MIAMI: Saudi Arabia’s youth are driving innovation in the gaming and esports sector thanks to the Kingdom’s growing investment and commitment to developing it as a viable career choice, the chief of the Saudi Esports Federation said on Thursday.
However, Prince Faisal bin Bandar said that the Kingdom, and the global esports sector as a whole, could do more to make the industry even more inclusive, especially for women.
Valued at $1.38 billion in 2022, the global esports market is forecast to be worth $1.87 billion in 2025, and with 377 million esports gamers in the Middle East, the region is expected to become the fastest-growing gaming region in the world.
With a large youth population and high smart phone and Internet use rates, in Saudi Arabia alone, 68 percent of the country’s citizens consider themselves gamers. The Kingdom is also set to host Gamers8 this summer, the world’s largest esports and gaming event.
“This next generation are living (esports), they are the ones pushing the innovation,” Prince Faisal said. “Our job, and what we’re doing in Saudi Arabia, is putting the tools in place for them to take it and run with it, to take the lead, and we can just get out of their way,” he said.
While US content dominates the TV, film and music markets globally, gaming is much more an international industry that has allowed Saudis to flourish on the world stage and, like the rest of the world, is one of the most gender-balanced and inclusive arenas in the Kingdom.
“The tools required to build games are now accessible to everyone,” Prince Faisal said. “And in gaming in general, it is pretty equal, it’s about 48 percent female, 52 percent male,” he said.
“Where we have a lot of room to catch up is in the professional (gaming sphere); there’s a lot of room for women to grow within that, even though there has been a lot of growth over the past five years, worldwide, and not just in Saudi Arabia.
“(However) in Saudi Arabia, we’ve had our first international champion, Najd Fahd, who won the collegiate ladies FIFA world championship, and she’s one of our role models to showcase that this is a valid career path not just for young men but also for young women.
“What we need to do is give more room for our young men and women to show they are the heroes of the future, and let them be the voice of the next generation,” he said.