The gaming industry in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has been steadily growing over the past few years. It is a dynamic industry that includes the production and sale of video games, gaming hardware, and software. Additionally, it encompasses platforms such as mobile devices, consoles, and PCs.
By 2027, it is projected that MENA’s digital gaming revenue will almost double from its 2021 value of approximately $3 bn.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt are the top three gaming markets in MENA. These markets have a high number of gamers, a strong market presence, and significant growth potential.
Understanding the market is key to winning and leveraging opportunities in the gaming industry in MENA.
Background of the gaming industry in MENA
The history of gaming in the MENA region dates back to arcade games that were popular in gaming arcades and cafes. These games introduced the concept of interactive and immersive gameplay.
In recent years, mobile gaming has skyrocketed in popularity across the MENA region. This can be attributed to the widespread use of smartphones and increased internet accessibility.
As a result, there has been a significant surge in mobile gaming among different age groups. An example is Saudi Arabia, where more than 90 percent of the population owns smartphones.
In addition, the rise of technology and improved internet access also had a profound impact on the gaming industry in MENA.
Gaming market in the MENA region
The rapid growth of the MENA gaming market has attracted industry leaders and investors.
With its young and tech-savvy population, nearly half of whom are under 25, gaming has become a significant part of their entertainment. In fact, major game developers like Ubisoft, Minecraft, and Fortnite have recognized these young fans as some of the most dedicated.
Notably, industry leaders and investors identify Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt as the top three gaming markets in the region. The UAE boasts the highest revenue per user in eSports and ranks among the highest globally.
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi is emerging as a hotspot for gaming and esports, with many companies expanding their operations in the emirate.
Furthermore, Tencent Games, one of the highest-grossing multimedia companies globally, has established its regional headquarters in Dubai Internet City.
Initiatives and support for the MENA gaming industry
The gaming industry in MENA has benefited from government policies and regulations. Additionally, it has seen investment in gaming startups and companies, as well as collaborations with international gaming companies.
For example, in Saudi Arabia, the General Authority for Audiovisual Media allows for the licensing and operation of video games. This ensures compliance with cultural and ethical standards.
Similarly, the UAE launched the Arab Esports Federation in 2017 to promote and regulate esports activities in the region. These dedicated initiatives and support, among others, contribute to the growth and success of the MENA gaming industry.
Opportunities in the MENA gaming industry
- Developing localized games: Localized games can have tremendous potential, gaining support from local gamers and attracting international attention.
- Investment in gaming infrastructure: Governments and companies are building game development hubs and facilitating investments, providing opportunities for industry growth.
- Monetization strategies. As the gaming industry in MENA continues to grow, there are many opportunities to develop new monetization strategies. Subscription-based models, in-game advertising, and microtransactions are just a few strategies that could provide new revenue streams.
- Expansion into untapped markets. There are many untapped gaming markets that are just beginning to develop. For example, Algeria and Qatar could provide opportunities for companies to establish themselves as market leaders in these regions.
- Gaming education and training programs. The growing gaming market opens doors for specialized gaming education and training programs. Creating game-focused programs and institutions can meet the demand for skilled workers and promote talent development.
Frequently asked questions
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the gaming industry in MENA?
With lockdown measures and social distancing guidelines, more people turned to gaming as a form of entertainment and social interaction. The closure of traditional live entertainment options further contributed to the rise in gaming popularity.
Q: Are there any specific cultural or religious considerations that impact game development and release in the MENA region?
Yes, there are specific cultural and religious considerations to remember. These considerations include avoiding content that conflicts with Islamic values and respecting cultural sensitivities. Besides, game developers strive to incorporate local languages and traditions into game narratives and characters.
Q: How are gaming companies in the MENA region addressing the issue of piracy and intellectual property rights?
Gaming companies are implementing Digital Rights Management technologies to protect their games. Furthermore, they are partnering with law enforcement agencies to combat piracy and raise awareness among gamers about respecting intellectual property rights. To add, some companies are also exploring alternative business models, such as free-to-play or subscription-based games, to reduce piracy risks.
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