What makes Saudi Arabia the GCC gaming industry’s hotspot

What makes Saudi Arabia the GCC gaming industry’s hotspot
A recent study suggests the video-gaming market in Saudi Arabia will expand rapidly and become the largest in the GCC bloc. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 August 2020

What makes Saudi Arabia the GCC gaming industry’s hotspot

What makes Saudi Arabia the GCC gaming industry’s hotspot
  • Study suggests video-gaming market in Kingdom will expand rapidly and become the largest in the GCC bloc
  • Global gaming industry is a $129-billion-a-year business with about 2.5 billion gamers worldwide

DUBAI: Recent research shows that video gaming can unlock massive business potential for telecom operators in the GCC bloc’s rapidly growing gaming market. And Saudi Arabia is well placed to become a leader in the field as its gaming community looks to gain recognition internationally.

At the global level, gaming championships are becoming as important as any competitive sports events. Amid global coronavirus restrictions, online gaming has helped millions of people stuck at home maintain and build relations.

On a regional level, a new study by Strategy& Middle East, part of the PwC network, suggests that the gaming market in Saudi Arabia will expand rapidly and become the largest among the GCC countries.

Industry observers consider the phenomenon remarkable given the UAE’s leading position in the GCC gaming market as of 2018 and eSports’ relatively recent emergence in Saudi Arabia, spurred on no doubt by the social changes being ushered in by the Vision 2030 reform plan.

The Strategy& Middle East report, titled “Skin in the Game,” showed the GCC gaming market to be undergoing expansion at such a rapid pace that it could be worth $821 million by 2021 - up from $693 million in 2017.

The research covered Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, countries where new consoles released by Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft are snapped up by young men and women who find gaming to be a highly competitive and enjoyable hobby.

“Globally, the gaming industry has grown faster than anyone could have ever imagined,” said Hicham Fadel, a partner with Strategy& Middle East. “It is now a $129 billion-a-year business with an estimated 2.5 billion gamers worldwide.

“In terms of revenue, that is larger than annual worldwide box office, annual music streaming and album sales, and the combined annual take of the top five wealthiest sports leagues.”

In the GCC, the gaming market had expanded rapidly, according to Fadel, but like elsewhere in the world the mobile segment dominated the market when it came to revenue and penetration.

“There is clear growth in eSports events, competitions and investments in the GCC. New venues such as Challenge Arena and Clix gaming lounge in Saudi Arabia and the planned Dubai X-Stadium in the UAE, have sprouted and established several competitions to date, suggesting an increase in popularity,” he added.

The developments are happening as local eSports players are producing world-class results. In 2018, FIFA player Mosaad Al-Dossary, known online as “Msdossary,” became the first Saudi national to win the FIFA eWorld Cup, an event for which more than 20 million gamers attempted to qualify.

A year later, gamers in the Kingdom were thrilled when the country was chosen to host the region’s largest global gaming tournament, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Mobile Star Challenge World Cup.

FASTFACTS

VIDEO GAMES IN NUMBERS

* $821 million - Projected value of GCC gaming market in 2021

* $129 billion - Annual value of business globally

* 2.5 billion - Estimated global population of video gamers

* 14 - Median number of hours every week spent playing video games in the UAE

Meanwhile, in the UAE the median number of hours spent playing video games each week has reached 14, according to the study.

Fadel said: “Similar to global growth trends, the gaming market in the GCC has been growing at a significant pace. The growth is fueled by the region’s young demographic, with half of the population under 25.

“Additionally, factors such as high social media engagement, significant video streaming activity, access to latest technologies and access to high-quality infrastructure enable the growth of the gaming market.”

Fadel noted that credit should also be given to governmental and non-governmental associations such as SAFEIS (the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports, which was established in the Kingdom in 2017) that were set up to support the growth of gaming.

Kevin Sebastian, a technology and gaming editor in Dubai, said: “Gaming is now a mainstream culture. More people, mainly kids, are watching major gaming sporting tournaments than the Super Bowl.

“While most parents aren’t aware of video games, there’s no mistaking that they are aware what Fortnite is because their kids play it.”

According to Sebastian, movies and TV shows were being produced based on video-games characters because people who played such games as children constituted today the audience for a new entertainment stream.

“With the Middle East being a new market, the region is very switched on when it comes to entertainment adoption,” he told Arab News. “Many brands, including the likes of Intel, Microsoft and Sony PlayStation, are focusing on the Saudi market because of the Kingdom’s efforts to open up on the cultural front.”

Pointing out that Saudi-based video gamers were now coming to the forefront in international tournaments, Sebastian said it was only natural they cultivated that player base.

