free zone’s Yas Creative Hub when it opens in the fourth quarter of this year. These include the Emirates Esports Association, Boss Bunny, Kashkool Games, Khousouf Games and RobocomVR, among others.
Yas Creative Hub will feature a purpose-built gaming hub, operated in partnership with industry giant Unity Technologies, which will provide a physical home for the gaming industry in Abu Dhabi.
Under the new initiative, Unity Technologies will offer a ‘Train-the-Trainer’ development programme that aims to equip teachers with the skills to pass on knowledge to their students, developing their artificial intelligence, virtual reality, game development and coding skills.
AD Gaming is working with educational institutions such as Abu Dhabi University, NYU Abu Dhabi, Higher Colleges of Technology and University of Sharjah. It will also link students to gaming and e-sports partners to gain real-time industry experience.
The initiative will also launch a website for the gaming community including an e-sports events calendar, a directory for game studios and companies that are based in Abu Dhabi. It will also have a dedicated Twitch channel showcasing Abu Dhabi’s gaming talent.
Abu Dhabi has been investing to build a gaming ecosystem. Al Qana, a new waterfront destination, is building the emirate's largest e-sports and virtual reality gaming complex, Pixel, its developer Al Barakah International Investment said.