According to recent data by Statista, the video gaming industry in the Middle East managed to reach $3 billion in 2017. Some of the region’s largest markets include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
While the idea of professional video gaming may be new in general, Saudi Arabia has already been stepping up its efforts to develop it into a fully-blown notion, as part of the country’s development strategy.
According to eSports Middle East CEO Saeed Sharaf, ‘The Middle East is one of the youngest regions in the world age-wise, as people of ages 15-29 make up to 25 percent of the population. However, diversion of wealth and different social structures have split the region into two: First is the Levant and North Africa area, where players mostly play on low to mid-range PCs, and the second is Gulf countries where it’s more popular to play on consoles which splits the type of competitions to some extent.’
Several countries in the area have already recognised eSports as an official discipline, including Egypt, Tunisia, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, owing to support from local associations. However, challenges abound with eSports still being perceived by many as an unproductive way of spending one’s time.
Partly because of this stigma, local stars have had difficulty being discovered and have been endorsed and supported by overseas sponsors and recruiters.
An auspicious moment for the state of eSports in the Middle East is the World Electronic Spots Games (WESG), an event organised by Chinese Alisports, a proponent of professional video gaming. As the event attracts sponsorship, participation and viewers, local supporting structures become more likely.
According to Dmarket CEO Vlad Panchenko, while eSports in the Middle East region may be brimming with potential, it would be important for any future investor to know how to create value for potential investors.
‘Nowadays, the esports is focused on monetization, and it is looking for a unicorn that will introduce the new ways of monetizing teams, players, sponsorships, media rights, etc,’ Panchenko added.