Saudi Arabia leads the Middle East’s Gaming & Esports Awakening
Over the years, the gaming & esports field has gained much significance across the globe.
From the US to the Netherlands, Hong Kong and South Korea, these markets have always been known for either their strong gaming development companies or their spectacular esports scenes.
All these hubs can attribute their success to two main elements. A very strong talent and community base. Yet, in comparison, the Middle East is a region that is rife with both talent and community but has not been tapped as a market for gaming or esports.
A region with 400 million gamers!
The Middle East is a region of over 400 million gamers, which also involves football-centric games, with above-average purchasing power, a unified language, and one of the most active gaming communities globally.
However, these amazing features have only made it a target region for increasing revenue for publishers and other organisations in the field.
Publishers have started their attempt to enter the market not by fully operating and benefiting from the talents they have to offer but by looking for ways to increase their footprint, Arabizing their content, and other quick wins that would get them more sales.
Additionally, many of the global esports ladders did not cater to professional players in the region and those that did never considered physical events in the region. Now, all of that is about to change.
Announcement of National Gaming and Esports Strategy
In September of 2022, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the National Gaming and Esports Strategy (NGES), which is a comprehensive 10-year investment plan to develop the entire gaming and Esports value chain. It was a message for all the gamers in the region and across the globe. It was a statement that Saudi Arabia sees your potential and will help you reach it.
This strategy had many objectives and aspirations but had set four main markers that if achieved would ripple across the entire sector. Achieving them would also mean that all other sub-objectives are moving well. In the first indicator, the plan points out that by 2030 Saudi Arabia will be home to more than 250 gaming companies creating countless career opportunities not only for gamers in the region but around the world.
The announcement of the strategy stated that the country will create over 39,000 jobs. The second indicator states, over the next 9 years, Saudi Arabia aims to have 30 locally developed games in the top 300 games globally. This not only provides opportunities to develop talent and create jobs but also an opportunity to develop games based that tells the story of a region and a culture that is hailed as the cradle of civilization. For the first time, the stories of the region will be told by the people of the region themselves and other others that depict them how they see fit.
What are the targets of the National Gaming and Esports Strategy?
The target is to be among the top three countries globally in the number of esports athletes per capita. Which sends a single to all those who are passionate about the field. Saudi Arabia is a country where you are welcome.
This directly links to the fourth and final indicator. Saudi Arabia has vowed that it will be home to the largest esports event globally by total viewership. This promise comes with the understanding that the country will be home to some of the most exciting tournaments the industry has seen.
Over the years, the effect of this strategy will be clear for all to see and judge, however, the country has not launched these plans on a blank slate. Over the past years and during one of the most difficult times in modern history, the Saudi Esports Federation launched Gamers Without Borders.
The world’s largest charity esports event that grew to donate over $30 million in 3 years. They have also organised the ambitious Gamers8, which is the world’s largest gaming & esports festival just by sheer size and duration. That doesn’t mean the prize pools were negligible. They were anything but. They were higher than any other 3rd party tournament and had some equal publisher prize pools.