Mobile game downloads in the Middle East shot up 28 per cent in March as many people were confined to their homes to stop the spread of the coronavirus, according to a mobile advertising agency.
The average amount of time per day spent on mobile gaming per user also increased by 24 per cent month-on-month, according to AdColony.
"Some 85 per cent of regional consumers are playing mobile games for relief, according to our survey conducted in late March,” said Volkan Bicer, general manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa at AdColony - one of the largest mobile advertising platforms with a reach of more than 1.5 billion users globally.
“Mobile games have always been popular in the Middle East,” he added.
The mobile gaming industry in the Middle East is set to grow by 25 per cent a year over the next two years, reaching $4.4 billion (Dh16.1bn) by 2022, according to a report issued in December by Amsterdam-based market research firm Newzoo.
Growth is being propelled by the region's young and fast-growing population, as well as a “deep penetration of smartphones", the report said.
“During these trying times, gaming has become a means of escapism and time filling for many,” according to Neil Campling, co-head of Mirabaud Securities’ Global Thematic Group.
“As a result, one of this year’s growth drivers is an increased interest in gaming due to Covid-19-related lockdown measures. However, the launch of the next-generation consoles towards the end of the year will also be a key contributing factor.”
By the end of 2020, Sony is set to release the Playstation 5 console, while rival Microsoft's console arm is set to launch the Xbox X.
Gaming is currently the most profitable form of entertainment in the world, with the industry split into mobile games, e-sports streaming, console purchases and more.
It is expected that the world’s 2.7 billion gamers will spend $159.3bn on games this year and the market will surpass $187.8bn by 2022, Newzoo's report said.
“Mobile gaming will be the fastest-growing segment [of gaming industry] in 2020, enjoying more than 11.6 per cent year-on-year growth globally,” said Tom Wijman, senior market analyst at Newzoo.
“Unlike previous years, emerging markets such as the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia will drive growth in coming months … with each market’s game revenues producing double-digit growth.”