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ME esports industry to log in steady growth – Khaleej Times

Monday, Feb 28, 2022 | Rajab 28, 1443
Published: Thu 24 Feb 2022, 4:33 PM
The esports ecosystem in the UAE will continue to witness steady growth over the coming years, and not only attract a growing pool of both homegrown and international talent, but also investments in the sphere, experts said.
Speaking in a panel session at the Step 2022 Conference in Dubai, experts highlighted the state of the growing esports industry in the region, and where it is headed over the next few years.
Povilas Joniskis, partner at BCG, noted that there has always been an active gaming culture in the UAE and the GCC region, which has set the foundation for the growth of the esports industry. “Within the last five to 10 years, out of the top 15 most popular gaming franchises, every single one of them had to have a sports component of them.”
With the world emerging from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, creative industries such as gaming have become key drivers of social and economic growth. They are also one of the fastest growing economic sectors worldwide, with a market size estimated to be worth $218.7 billion by 2024. Research has shown that, in the UAE, the creation of a strong gaming and esports ecosystem will act as a catalyst to attract global talent and advance education in virtual reality, coding, game design, and development, amongst others.
According to a recent YouGov study, while familiarity with esports in the Middle East and North Africa region was lower compared to Asian countries like China and Taiwan, the population had much higher engagement compared to Western countries like the United States and the UK. The study went on to highlight that in the Middle East, Egypt has the highest gamer population at 68 per cent, followed by the UAE at 65 per cent, Saudi Arabia at 61 per cent, and Iraq at 57 per cent – these four countries have bigger gaming populations than France, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
However, challenges remain in the region, and without the proper infrastructure, funding, and support, most competitive gamers from the region choose to move and develop their careers abroad.
“What brands need is something continuous,” said Saeed Sharaf, founder and CEO of eSports Middle East. “The infrastructure for esports needs to be enhanced and this requires investments. Also, there is still a misconception about the nature of the sport. Many perceive it to be very different from traditional sports such as cricket or football which are seen as being a very strenuous activity. However, I like to offer them the example of motor racing, which involves a driver sitting behind a wheel, but is still seen as a legitimate form of sport.”
Looking ahead, he said that key players in the region will need to work on the environment, culture, and safety of the sport. Meanwhile, the industry has made a lot of progress in recognising the business potential of the sector.
Most recently, the Business Registration & Licensing sector at the Department of Economy and Tourism, Dubai, added 98 new economic activities across a number of vital sectors in 2021. The new activities cover specialised business sectors in Dubai and include Gaming Localization Services, Gaming Production Service Providers, and Video Games Consoles Manufacturing.
“One of the factors that placed Dubai at the forefront of technological advancement is its constant adoption of the latest and greatest in the digital world, and video games are a prime example,” said Sharaf. “By adding new economic activities in the gaming sector, Dubai enjoys a fortified position as a leading country in the region when it comes to digital entertainment and esports, which market is estimated at more than $170 billion, according to the latest statistics from the world of video games.”
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