The MENA region has been showing great interest and growth in the game industry for a while now. Rana Rahman, Raptor PR‘s Founder and CEO, reflected on the region’s recent growth, future potential, and why the Middle East and North Africa are such a strong sell against a soft market.
State of the MENA region game industry market
According to the Middle East North Africa Games Market 2022 report, the MENA-3 (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Egypt) game sector’s revenue was $1.76 billion in 2021, rising to $3.14 billion in 2025 at a 5-year CAGR of 13.8%. Consultants RedSeer (whose forecast of $5 billion is even more optimistic) explain this growth as being “Fuelled by increased spending by current gamers, time spent in-game by users and surging advertising revenue”. A tasty triumvirate indeed.
I expect to see further growth beyond the established audience with improved access to hardware and infrastructure. As Fast Company Middle East writes, “The number of gamers in the region keeps going up as smartphones, PCs and consoles become available to more of the region’s population”.
Youth Gone Wild
The total number of MENA-3 gamers reached 65.32 million in 2021, rising to 85.76 million by 2025, and nearly half of the MENA population is under 25 years old. YouthPolicy.org used data from the Middle East Youth Initiative to show that, “In the Arab countries’ populations, young people are the fastest growing segment, some 60% of the population is under 25 years old, making this one of the most youthful regions in the world, with a median age of 22 years compared to a global average of 28”. Despite high enrolment in secondary education, a quarter of these young people are unemployed – creating a young, educated, and motivated pool of talent that’s ideally suited to embrace a career in games and emerging tech.
Having attended a couple of industry events in MENA recently (as well as Mobidictum Business Conference #2 in Istanbul, often seen as a gateway to parts of MENA), I have been amazed by the sheer amount of diversity and energy on show. The passion for games is palpable and I came away genuinely excited for the future of the games industry in the region.
There are several organisations actively supporting the region’s games industry:
- Launched this year, Raptor PR client Sandsoft Games’ Riyadh studio is nurturing local talent through a first-of-its-kind paid internship program in the MENA region called Press Start. Game creators will be able to develop their own games with guidance from the company’s games industry veterans. See Mobidictum write up, here.
- The Game Changers program is backed by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), offering apprenticeships and support for those seeking industry employment.
- Arabic Games was set up by Epic Games Technical Evangelist Joseph Azzam. They’re planning an online university in Arabic dedicated to game development and launching next year.
- The newly formed Africa Game Developers Association already has members from more than 18 countries.
- The IGDA opened its Riyadh chapter this year.
A special mention for Saudi Arabia
Of all the MENA-3 countries enjoying elevated growth in the games industry, Saudi Arabia is leading the charge. Niko Partners describes the kingdom as, “The gaming powerhouse of Arabic-speaking nations in MENA, balancing population size with high spending power yielding the highest revenue.”
A recent survey found that half of Saudi Arabia’s population define themselves as regular gamers. In January of this year, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reported that Saudi Arabia has 23.5 million gamers – or 67% of its population – 90% of whom play esports. BCG expects the market to reach $6.8 billion by 2030, with an average CAGR of 22%. The report found that, “The kingdom’s leadership now has an opportunity to capitalise on the widespread passion for gaming and translate the current high level of consumption intensity to a corresponding production intensity.”
In September 2022, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the National Gaming and Esports Strategy as part of Vision 2030 with the ambition to, “Diversify the economy, create new jobs in various sectors, and provide world-class entertainment for citizens, residents and visitors alike.”
A statement from the Saudi Press Agency says that, “The National Gaming and Esports Strategy is driven by the creativity and energy of our citizens and gamers, who are at the heart of the strategy. We are delivering on the ambitions of the gaming community in Saudi Arabia and around the world, with an exciting new career, and unique entertainment opportunities; aiming to make Saudi Arabia the ultimate global hub for this sector by 2030.” The gaming strategy is expected to create over 35,000 jobs and contribute $13.3 billion to the country’s GDP by the end of the decade.
Such is the establishment’s commitment to games as a growth sector, sovereign wealth fund the Public Investment Fund (PIF) established the Savvy Games Group to invest $37.8 billion in overseas games companies. It’s already acquired stock in notable brands such as Nintendo and Capcom.
Gamers, game makers and investors
It’s well established now that the games industry experienced double-digit growth during COVID-19 lockdowns around the world. But even as global business softens, MENA territories continue to enjoy robust growth.
I expect the MENA region to show further growth that consistently and considerably outstrips more established territories, with huge potential for overseas investors, developers and publishers looking to extend their international markets.
Thanks to the combination of a youthful population with a dedication to gaming, increasing hardware availability, developing infrastructure, and government support all pointing towards continued expansion for the industry, MENA remains a strong sell against a soft market for gamers, game makers and investors alike.
About the author
Rana has been delivering highly-valued communications counsel to world class tech brands for two decades. He specialises in driving impactful campaigns for brands at the intersection of video games, media and Web3. His brand experience includes working for some of the world’s leading gaming, media and tech brands.
His objective for Raptor is to deliver best-in-class local services with global reach, unshackled by location, time-zone and resource. His goal for Raptor PR is to perfect a diverse, data-driven, virtual agency model that’s capable of adapting to rapidly changing client needs and variable economic conditions. Raptor PR client experience includes Sandsoft Games, Gismart, Tenjin, Dubit, Admix, GameBake, Bidstack, Metanomic, Tiny Digital Factory, Coda Labs, Tappx, Gamestream, Playable Factory.