With half of Saudis turning gamers, eSports to add $21bn to GDP

With half of Saudis turning gamers, eSports to add $21bn to GDP
Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan. (Arab News)
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Updated 18 November 2021

With half of Saudis turning gamers, eSports to add $21bn to GDP

With half of Saudis turning gamers, eSports to add $21bn to GDP
  • Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, president of the Kingdom’s esports federation, said the sector has the potential to contribute billions of dollars to the local economy
  • Analysts predict that global revenues from esports will grow to more than $1.08 billion in 2021 and will surpass $1.6 billion by 2024

RIYADH: Electronic gaming, or egaming, is an increasingly popular activity, with a recent study suggesting that 50 percent of the Saudi population consider themselves regular gamers.

A frequent criticism of electronic gaming is that it is a waste of time with little or no economic value. However Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, president of the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports, believes e-gaming and eSports, which is the term for competitive video gaming, have the potential to contribute billions of dollars to business, job creation and gross domestic product in the Kingdom.

“When you talk about the potential in the Saudi market, one of the first things that I think back to is that we did a study with the Ministry of Sports and more than 23, 24 percent of the population considers themselves avid gamers who play more than once a week,” the prince told Arab News on Tuesday at the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh.

“About 23, 24 percent-plus consider themselves regular gamers who play more than once a month. That’s almost 50, if not more than 50, percent of the population that consider themselves gamers.”

The prince predicts that the sector will contribute about 1 percent of Saudi GDP by 2030, which might seem a small proportion but the amount of money potentially involved is significant.

“Do we really want to say 1 percent?” he asked. “Is that really a number? It sounds really small. They said, ‘That is worth more than SR80 billion ($21 billion),’ and I said I’ll go with 1 percent. That sounds like a really good number to me, and that’s both from direct and indirect job creation and GDP creation through the gaming and e-sports industry.”

According to the Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report, published in March by games and esports analyst Newzoo, global revenues from esports, or competitive video gaming, are projected to grow to more than $1.08 billion in 2021, an increase of 14 percent on the previous year.
 

Market and consumer data company Statista predicts that global esports revenue will surpass $1.6 billion by 2024.

Like their counterparts in other countries, a growing number of Saudis are taking part in esports and streaming their gaming activities on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch. Audience numbers are also growing.

Video gaming and esports are known for fostering creativity, collaboration and leadership, skills that are highly valued in the business world. Consequently, esports and egaming can provide a path to a range of careers and employment opportunities. And as the esports sector grows, these could increasingly include opportunities for tournament organizers.

The esports industry in Saudi Arabia has experienced impressive growth in the past few years, and the Kingdom has stepped up its efforts to support it. SAFEIS held its first esports/gaming tournaments in the Kingdom recently and more are planned. Other tournaments are hosted by platforms such as the Saudi-based KAFU Games.

Meanwhile there are plans for an esports academy as part of the NEOM smart city development. And for those interested in the development of games, Tuwaiq1000 has offered course for beginners interested in learning how to program from scratch, or for professionals who want to refine their programming skills.

Thanks to all this support that is increasingly available, “sooner rather than later Saudi Arabia will become a world leader in esports,” according to academic Ali Alshammari, a game developer and researcher from Tabuk.

Gaming and esports therefore represent an emerging opportunity for Saudi authorities to support and develop a new sector that can make a significant contribution to non-oil revenues, in keeping with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.

“We are a part of a global community,” said Prince Faisal, who added that it is important for this community to come together and dispel misconceptions about gaming and esports.

“There are two things I want people to always remember about gaming,” he said. “Try and be positive. And please don’t ever forget that at the end of the day, gaming is about fun and if you are not having fun then you shouldn’t be doing it.”


US investment bank Moelis to open Riyadh office, hire Saudis

US investment bank Moelis to open Riyadh office, hire Saudis
Updated 26 November 2021

US investment bank Moelis to open Riyadh office, hire Saudis

US investment bank Moelis to open Riyadh office, hire Saudis

RIYADH: US investment bank Moelis & Co. plans to open an office in the Saudi capital Riyadh and will soon begin hiring staff in the Kingdom, Bloomberg reported.

The New York-based company sees the Kingdom attracting more foreign investors and benefiting from an “energy supercycle,” Vice Chairman Eric Cantor said in an interview.

The boutique financial adviser, founded by Wall Street veteran Ken Moelis, wants to do more deals in the region as the world’s biggest oil exporter prepares for as many as 160 privatizations in 2022, as well as a flood of initial public offerings to the Kingdom’s stock market.

“We are waiting for a final stamp on our license,” Cantor said. “It’s forthcoming and part of that is hiring Saudis,” he said, without saying how many people the bank wants to employ.

Moelis has its main office for the Middle East in Dubai. The move to open one in Riyadh comes as Saudi Arabia pushes international firms to relocate their regional headquarters there.

 


Oil demand to return to 2019 levels by end of 2022: Baker Hughes CEO

Oil demand to return to 2019 levels by end of 2022: Baker Hughes CEO
Updated 26 November 2021

Oil demand to return to 2019 levels by end of 2022: Baker Hughes CEO

Oil demand to return to 2019 levels by end of 2022: Baker Hughes CEO

RIYADH: Oil demand will return to 2019 levels by the end of 2022, despite some delays in projects due to repercussions from the pandemic, Baker Hughes CEO Lorenzo Simonelli told Al-Arabiya.

National oil companies in the Middle East have been preparing for the increased demand, while international oil companies, especially those in North America, have been maintaining financial discipline in returning funds to shareholders, he said.

However, some independent oil companies have already begun to increase their capital spending, he said.

Currently, Baker Hughes sees an improvement in oil and gas services activity, not only in North America, but also in international basins with low costs, he said.

