Gaming in the Mena region: an untapped opportunity

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - The Mena region is home to the world's most active gaming community Image Credit: Shutterstock

In 13 December, gaming enthusiasts all over the world will be turning their attention to Bahrain. The Kingdom will be playing host to the BLAST Pro Series CS:Go global final – a two-day esports tournament bringing together the world’s best players of the enormously popular multiplayer first-person shooter video game.

Gamers from as far as Brazil, the US, Denmark and even Bosnia and Herzegovina will compete for their team to take home the winning title and the $500,000 prize money.

The high-profile event is the latest in a long line of gaming events to be held in the Kingdom, with previous highlights including the IGN Convention and DreamLand Expo. The global esports industry has exploded in popularity in recent years, with millions of dollars in prize money awarded and millions of fans tuning in from home to watch their favourite players compete live in mega-arenas.

Industry research group Newzoo estimated esports revenues will top $1 billion for the first time this year, climbing 27 per cent from last year’s figures. Bahrain, with its strategic location, is fast emerging as the gateway to a still largely untapped gaming market in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) that is growing two times faster than the global average.

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Some 30 per cent of the GCC population play digital games, and gamers aged 18-24 (50 per cent of Mena’s population are under 25) are spending an average of eight hours per week on consoles Image Credit: Shutterstock

World’s most active gaming community

The Mena region is home to the world's most active gaming community. At 25 per cent year-on-year growth, it is the fastest growing online gaming population in the world (compared to 13.9 per cent in Latin America, 9.2 per cent in the Asia Pacific, 4 per cent in North America's and 4.8 per cent Western Europe). The Mena gaming market is set to triple in size to $4.4 billion by 2022, with gaming revenues in the GCC alone standing at $1.05 billion in 2016.

Some 30 per cent of the GCC population play digital games, and gamers aged 18-24 (50 per cent of Mena’s population are under 25) are spending an average of eight hours per week on consoles. Furthermore, at $181, MENA’s average average revenue per user (ARPU) is amongst the highest in the world – compared to just $48 in China.

Untapped opportunity

And yet despite these impressive statistics, companies outside of MENA continue to underestimate the region's potential. By sheer numbers, Arabic is one of the top five languages spoken globally, with more than 400 million speakers in MENA alone.

However, few game developers and publishers localise their content – with less than 3 per cent of content available online in Arabic, according to Internet World Stats 2019. With Arabic gamers clamouring for more content in their own language, there is a compelling opportunity for game localisation. Unlike Western markets, the fast-growing Arab gaming market remains undersaturated, and the time to strike is now.

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With Arabic gamers clamouring for more content in their own language, there is a compelling opportunity for game localisation Image Credit: Shutterstock

Hub for business

The Kingdom of Bahrain, which has long served as a gateway for businesses seeking to access the growing $1.5 trillion GCC markets, offers a compelling launchpad to this expanding opportunity.

With its highly educated, bilingual workforce and cost competitive environment that boasts some of the world’s fastest connection speeds, Bahrain is an ideal regional base for game developers. Ideal test market conditions are created by a flexible regulatory system, the rollout of commercial 5G nationwide and an ever-strengthening tech ecosystem – with the Kingdom ranked first in the Mena region for ICT readiness by the World Economic Forum.

Bahrain’s flexible, pioneering and pro-tech approach is already paying off. Gaming industry mega-phenomenon Fortnite has recently switched its server location for the whole of the Middle East to Bahrain, following Amazon Web Services launching the Middle East’s first hyperscale datacentre in the Kingdom. With the likes of Fortnite and CS:GO and tournaments such as BLAST Pro continuing to drive rapid growth in the Arab gaming industry, there is no question of this exciting opportunity.

The only question is – who will take it?

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This content comes from Reach by Al Khaleej Today, which is the branded content team of GN Media.

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