Today: Jun 14, 2024

Mid-East game startups shine under Games for Change spotlight.

6 months ago
  • The Games for Change event in Abu Dhabi highlighted the rapid growth of gaming startups in the Middle East, particularly in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), showcasing initiatives from government-led entities like AD Gaming seeking to transform the UAE into a global gaming hub.
  • Investment in gaming and esport startups is growing in the region, led by the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (MENAP) market, and fuelled by the presence of venture capitalists and investors.
  • The Games for Change event held at the W Hotel on Yas Island was a testament to the interest in the gaming industry in the Middle East. In collaboration with Games for Change, AD Gaming, a government-led initiative, is pouring considerable efforts into transforming the UAE, particularly Dubai and Abu Dhabi, into a global gaming hub. There are already around 90 gaming and esports startups in Dubai, while in Abu Dhabi, space is being set aside for more game startups at the Yas Creative Hub.

    Growth in the gaming industry in the MENAP market has hit $5 billion in revenues, according to Tarek Fouad, a speaker at the Games for Change event. The region’s younger demographic, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, has been crucial in this. However, investment was only $2.5 million in Q3, notably lower than the $1 billion invested globally in the same period, suggesting that there’s much room for growth.

    In addition to looking at for-profit games, AD Gaming is also exploring game initiatives focused on learning. Fouad’s firm, Shorooq Partners, has been making co-led investments in the past 2.5 years, aiding in the incubation of 270 companies with 180 investments in 70 companies to date.

    The gaming ecosystem in the MENAP region has foundations in place to support growth. These include education, incubators, accelerators, game events initiated by the government, and the presence of investors. Esports topics are also being taught in schools.

    Saudi Arabia-owned Savvy Gaming Group has made significant investments in gaming to the tune of $15 billion, acquiring companies like ESL for $1.05 billion, Face-It for $450 million, and Scopely for $4.9 billion. Saudi Public Investment has also bought stakes in giants like Nintendo, furthering the kingdom’s intention to position games as a future industry.

    While the investment in the region is increasing, more funding is needed to support the growth of local gaming companies fully. Venture capitalist insights like those shared by Jason Della Rocca during a workshop on gaining traction that impresses VCs are extremely valuable for early-stage startups in the UAE and the region.

    In conclusion, substantial governmental and private sector efforts are carried out to cement the Middle East, prominently the UAE, as a significant player in the global gaming industry. This supports overall growth in the region and provides new opportunities for gaming startups.