In the Middle East region, Egypt has the highest population of gamers at 68%, followed by the United Arab Emirates at 65%.
While familiarity with esports in the Mena region was lower than in Asian countries like China and Taiwan, the population had much higher engagement compared to Western countries like the US and UK.
The esports ecosystem in the UAE will continue to grow steadily over the next few years, and will not only attract a growing pool of local and international talent, but also investment in the field, experts said.
Speaking during a panel discussion at the Step 2022 conference in Dubai, the experts highlighted the state of the growing esports industry in the region and its direction over the next few years.
BCG Partner Povilas Joniskis noted that there has always been an active gaming culture in the UAE and the GCC region, which has laid the foundation for the growth of the esports industry. “Over the past five to ten years, out of the 15 most popular game franchises, each of them had to have a sports component.”
As the world emerges from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, creative industries such as games have become key drivers of social and economic growth. They are also one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world, with an estimated market size of $218.7 billion by 2024. Research has shown that in the UAE, the creation of “a strong gaming and esports ecosystem will act as a catalyst to attract global talent and advanced education in virtual reality, coding, game design and development, among others.
According to a recent study by YouGov, while familiarity with esports in the Middle East and North Africa region was lower than in Asian countries like China and Taiwan, the population had a much higher engagement. higher than in western countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. The study went on to point out that in the Middle East, Egypt has the highest population of gamers at 68%, followed by the United Arab Emirates at 65%, Saudi Arabia at 61% and Iraq. at 57% – these four countries have larger player populations than France, Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
However, challenges remain in the region, and without the proper infrastructure, funding and support, most of the region’s competitive players choose to relocate and develop their careers overseas.
“What brands need is something continuous,” said Saeed Sharaf, Founder and CEO of eSports Middle East. “The infrastructure for esports needs to be improved and that requires investment. Moreover, there is still a misconception about the nature of the sport. Many perceive it as very different from traditional sports such as cricket or football which are considered a very strenuous activity, however, I like to give them the example of motor racing, which involves a driver sitting behind a wheel, but is still considered a legitimate form of sport.
Looking ahead, he said key players in the region will need to work on the environment, culture and sports safety. In the meantime, the industry has made great strides in recognizing the commercial potential of the sector.
Most recently, the Business Registration and Licensing Sector of the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism added 98 new economic activities across a number of vital sectors in 2021. The new activities cover specialist business sectors to Dubai and include game localization services, game production service providers and video game console manufacturing.
“One of the factors that has placed Dubai at the forefront of technological progress is its consistent adoption of the latest and greatest in the digital world, and video games are a prime example of this,” Sharaf said. “By adding new economic activities in the gaming sector, Dubai benefits from a strengthened position as the region’s leading country in digital entertainment and esports, whose market is estimated at more than 170 billion dollars. , according to the latest statistics from the world of video games.