When it comes to developing its products, Baker Hughes always takes into account carbon emissions and the Texas-based energy services company is trying to shift its sources in its manufacturing operations to renewables and has contracted with suppliers, Simonelli said.

The company pledged to reduce carbon emissions of the first and second scope by 50 percent by 2030, and to zero by 2050, Simonelli said. The company is now concerned with dealing with third scope emissions, he said.

 


Saudi Arabia startups see huge growth in eco-friendly ‘impact’ funding 

Saudi Arabia startups see huge growth in eco-friendly ‘impact’ funding 
Updated 26 November 2021

Saudi Arabia startups see huge growth in eco-friendly ‘impact’ funding 

Saudi Arabia startups see huge growth in eco-friendly ‘impact’ funding 

RIYADH: Venture capital impact investment in Saudi Arabia reached a new high in 2021 in both total number of transactions and capital deployed, according to a report produced by MAGNiTT and Saudi Aramco.

Impact investments are those aimed at generating a measurable social and environmental benefit alongside a financial return. 

Impact funding in the Kingdom up to the third quarter of 2021 was 130 percent higher than in 2020 in terms of funding, and 21 percent higher in transactions.

Some $444 million were invested through 403 deals with impact-driven startups across the Middle East and North Africa between 2016 and the third quarter of 2021, according to the report.

Of those deals, 20 percent involved Saudi-based firms.

Flat6Labs was the leading impact investor in startups based in the MENA region with 45 transactions between 2016 and the third quarter of this year to date. 

The Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Center, 500 Startups, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Innovation Fund, Oasis 500 and Falak Startups invested in 12 or more funding rounds raised by impact-driven startups in MENA.

The education and healthcare technology sectors accounted for the highest share in total impact VC deals, collectively registering 40 percent of all transactions in MENA from 2016 to the third quarter of this year to date.

The energy sector played a key role in impact investments across MENA, with 95 percent of all funding going to startups within the impact ecosystem.

 


Cryptocurrencies tumble on COVID-19 variant; virtual land sells for $2.5m: Crypto wrap

Cryptocurrencies tumble on COVID-19 variant; virtual land sells for $2.5m: Crypto wrap
Updated 26 November 2021

Cryptocurrencies tumble on COVID-19 variant; virtual land sells for $2.5m: Crypto wrap

Cryptocurrencies tumble on COVID-19 variant; virtual land sells for $2.5m: Crypto wrap

Bitcoin led a rout in cryptocurrencies on Friday as investors fled assets considered riskier, including stocks and commodities, and headed for the refuge of government bonds, the Japanese yen and the US dollar.

Concerns over a new COVID-19 variant that may evade vaccines and spread more quickly than previous mutations were seen as responsible for the movements.

Bitcoin, the largest digital currency, fell as much as 9.2 percent to $53,551, its lowest since Oct. 10. That would be Bitcoin’s biggest one-day decline since Sept. 20, leaving it more than one-fifth lower since hitting a record high of nearly $70,000 earlier in November.

The second-largest cryptocurrency, Ether, fell over 13 percent to its lowest in a month, trading at $3,924, down almost 20 percent from its record high, hit on Nov. 10.

A number of European and Asian nations have suspended travel to and from southern Africa after a potentially more deadly COVID-19 variant emerged in Botswana and South Africa. The variant has so many mutations that current vaccines may not be effective against it, according to scientists.

“The spread of (the variant), especially to other countries, could wither investor appetite further,” said Yuya Hasegawa at Tokyo-based exchange Bitbank. “BTC's upside will likely be limited and the market should brace for further loss.”

While cryptocurrencies wobbled, a plot of land in Axie Infinity, an animated, metaverse pet-training game, sold for $2.5 million on Thursday, according to a tweet on the game’s Twitter account.

The sale, for 550 ether, was the highest for a single plot of virtual land, according to the tweet. The transaction was for a section of Genesis land, one of several types available in the game.

A larger sale of virtual real estate took place on Monday in Decentraland. In that transaction, 618,000 MANA, worth about $3.2 million at the time, bought 116 land parcels, according to Tokens.com, whose Metaverse Group subsidiary made the purchase.

Interest in the metaverse has surged in recent months, spurred by Facebook, which changed its name to Meta in October in a sign of its increasing focus on the sector.

Revenue from virtual gaming worlds could grow to $400 billion in 2025, from $180 billion in 2020, Grayscale Investments said on Thursday. The overwhelming majority of that $400 billion will be in-game spending, compared to spending on premium games, the company said.

Grayscale defined the metaverse as “interconnected, experiential, 3D virtual worlds where people located anywhere can socialize in real-time to form a persistent, user-owned, internet economy spanning the digital and physical worlds.”


Anghami to complete US merger ‘soon,’ CEO says

Anghami to complete US merger ‘soon,’ CEO says
Updated 26 November 2021

Anghami to complete US merger ‘soon,’ CEO says

Anghami to complete US merger ‘soon,’ CEO says
  • Maroun said the company’s priority is growth not profitability as it seeks to increase its market share from 6 percent

RIYADH: Lebanon’s Anghami, known as the Spotify of the Arab world, will not postpone its merger with the blank-check company Vistas Media in a potential $90 million deal, according to the firm’s CEO.

Eddie Maroun said the agreement had suffered a delay due to the procedures of the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US, but the deal will still go ahead.

The process is currently in its final stages, and the implementation will be announced very soon, he told Al-Arabiya on Thursday.

Maroun said the company’s priority is growth not profitability as it seeks to increase its market share from 6 percent.

He expects Anghami to achieve profitability within three years, he added.

Subscriptions represent 80 percent of the company’s revenue with the rest coming from advertising, Maround said.

Founded in 2012 in Lebanon, Anghami is the first legal music streaming platform in the Middle East and North Africa region.