Saudi Arabia leads the charge in Arab-world esports

14 June 2024

It’s no surprise that the MENA region is making some noise for the video game industry. After all, it’s attracting increased localization investment from game publishers thanks to its growing population of young, upwardly mobile professionals. But it’s not just casual and hobbyist gamers lighting up the MENA region — it’s also the pros. 

That’s right: Arabic-speaking countries are an increasingly important hub for esports. A growing force in the world of sports and competitive entertainment, esports are projected to reach $4.3 billion in revenue this year, growing further by 2028 to $5.7 billion. That’s good news for all sorts of people, whether it be gamers and sports fans excited by the growing entertainment source, localization professionals who will gain work providing language services for game localization and event interpretation, or the esports athletes who will be performing.

Why the MENA region, though? According to Statista, it’s all thanks to the young and tech-savvy population. 

“Due to high mobile internet user penetration rates in the Middle East and North Africa, a massive young population, and an intense interest in digital technologies, the region’s gaming industry is expanding at an unprecedented rate,” the research agency reports. “Egypt has the region's largest gaming population, Saudi Arabia has the most gaming revenue, while the United Arab Emirates has the highest revenue per user. Egypt has the region's largest gaming population, Saudi Arabia has the most gaming revenue, while the United Arab Emirates has the highest revenue per user.”

Saudi Arabia, in particular, is charging into the esports scene at full speed. 

“We are harnessing the untapped potential across the esports and games sector to diversify our economy, drive innovation in the sector, and further scale the entertainment and esports competition offerings across the kingdom,” Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said at at esports forum in Riyadh.  

Indeed, Saudi Arabia sees esports and gaming as a potential career pathway for the nation’s young and gaming-obsessed residents. According to the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, the country seeks to become nothing less than a regional hub for the esports scene, envisioning a return of 35,000 jobs and a $13.3 billion contribution to the Saudi economy by 2030. 

To that end, Saudi Arabia is setting a strong foundation for the future with a series of major investments. Among them is the establishment of the Saudi Esports Federation and the encouragement of gaming events, sponsorships, and partnerships. The country has invested $45 million with True Gamers, a network based in the United Arab Emirates, to establish 150 event centers. And Qiddiya City is planned to be a global center for esports excitement, with a 5,155-seat venue meant to host major events attracting 10 million visitors annually.  

To achieve this goal, HRH Prince Faisal bin Bandar stated in December 2022 that Saudi Arabia aims to have 250 gaming companies by 2030 and to create more than 30 game titles that are among the top 300 globally by 2031,” the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations reports. “Further, the establishment of the Savvy Games Group (SGG) with a value of SAR375bn played a pivotal role in the developing of high-tech infrastructure, including venues for Saudi Arabian gamers to socialize and compete on both local and global scales.