Middle East gaming market grows the fastest: survey

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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A new survey reveals that the Middle East gaming market is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world which benefits software designers and equipment makers.

The regional industry has emerged from casual gaming to virtual reality games, eSports and competitive knockouts that involve gamers across the world, the paper titled ‘Gaming and eSports: The Next Generation’ by online market research company YouGov.

“This highly engaged gaming audience in the region presents a huge opportunity for game developers and console manufacturers. The eSports industry in MENA (Middle East and North Africa) is likely to witness a boom in the future,” the survey report stated.

This fast-paced growth is mainly driven by youth in the region who constitute the majority of active gamers and the interference of smartphones and the internet. In 2020, the movement restrictions and lockdown imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the creation of platforms like Apple’s Arcade and Google’s Stadia has also propelled appetite for gaming.

One of the interesting findings from the survey is that a good percentage of the subsection of players enjoys watching video games online as much as gaming itself, mainly through platforms like Twitch, YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming.

The world’s largest Arab economies, the UAE and Saudi Arabia top among the list of 10 global markets for YouTube Gaming, considering awareness and engagement, according to YouGov’s survey.

YouGov Survey
A huge percentage of players enjoy watching video games online as much as gaming itself.

The YouGov’s survey was conducted in September and had about 24,000 participants from 24 markets including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, China, the US, India, Germany, the UK, Australia, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, Spain, France and Italy.

Globally the gaming industry worth nearly $148.8 billion, whereas the Middle East and Africa market are only accountable for 3 percent of it with $4.8 billion, as per last year’s study by market research firm Newzoo.

Medium of gaming

The gaming industry is split into mobile games, eSports streaming, console purchases and more and it is currently the most profitable entertainment business in the world.

Egypt, the region’s most populous country, has the highest proportion of gamers at 68 percent, followed by the UAE (65 percent) and Saudi Arabia (61 percent).

In the MENA region, mobile gamers playing on a smartphone or tablet are higher than PC or console gamers. In Egypt, just 14 percent play on consoles while smartphone or tablet gamers are 58 percent. In the UAE, 21 percent play on consoles, 28 percent on PCs and 57 percent on mobiles. In Saudi Arabia, about 52 percent use mobiles for gaming.

About 79 percent of smartphone gamers in the UAE, 76 percent in Saudi Arabia and 73 percent in Egypt are light-to-regular players, playing for up to 10 hours a week, a YouGov report showed.

“This year the global video gaming industry has captured the attention of brands, marketers and investors on a large scale,” said Nicole Pike, global sector head of eSports and gaming at YouGov.

Games by international creators like PUBG, Intikam Al Salatin, Fortnite and Rise of Kingdoms hold the majority of Gulf market share.

Regional developers including Beirut-based gaming studio Falafel Games and Amman-based Arabic mobile game publisher Tamatem have started to get a grip in the market by creating culture-based content.