What makes Saudi Arabia the GCC gaming industry’s hotspot

Saudi youths play at an electronic entertainment house now accessible to men and women during the the holy month of Ramadan in the Saudi Red Sea resort of Jeddah on May 15, 2019. – The Ramadan activity was organised by the Saudi General Entertainment Authority. (Photo by Amer HILABI / AFP)

DUBAI (RAHNUMA) Recent research shows that video gaming can unlock massive business potential for telecom operators in the GCC bloc’s rapidly growing gaming market. And Saudi Arabia is well placed to become a leader in the field as its gaming community looks to gain recognition internationally.

At the global level, gaming championships are becoming as important as any competitive sports events. Amid global coronavirus restrictions, online gaming has helped millions of people stuck at home maintain and build relations.

On a regional level, a new study by Strategy& Middle East, part of the PwC network, suggests that the gaming market in Saudi Arabia will expand rapidly and become the largest among the GCC countries.

Industry observers consider the phenomenon remarkable given the UAE’s leading position in the GCC gaming market as of 2018 and eSports’ relatively recent emergence in Saudi Arabia, spurred on no doubt by the social changes being ushered in by the Vision 2030 reform plan.

The Strategy& Middle East report, titled “Skin in the Game,” showed the GCC gaming market to be undergoing expansion at such a rapid pace that it could be worth $821 million by 2021 – up from $693 million in 2017.

The research covered Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, countries where new consoles released by Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft are snapped up by young men and women who find gaming to be a highly competitive and enjoyable hobby.

“Globally, the gaming industry has grown faster than anyone could have ever imagined,” said Hicham Fadel, a partner with Strategy& Middle East. “It is now a $129 billion-a-year business with an estimated 2.5 billion gamers worldwide.

“In terms of revenue, that is larger than annual worldwide box office, annual music streaming and album sales, and the combined annual take of the top five wealthiest sports leagues.”

In the GCC, the gaming market had expanded rapidly, according to Fadel, but like elsewhere in the world the mobile segment dominated the market when it came to revenue and penetration.

“There is clear growth in eSports events, competitions and investments in the GCC. New venues such as Challenge Arena and Clix gaming lounge in Saudi Arabia and the planned Dubai X-Stadium in the UAE, have sprouted and established several competitions to date, suggesting an increase in popularity,” he added.

The developments are happening as local eSports players are producing world-class results. In 2018, FIFA player Mosaad Al-Dossary, known online as “Msdossary,” became the first Saudi national to win the FIFA eWorld Cup, an event for which more than 20 million gamers attempted to qualify.

A year later, gamers in the Kingdom were thrilled when the country was chosen to host the region’s largest global gaming tournament, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Mobile Star Challenge World Cup.

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