The Evolving Gaming Landscape in MENA

Games markets in all 3 MENA countries Niko tracks, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE, grew in 2023. The MENA-3 video games market is set to grow at a rate of 8.2% in 2024, with revenue of $2.1 billion, and is forecasted to reach $2.9 billion in 2028, growing at a 5-year CAGR of 8.3%. Recently, as part of our ongoing research and thought leadership, Niko Partners MENA analysts participated in key events showcasing the growing market: the Insomnia Gaming Festival in Egypt, the PCI Congress in Abu Dhabi, and PG Connects in Dubai.

A Diverse Experience

At the Insomnia Gaming Festival in Egypt on April 25th the focus was on sports gaming and the gamification of sports experiences. This trend is particularly popular in Egypt, contrasting with the GCC countries where VR and simulation games dominate. The Insomnia Festival also showcased a notable presence of younger gamers and their parents, reflecting a growing awareness and acceptance of gaming across generations. This coincides with recent government announcements meant to raise families’ awareness of online safety and video games. Additionally, there was a marked increase in female gamers attending the festival. Esports also made a strong showing, including competitions and the presence of popular esports teams in the country like Anubis and Ra’ad, with the latter winning a $2.6k Valorant tournament.

Insomnia provided a snapshot of the hottest trends in Egypt’s video games industry

Publishing in MENA

The PCI Congress in Abu Dhabi took place on April 28th. Niko Partners analyst Mohamed Zaher participated in a panel discussion about cross-border storytelling through game adaptations, which shed light on the current state of game publishing in the MENA region. Despite still being in the early stages, the panel highlighted the growing publishing industry in MENA, with the participation of Arab game publisher Manga Productions and Ubisoft, a global publisher who is increasing their focus on MENA. This conference underscored the potential for growth in Arabic game publishing in MENA.

(Left) Niko’s MENA Analyst Mohamad Zaher was a panelist in ”Cross-Border Storytelling through Game Adaptations” session alongside Manga Productions CEO Dr. Essam Bukhary and Ubisoft VP Global Creative Fawzi Mesmar. (Right) Niko Partners’ booth showcased our latest MENA research at Congress PCI

Indie Game and Esports Development

Game Expo Summit by PG Connect, which took place on May 1-2, and a component of the Dubai Esports Festival, highlighted the growing local game development scene in the UAE. Niko Partners’ analyst attended a session, “How can the Region Compete on the Global Stage.” We noted a significant presence of independent game developer studios, with a dedicated zone for indie developers to showcase their games. This growth in indie development points to a vibrant and innovative future for game creation in UAE and in the MENA region. In addition to GameExpo Summit, Dubai Esports Festival, which ran from 19th of April to 5th of May also hosted DEF 2024 Education initiatives, attracting over 10,000 school and university students from across the UAE. These students participated in competitions like the Minecraft Education Challenge and the Microsoft Makecode Competition. There were also esports events in Fortnite and Rocket League open to armature esports enthusiasts, as well as university esports competitions in Valorant and EAFC24.

The Dubai Esports Festival plans to continue this momentum into 2025, expanding on previous concepts by introducing more activities and focusing on the future of gaming from entertainment, business, and educational aspects.

Snippets from PG Connects in Dubai. Over 1,350 games industry professionals from over 60 countries attended the event

WN Abu Dhabi Conference

The WN Abu Dhabi conference on February 15-16 introduced multiple investors and publishers, as well as small developers, Niko Analyst Bahaa Hamzeh, participated in the event. The focus was primarily on Eastern European indie developers seeking partnerships with the event’s sponsor initiative, Abu Dhabi Gaming, and demonstrated growing foreign interest in the GCC games market. The conference heavily focused on game analytics, team dynamics and strategies for success, web3 gaming, fundraising, the integration of AI in game technology, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in gaming, and debates about the future of esports and the evolving gaming market in the MENA region.

Niko’s MENA Analyst Bahaa Hamza (left) represented Niko Partners at WN Abu Dhabi

GamesBeat Summit in Los Angeles

Lisa Cosmas Hanson, CEO of Niko, led a fireside chat at GamesBeat Summit on May 20th in Los Angeles with Savvy Games Group CEO, Brian Ward. The talk was a bright point in the conference, with attendees listening to the discussion of how Saudi Arabia is ambitiously building its games and esports sectors with a goal to become one of the major global hubs for these industries. Saudi Arabia is making an effort to diversify from oil & gas into other sectors within the ‘Vision 2030 plan.’ A key point of this plan is building up the industry for digital entertainment.

There are 500 million people throughout the 22 countries that are in MENA (Niko tracks three of these), and 2/3 of those people are gamers. The talk was important as it highlighted some of Savvy’s activities and its relationship to the KSA’s Public Investment Fund. More details can be seen in this GamesBeat article about the talk.

Niko Partners CEO Lisa Cosmas Hanson (right) hosted a fireside chat with Savvy Games Group Brian Ward at GamesBeat Summit 2024

Conclusion: Indicators of Market Growth

These events collectively highlighted companies’, gamers’, and government actions to continue to build the games market in MENA, one that remains underserved but which is poised for great success. Local gamers are enjoying and engaging with games more and more, particularly thanks to localization, and the trend shows no sign of slowing. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai have put plans in motion to build themselves into global hubs of gaming and esports. From increasing diversity in gamer demographics to the rise of indie developers and the early stages of regional publishing, the MENA gaming industry is undergoing exciting changes which will continue well into Niko’s forecast period.

Keep up with the latest developments in the MENA market as they happen with NikoIQ, our intelligent online dashboard. Dig deeper into the most trusted video game and esports data available – Niko Partners entire knowledge base. Backed by our in-country analysts and 20+ years of experience, you can slice and dice our proprietary data in ways that make sense for your products and market strategy. NikoIQ is a handy tool to complement our MENA Market Model Report that uncover the 2024-2028 growth trends and insights for 3 prominent market in MENA: Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE. We’re also available to discuss your need for custom research and strategic consulting on MENA games market.