“You have big game publishers like Ubisoft Middle East, Bandai Namco, Blizzard and many others that are localizing their content for an Arab audience and are putting Arab content creators first.

“Mobile gaming is currently the biggest industry because of the sheer accessibility; anyone can be a gamer,” he added.

Hani Suwwan, business development manager (Middle East and North Africa) at HyperX, said the projections about the gaming market were significant, as the GCC telecommunications industry had seen a drop in voice-related revenue.

A growing gaming market would mean more data being consumed – and offer an opportunity for telecommunications companies to diversify their portfolio.

“Key factors in accelerating the GCC gaming industry’s growth would be the launch of the PlayStation 5 and the new Xbox later this year,” he added. “Upcoming game titles and gaming competitions are key moments to look out for, too.

“There is currently a huge gap in local content, which presents an untapped opportunity for global brands to adapt their content for this market and spearhead localized content.”

Suwwan noted that the Dubai Free Zones Council’s recent announcement of a plan to set up a dedicated gaming free zone underscored the industry’s potential for rapid growth.

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READ MORE: Game on - The rise of eSports in the Middle East

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“Saudi Arabia is also investing heavily in gaming as it aims to become the gaming capital of the region,” he said.

Going forward, the roll-out of a state-of-the-art infrastructure in fiber and 5G from telecom operators is expected to guarantee high-speed experience and low latency – a vital factor for gamers, which will further attract them and eSports activities, such as competition hosting.

“The market will witness significantly larger investments in video gaming and eSports,” Fadel said.

“In video gaming, investment opportunities will lie in content creation, especially in localizing content, as well as in-game purchases, game hosting and gaming-payment solutions.”

Investment and venture opportunities will lie in eSports teams and players, leagues and competitions hosting, advertising and sponsorship, and in streaming services.




 A growing gaming market would mean more data being consumed – and offer an opportunity for telecommunications companies to diversify their portfolio. (Photo: Shutterstock)

“This will lead to a growth in startups and job opportunities across the gaming sector,” Fadel added. “Why not imagine a gaming or eSports future where teams compete for and trade players for significant amounts of money, and where startups in the region develop hit games than can rival the likes of (video game developers) EA Sports and Riot Games?”

Fadel’s gaming vision is not a certain future, but it is a possible one.

Sebastian expects Saudi Arabia to host large international tournaments going forward in view of the “obvious” untapped potential of the Virtual Reality (VR) market.

“As a gamer who was born and raised in the Middle East, it’s a great source of pride and joy to see where gaming has come in the region,” he said. “From a time, we had to get game CDs in magazines, the Middle East is now getting dedicated servers, store fronts and eSports-based gaming cafes.

“So, it’s fair to say gaming is going to keep growing with every generation.”

With most of the world forced to maintain social distancing, the inherently borderless nature of video games is giving new meaning to the term “socializing.”

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@CalineMalek


Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief, Moroccan envoy discuss cooperation

Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief, Moroccan envoy discuss cooperation
Updated 26 February 2021

Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief, Moroccan envoy discuss cooperation

Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief, Moroccan envoy discuss cooperation

JEDDAH: The secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, on Thursday received the Moroccan ambassador to Saudi Arabia and OIC permanent representative, Dr. Mustafa Al-Mansouri.
The envoy signed the statute of the Islamic Organization for Food Security on behalf of his country and discussed with Al-Othaimeen ways to further strengthen cooperation between the OIC and Morocco. Al-Othaimeen praised Morocco’s leading role within the organization and in joint Islamic action.


Who’s Who: Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany, executive president of Second Health Cluster

Who’s Who: Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany, executive president of Second Health Cluster
Updated 26 February 2021

Who’s Who: Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany, executive president of Second Health Cluster

Who’s Who: Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany, executive president of Second Health Cluster

Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany is the executive president of a group of Saudi healthcare facilities known as the Second Health Cluster. It includes King Fahd Medical City, Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz Hospital, King Saud Hospital for Chest Diseases, Al-Yamamah Hospital, and a group of primary healthcare centers in northeastern Riyadh.
Al-Yamany has also served as director of the National Neuroscience Institute, chairman of the board of directors of the Scientific Committee for Neurosurgery, medical director of neurology and head of the department of neurosurgery, both at King Fahd Medical City, and as a consultant of neurosurgery at the Riyadh Medical Complex.
He sat as chairman of the accreditation committee for health promotion at King Fahd Medical City, was a consultant of neurosurgery at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, and was an honorary professor of assistant clinical neurosurgery at King Saud University.
In addition, he held the positions of assistant executive director of medical departments and deputy executive director for medical affairs at King Fahd Medical City.
He is a representative of Saudi Arabia and an examiner on the Arab Board of Neurosurgery, and an executive partner of the Qimam Fellowship, which provides its fellows with one-on-one mentorship from senior public and private sector leaders.
Al-Yamany gained master’s degrees in health administration, and health management from Washington University, bachelor’s degrees in medicine, and surgery from King Saud University’s college of medicine in Riyadh.


