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


Saudi Arabia announces 10 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 10 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 39 min 31 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces 10 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 10 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 386,102
  • A total of 6,791 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 10 deaths from COVID-19 and 985 new infections on Thursday.
Of the new cases, 463 were recorded in Riyadh, 164 in Makkah, 140 in the the Eastern Province, 34 in Asir, 33 in Hail, 30 in Madinah, 21 in Jazan, 20 in Tabuk, 16 in Najran, 11 in the Northern Borders region, and six in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 386,102 after 661 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 6,791 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 6.6 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia to date.
The health ministry earlier called on people to attend their vaccine appointments and said that those who miss their appointment will be required to book another one.


Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia
Updated 15 April 2021

Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by Houthis toward Saudi Arabia, Al-Ekhbariya reported on Thursday.
The attacks targeting Jazan are the latest in a long line of hostile actions against the Kingdom by the Iran-back Houthi militia. 
Jazan University was one of the targets as well as other civilian sites protected under international humanitarian law, coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said in a statement on the Saudi Press Agency, adding that the actions amount to war crimes.
The attacks originated from Sa’dah governorate in Yemen, Al-Malki added.
The coalition said the attack is a continuation of the Houthis’ systematic and intentional hostile attempts to target civilians. 
The Houthis, who took over the capital of Yemen, Sanaa, in 2014, have been condemned for their actions against the Kingdom. 
The Saudi government has said the Houthi attacks are not only against the  Kingdom and its economic facilities, but rather the center of the global economy, the security of its exports and its oil supplies, while also affecting maritime navigation.

Saudi Arabia has consistently backed efforts to resolved the war in Yemen peacefully.
Last week, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman held talks with Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, and reiterated that the Kingdom supports “all efforts to end the conflict, implement a cease-fire, alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and reach a political resolution that guarantees peace and prosperity for the brotherly people of Yemen.”
In March, Saudi Arabia announce a peace initiative to help end a war that has ravaged Yemen for the last six years. The initiative, which has received wide support, includes a cease-fire supervised by the UN, the reopening of Sanaa airport, and new talks to reach a political resolution to the conflict. Restrictions on the Red Sea port of Hodeidah would also be eased, allowing access for ships and cargo.
The UN’s chief, Antonio Guterres, backed the deal and urged all sides to take this opportunity to pursue peace and work with his special envoy, Martin Griffiths, on ways to proceed “in good faith and without preconditions.”


Yemen’s information minister, Moammar Al-Eryani, said members of the international community with open channels to the Houthis must use their leverage to encourage it to sever ties with Iran and commit to the Saudi-led peace initiative.
“These countries must put pressure on the Houthis to stop their daily crimes and violations against civilians in their areas of control, which are considered war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Al-Eryani told Arab News in an interview last week.
A Yemeni news agency reported last month that the Houthis had “provisionally” accepted the Saudi initiative to end the war in Yemen, but were demanding unchecked flights from Sanaa airport to unlimited destinations before giving the peace plan their final approval.
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Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden
Updated 15 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden
  • In addition to providing artificial limbs, the facility will also offer maintenance of prosthetics, rehabilitation services and physiotherapy

LONDON: The Saudi-based King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) has officially opened an artificial limbs clinic in the Yemeni city of Aden, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

Qasim Buhaibeh, the Yemeni minister of public health and population, thanked KSrelief for its work to help the Yemeni people. He also praised the achievement of establishing the prosthetic limb facility, which he said “will contribute to providing medical services and alleviating the suffering of those who are injured and the victims of mines.”

Saleh Al-Dibani, the director of KSrelief in Aden, said the organization has provided the prosthetic limb center with the resources it needs to help 1,434 beneficiaries, including 300 new prosthetic limbs.

A KSrelief worker is seen with young patients at the new prosthetic limb center in Aden. (SPA)

He added that KSrelief is also providing resources for maintenance of prosthetics, rehabilitation services, physiotherapy, and to hire medical staff in coordination with the Yemeni Ministry of Health.

“The project of equipping and preparing artificial limbs is one of the most important projects funded by KSrelief in the governorates of Aden, Taiz, Seiyun and Marib, with the aim of supporting the Yemeni health sector,” said Al-Dibani.

The center is part of the framework of humanitarian and relief efforts being provided by Saudi Arabia, through KSrelief, to the Yemeni people.


Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom
Updated 15 April 2021

Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

RIYADH: The Asbar Center for Studies, Research and Communications announced the launch of the Asbar Observatory on Development, the first of its kind in monitoring and anticipating future development in the Kingdom.
Established in 1994, the Asbar Center is a scientific organization dedicated to conducting studies and research on development and policies.
Dr. Fahad Al-Orabi Al-Harthi, president of the Asbar Center, said the new observatory is one of the center’s initiatives. 
“The idea of launching the observatory comes within the framework of the center’s efforts to keep pace with developments witnessed in various fields in the Kingdom, in order to achieve its ambitious Vision 2030,” he said.
Through the observatory, Al-Harthi noted, the Asbar Center seeks to build a national system that contributes, in cooperation with the responsible authorities, to monitoring development needs and providing information to authorities.
Al-Harthi also said the observatory will assist decision-makers in shaping life in Saudi Arabia and anticipating its future through foresight tools. In preparation for a pioneering developmental journey that supports changes, the observatory will also anticipate future opportunities and challenges by analyzing their effects and developing innovative solutions to them.
“The mechanism of the Asbar Observatory project relies on the work of local and international development indicators,” Al-Harthi said.
“The observatory will focus on monitoring development and issuing reports to the competent authorities on progress, social innovation, sustainable development and social responsibility. It will also issue future forward-looking studies.”
Al-Harthi said he hopes the Asbar Observatory will enhance the Kingdom’s presence in various global fields while maintaining its distinguished international position.


Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king

Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king
Updated 15 April 2021

Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king

Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king

RIYADH: King Salman on Thursday appointed Prince Mishaal bin Majed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as adviser to the king, with the rank of minister, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Prince Mishaal has been governor of Jeddah since 1997 and a member of the Allegiance Council since 2007. 

He is president of the governing council of the assembly and president of the Social Development Forum and chairman of the board of the Society of Majid bin Abdul Aziz for Development and Social Services.