The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a fast-growing gaming market that has evolved from casual gaming to virtual reality games and competitive sports, according to a new whitepaper by YouGov that surveyed 24 markets including the UAE and KSA. With a growing community of active gamers and high internet penetration, the gaming and esports industry in the MENA region is likely to witness a boom in the future.
The UAE and KSA rank among the top 10 global markets for YouTube Gaming in terms of awareness and engagement with the platform among gamers. This highly engaged gaming audience in the region presents a huge opportunity for game developers and console manufacturers.
In the KSA, Twitch enjoys a level of engagement that is equivalent to its level of general awareness among the gaming population in the country. Although Twitch has a wider familiarity in Western markets, when it comes to engagement with the platform, Saudi Arabia wins the worldwide race, along with Taiwan.
While Facebook Gaming is a relative newcomer to the space, more than half of the gamers in Egypt (53 percent) are familiar with this platform. Even though Southeast Asian countries are ahead of other markets in terms of awareness for Facebook Gaming, Egypt leads the global race when it comes to engagement with the platform at 25 percent.
In fact, in the MENA region, Egypt has the highest population of gamers at 68 percent, followed by the UAE (65 percent) and KSA (61 percent).
Within the MENA region, mobile gamers — playing on a smartphone or tablet — clearly outnumber PC or console gamers. In Egypt, just 14 percent play on consoles compared to 58 percent who use a smartphone or tablet. In the KSA, 20 percent play on consoles versus 52 percent on mobile, while in the UAE, 21 percent play on consoles versus 57 percent on mobile.
A majority of smartphone gamers in the UAE (79 percent), KSA (76 percent) and Egypt (73 percent) are light to regular players, playing games on their smartphones up to 10 hours a week. Only a small proportion in each country identified as heavy or intense gamers (playing for more than 10 hours a week).
When it comes to esports, among the 24 surveyed markets, countries in the Middle East tend to be less familiar with the games, with the lowest familiarity level in the UAE at 26 percent. Even though familiarity with esports in the Middle Eastern markets is low, engagement is much higher than the highly aware Western markets like the US, UK, and several European countries, suggesting that residents are more likely to embrace these competitions once they know more about them, hinting at a bright future for gaming and esports in the region.
With regard to the whitepaper, Global Sector Head of Esports and Gaming at YouGov Nicole Pike said: “This year, the global video gaming industry has captured the attention of brands, marketers, and investors on a large scale. But this year has also highlighted just how quickly things can change in the gaming ecosystem, making it difficult for advertisers and sponsors to know if, when and how to spend wisely — and for gaming companies to determine how much more growth is on the horizon.”