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security
Updated 26 February 2021

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security
  • The talks dealt with ‘the most important issues in the region’
  • They discussed Iran’s destabilizing behavior and ending the war in Yemen

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Joe Biden discussed regional and global stability during a phone call on Thursday.
The two leaders stressed the importance of strengthening the partnership between the two countries and the depth of their historical relations, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
During the call, King Salman congratulated Biden on taking office last month.
The talks dealt with the most important issues in the region and reviewed developments of common interest, the report said.
The two sides discussed Iran’s behavior in the region, its destabilizing activities and its support for terrorist groups.
“King Salman thanked the US president for Washington’s commitment to defend the Kingdom against any threats and his assurance that Iran would not be allowed to possess nuclear weapons,” SPA said.
Biden commended the Kingdom’s support for UN efforts to reach a truce and a cease-fire in Yemen.
King Salman said the Kingdom was keen to reach a comprehensive political solution in Yemen and to achieve security and development for the Yemeni people.
A statement from the White House said the US president told King Salman he would work to make the bilateral relationship as strong and transparent as possible.


SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years

SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years
Updated 26 February 2021

SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years

SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years
  • Arab News spoke to Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan Al-Saud, SAF’s chairman, to discover more about the charity’s efforts since its launch in 2009

JEDDAH: The Saudi-based Charitable Society of Autism Families (SAF) has been assisting families with autistic children and pushing for greater community inclusion for more than 10 years now. But while awareness of autism in the region has improved in that time, there remains a stigma around and lack of understanding of the condition in the Kingdom.

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a person’s ability to communicate or socialize with others. It can lead to a variety of seemingly anti-social behaviors, including a lack of desire to interact with other people, displays of apparent hostility, avoidance of eye contact, repetitive patterns of behavior, and more.

Arab News spoke to Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan Al-Saud, SAF’s chairman, to discover more about the charity’s efforts since its launch in 2009.

“With the right health care and resources, combined with family support, some of the children on the spectrum can gain the necessary skills to lead a ‘normal’ life and, in some cases, demonstrate special talents and capabilities not common in the wider population,” Prince Saud said. “We see many inspiring examples in our society and we regularly showcase these success stories.”

Autism is commonly diagnosed by the age of three and is more prevalent in males than females. The first studies of autism appeared in the 1960s, but less-severe varieties of autism were not identified until the 1980’s. Today, three types of ASD have been identified — each with specific characteristics that help doctors diagnose patients. They are autistic disorder, also known as classic autism; Asperger syndrome; and pervasive developmental disorders, also known as atypical autism.

Prince Saud said it is difficult to produce an accurate estimate of how many people in the Kingdom have ASD, due to the lack of sufficient studies. “However, according to the US CDC, 1 in 54 children — across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups — has been identified with ASD, meaning an approximate 1-2 percent of the global population is on the spectrum,” he said “This percentage might be applicable to the Kingdom.”

One of SAF’s most-common methods of raising awareness is through its series of public seminars, but it has recently also become more active on social media, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from its campaigning work, the society also helps arrange the provision of services including rehabilitation, educational development, guidance and assistance from other organizations for the families it supports, as well as a range of online offerings, including consultations, lectures and workshops, and rehabilitation services.

“We will continue our efforts to create a welcoming community in which autism is well understood so that those on the spectrum and their families can get the support they need,” Prince Saud said.

 


Saudi Arabia is a critical partner: US Yemen envoy

Saudi Arabia is a critical partner: US Yemen envoy
Updated 26 February 2021

Saudi Arabia is a critical partner: US Yemen envoy

Saudi Arabia is a critical partner: US Yemen envoy
  • Prince Khalid and Lenderking discussed diplomatic efforts and Saudi Arabia’s commitment to finding a solution to the conflict and supporting Yemenis

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is a critical partner of the US, the country’s envoy to Yemen said on Thursday in talks about resolving the conflict.

“The US recognizes the conflict in Yemen cannot be resolved without Saudi support,” Timothy Lenderking said after a meeting with the Kingdom’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman.

Prince Khalid and Lenderking also discussed diplomatic efforts and Saudi Arabia’s commitment to finding a solution to the conflict and supporting Yemenis.