The MENA region stands as a dominant force in the global Esports arena, accounting for over 56% of the billion-dollar Esports market, according to a report by Statista. The Middle East alone boasts a substantial gaming community, with over 377 million gamers. In a notable prediction, the MENA gaming industry is expected to experience remarkable growth. Projections suggest it will triple in size over the next two years, reaching $5 billion by 2025, up from an estimated $1.8 billion at present.
The visionary Oriental approach
Saudi Arabia is increasingly eyeing China’s thriving Esports industry as a promising avenue for investment and collaboration. Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, Chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation (SEF) and the Arab Esports Federation, highlighted the rapid growth of the gaming and esports sector in Saudi Arabia, aligning with the country’s Vision 2030 and economic diversification initiatives. Launched in 2016, Saudi Vision 2030 aims to drive economic and social reforms, with a strong focus on expanding into global markets and fostering regional and international relations.
China stands as the world’s largest single-country market for esports, with significant investments from tech giants propelling its gaming industry to new heights. Prince Faisal noted that China’s booming gaming sector has given rise to several world-class gaming companies continuously investing in innovative games and platforms.
In 2022, Saudi Arabia introduced its National Gaming and Esports Strategy, targeting a vast community of approximately 23.5 million gaming enthusiasts. This strategy is expected to contribute over 50 billion Saudi riyals annually to the kingdom’s economic prosperity by 2030.
Riyadh hosted the Next World Forum in August, a global industry event dedicated to shaping the future of gaming and esports through knowledge exchange and collaboration. The event brought together experts and pioneers from around the world, providing a platform for idea sharing and addressing industry challenges.
Saudi Arabia’s Savvy Games Group demonstrated its commitment to the sector by investing $265 million in VSPO, a Chinese Esports startup specialising in tournaments, venues, and production. As a result of this deal, Savvy, owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, now holds the largest equity stake in VSPO, signifying the kingdom’s increasing interest in the thriving Chinese esports landscape.
“We have achieved significant progress in building a thriving Esports ecosystem within the country by successfully establishing a network of gaming communities, creating spaces for gamers to connect and collaborate,” stated Prince Faisal.
“Given the opportunities provided by the Belt and Road Initiative and Saudi Vision 2030, the potential for business cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia will be unleashed in areas such as 5G, esports, trade in services, production of new energy vehicles and smart-city development,” stated Sun Fuquan, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development.
The Global Esports Federation and the Qatar Esports Federation have formalised a 10-year Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA), reaffirming Qatar’s dedication to fostering progress within the swiftly advancing esports sector.
In this strategic collaboration, Qatar will become a part of an extensive network of globally connected hubs, which encompasses GEF’s central headquarters in Singapore and ongoing initiatives spanning the Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceania, the Middle East, and Africa.
“This Strategic Framework Agreement marks a major milestone that underscores Qatar’s commitment to the development of esports. We look forward to supporting and collaborating with Qatar, leveraging their innovative spirit to contribute to the future growth and advancement of esports,” Chris Chan, President of the GEF, said.
“Our partnership with the Global Esports Federation through this agreement signifies Qatar’s commitment to driving growth in Esports. Together with the GEF’s global community, we are poised to take our Esports ambitions to new heights, aligning with our digital economic growth strategy. Qatar is excited to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of this thriving industry,” Sheikh Abdulla Bin Faleh Al-Thani, President of Qatar Esports Federation, said.
MENA Esports across 2022 and 2023
Undoubtedly, the MENA region has been experiencing a surge in Esports’ popularity for quite some time now. Notably, the United Arab Emirates recently hosted the Gamers Galaxy: Dota 2 Invitational Series Dubai 2022, which stands as the largest Dota 2 tournament in the region, boasting a prize pool of AED 1,000,000. This prestigious tournament was expertly organised by Galaxy Racer, the world’s largest esports, gaming, and lifestyle organisation, headquartered in Dubai. Teams from across the globe battled for the prize pool from March 2nd to 6th.
In May 2022, Esports Middle East LLC (ESME) orchestrated the finals of the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang MENA tournament in collaboration with MOONTON. The victorious team from this event earned the privilege to represent the region at the M4 World Championship.
On May 30th and 31st, the 2nd Annual MENA Gaming & E-Sports Summit 2023 was set to unfold at the Address Dubai Marina. This summit has quickly risen to become the premier B2B gaming and Esports event in the region, featuring a lineup of over 30 distinguished speakers.
As the MENA region continues to carve its path in the Esports world, we can anticipate even more exciting developments on the horizon.
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