Gaming revenues are expected to almost double by 2027 from 2021 in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, reaching USD 6 billion, according to DMCC’s latest Future of Trade 2023 report titled ‘Gaming in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA): Geared for growth’. A young and digital-savvy population, high levels of digital connectivity, and government support are driving the region’s emergence as a consumer and creator hub.
Gaming and esports are both fast growing consumer segments, benefiting from rapid advancements in technology as well as broader and more inclusive audiences. The UAE and Saudi Arabia lead the region, supported by high income levels, strong digital engagement, and public investment initiatives. Globally, Asia Pacific constitutes the largest market share and China, the US, and Japan are the largest individual markets.
The report gathers contributions from key industry leaders including Jad El Mir, Partner at Strategy&, and Klaus Kajetski, CEO and Founder of YaLLa Esports, to establish the critical drivers of the industry’s accelerated growth in the MENA region and beyond. It also examines the impact on gaming and esports from a technology, culture, and business perspective, covering global consumer trends, the emergence of MENA as a gaming and esports hub, and the key challenges that the industry needs to address to increase revenues further.
Guiding the global industry’s accelerated growth from nearly USD 200 billion in revenues in 2021 to USD 340 billion in 2027, the report outlines a set of key recommendations for governments and businesses, namely:
- Diversify esports revenue streams from sponsorship to new direct-to-fan monetisation models – including digital merchandising, loyalty programmes and training platforms for amateur gamers – to boost revenues.
- Develop appropriate regulatory safeguards to ensure privacy, security and safety online in the digital gaming ecosystem and provide a business-friendly environment – including smoother visa systems to allow esports professionals and audiences to attend live events – to attract talent into the region and elevate it into a global industry leader.
Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, DMCC, said: “Gaming has come to the fore of entertainment globally, driving rapid growth especially in the MENA region, which now constitutes 15% of the global player base. The rise of gamification in areas such as education, healthcare, and other sectors has demonstrated gaming’s role in facilitating economic activity more broadly. Ensuring the accelerated growth of the gaming sector will have a measurable impact on the future of markets around the world, as well as the future of trade. As DMCC seeks to solidify Dubai’s reputation as a global trade and economic hub, efficiently activating opportunities within the gaming sector will prove essential.”
Among the most closely watched segments is esports, which is expected to post revenue growth of 23.3% between 2019 and 2024 in MENA. Fuelling this is the region’s young demographic, engagement from international broadcasters and sponsors, and government support. Tapping into this economic potential, DMCC partnered with YaLLa Esports, the Dubai-based professional esports organisation, to launch the DMCC Gaming Centre in December 2022. The Centre supports the growth of the industry in Dubai by providing gaming businesses with access to global capital, leading industry talent, and an ecosystem that allows them to operate efficiently and with confidence.
Due to the UAE’s strong business environment and infrastructure, as well as its status as a gateway to the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions, various international gaming developers have set up their regional headquarters in the country. Ubisoft is based in Abu Dhabi, while the gaming giant Tencent set up its MENA HQ in Dubai along with Riot Games. In Saudi Arabia, the kingdom has included gaming as a core element of its Neom project and has already made investments worth over $1.7 billion on the gaming industry.