Today, the MENA region’s domestic market is the fastest growing in the world, touting over 377 million estimated players – this is almost as many gamers as all of Europe combined (386 million) and much more than America (210 million).
Along with this booming global success, there’s more and more local development talent sprouting in the area and creating for the local players.Tamatem, one of the MENA region’s leading developers only founded in 2013, now has a total value of over $80 million while specialising in localising internationally renowned games to suit Arabic-speaking users.
The growth in this region is beyond impressive, and it’s expected to reach new heights – a recent report suggests the MENA games market will reach more than $5 billion by 2025, with a majority of this growth fuelled by increased spending by current gamers, time spent in-game by users and surging advertising revenue, according to the report by RedSeer. This is being linked back to a growing interest from consumers that are typically underserved in the region, spanning various demographics such as females and Gen X, as well as the overall gaming market boom provided by the pandemic over the past few years. Another report by Business Wire believes that growth will also be driven by higher spending per user, and additionally attributes government support across games and esports.
Gaming by the numbers in the UAE
As the games industry evolves, so does the masses’ general attitude towards gaming. According to Dubai Economy, recent advancements in gaming technology to tell more evocative stories, adapt to players’ individual decisions and have movie-quality impact through audiovisual design and immersive dialogue, are embedding gaming culture into Emiratis’ daily lives like never before. Access is easier than ever due to the prevalence, ease of availability and rising popularity in the free-to-play model with mobile games, and you can see it in the numbers when it comes to gamers in the UAE. Nine out of ten adults in the UAE play video games, and 90% of respondents in a Global Consumer Survey by Statista considered themselves gamers, with 23% identifying themselves as frequent players, meaning they play at least 11 hours per week.
In 2023, the UAE’s gaming market is projected to reach over 306 million USD. The UAE’s games industry touts an annual growth rate of over 5%, so by 2027, the projected market volume will reach over 372 million USD. The biggest contributor to this is the mobile gaming enjoyed by casual users, with this sector expected to reach a market volume of 176 million USD in 2023. When asked about the growth of the sector in the UAE, Emirati gaming content creator Omar Alali said he thinks “the results of the survey show that there is a huge interest in futuristic technology and creativity in the UAE.”
Government-backed steps towards building the future in gaming in the UAE
If we know one thing, it’s that the UAE, and Dubai in particular, is an innovative urban metropolis that focuses on creating the next biggest, best thing and the creativity found there is limitless. They’re paving the way for the future in so many industries, and gaming is one of them. The rising popularity of gaming in the UAE can also be seen in the growing number of esports events taking place there, and the first-ever Games For Change Summit in the Middle East was hosted in late 2022, driving positive and environmental change in the gaming and esports sectors in the area. The interest and presence of esports and other gaming events is expected to increase in the coming years with a government-led initiative to transform the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, into a global hub for gaming and esports by providing a platform for game developers, players and business to thrive.
In 2023, the UAE’s gaming market is projected to reach over 306 million USD.
AD Gaming is building the foundation for a self-sustaining gaming ecosystem in the emirate by supporting a highly skilled local talent base through training programmes in universities across the UAE alongside Unity Technologies. These industry-leading courses will educate over 500 students, thoroughly nourishing the talent pool in the area and elevating both their depth of knowledge and real-world skillset to make entering the games industry more accessible to all.
Building the future of games in the UAE
A big reason why the UAE is such a promising market to the games industry is due to the immense potential to localise, meaning to adapt a product or content to suit a specific market and thereby more directly engage and form close connections with those specific markets. Arabic is the fifth most spoken language worldwide, and there are countless ways to integrate iconic landmarks and locations from the region in games content. Dubai is at the forefront of leading the efforts to bring greater connectivity to the games industry and building immersive gaming experiences particularly tailored to the market here, having ranked as “the capital of Arab media” in both 2020 and 2021.
Dubai’s establishing itself as its very own emerging tech metropolis and it is uniquely positioned to present an access point to the UAE from the world at large due to being a global hub for tourism that embraces both Arabic and English languages. Although Dubai’s official language is Arabic, English is the most commonly spoken language due to the massive number of expats living in the area. If you want to get business done in the region with the least amount of struggling through language barriers, Dubai is the place to be for games industry professionals.
The Dubai Chamber is committed to embracing gaming as an important part of the future success of the tech industry in the area. Vice Chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy Ahmad Bin Byat emphasised the numerous opportunities the Chamber is intent on creating for developers and gaming companies alike. “With an affluent, youthful, and gaming savvy population, the opportunities for local, global, and regional game developers is incredible. We need to work fast, decisively, and intelligently to create the right environment for all gaming sector companies to thrive. There’s no reason why Dubai cannot become a regional – if not global – gaming industry hub.”
In order to become a key global gaming industry location, Dubai has kicked off its efforts through the launch of the DMCC Gaming Centre in support of its growth as a key industry player in the global sphere in 2022. DMCC, the flagship free zone in the emirate, is currently home to more than 50 gaming companies, with everyone from game developers to esports teams present there. This is a vibrant centre for creatives in the games industry to work together in an innovative, collaborative community focused on getting business done. In 2022, DMCC partnered with global VC firm Brinc to provide its members with access to $150 million in funding through accelerator programmes that will also be available to DMCC Gaming Centre members focusing on developing games on blockchain and web3 technologies. The CEO of DMCC reaffirmed the Centre’s commitment to gaming by saying “As our roster of gaming companies expands rapidly and as we see more of our DMCC Crypto Centre members enter the blockchain gaming space, there is no better time to formalise our efforts by opening the DMCC Gaming Centre. Through this facility, we will solidify Dubai’s position as a global hub for all forms of gaming and esports.”