The Insomnia Egypt Gaming Festival 2022, the largest gaming event in the country, took place February 17–19 in Cairo. The Insomnia Gaming Festival originated in the UK and this year marked the 3rd time it was held in Egypt. The festival allows gamers to try out the latest video games, compete in esports tournaments, take part in contests, and more. Niko Partners launched coverage of the MENA video games market in January 2022 with the industry’s most comprehensive report. According to the report’s market model and 5-year forecast, Egypt has more than 40 million gamers and is the region’s fastest growing market.
Niko analyst Mohamed Zaher represented Niko at the Festival. Here are his key takeaways:
In-person events are coming back
The Insomnia Gaming Festival was an annual event 2018 and 2019, but in 2020 and 2021 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022 it returned in person to the Egypt International Exhibition Center in Cairo, though with about ¼ of the exhibitor space and lower visitors than in the past. Hoping that 2023 will be a better year for in person conferences.
Big name sponsors are getting involved
Egyptian tech companies, such as WE, a major ISP and telecom provider under Telecom Egypt, sponsored Insomnia. The company gave out SIM cards with 2.5GB of internet to gamers at the festival for free to promote its services. WE have started to heavily invest in the video games industry, from sponsoring esports teams to releasing internet packages specifically tailored to the needs of gamers. Other major tech companies that support the event include Intel, Dell and Alienware, with HyperX also taking part as a streaming partner, MSI as a hardware partner, Samsung as a monitor partner and Doritos as a snacks partner. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology was the lead government sponsor.
Egypt’s gamer ecosystem continues to expand
The festival included a large number of events and zones such as: Esports tournaments, Cosplay competitions, VR gaming zones, an indie gaming section, paintball zone, retail zone, influencer zone, game zone and a chill zone. The retail zone was extremely popular, where exhibitors were mostly selling hardware and accessories for PC and consoles. A few exhibitors were also selling physical discs for PlayStation consoles, which is the most popular console brand in the country. The influencer zone was also very popular as some of Egypt’s largest esports players, streamers and celebrities were present. Gamers were especially excited to meet Morgan, Adham and Ali Edwy, all of whom are regarded highly in the country’s League of Legends and Valorant communities. Marwan Serry, a popular football influencer with over 1.5 million YouTube subscribers, was also a crowd pleaser.
Esports took center stage
Esports has been a fast-growing segment of the games industry in Egypt since 2016, starting with the rise of local pro esports organizations in international tournaments. Egyptian esports org Anubis Gaming beat Portugal’s Project S last year to win the Red Bull Campus Clutch Valorant tournament and put Egypt on the map. The Insomnia Festival included 15 esports tournaments in total, including 5 pro events for League of Legends (PC), League of Legends: Wild Rift (Mobile), Valorant (PC), PUBG Mobile (Mobile) and Rainbow Six Siege (PC). The League of Legends and Valorant esports tournaments had the largest prize pools at $15,800 each. The majority of the games across both the pro and amateur tournaments were free to play (F2P) and played on either PC or mobile, which are the two largest platforms by revenue in Egypt.
Niko’s research shows that Egypt’s video game industry growth is primarily being driven by new gamers entering the market through F2P games. F2P has increased access to gaming in the country and competitive games have become extremely popular. Therefore, it was no surprise to see F2P games like League of Legends and Valorant draw the largest crowds. The PUBG Mobile amateur tournament also drew large crowds as it is popular among both core and casual players. Football is the largest sport in Egypt, both in real life and digitally, and therefore the amateur FIFA tournament was also extremely popular at the event. It was the largest amateur event by prize pool ($7,600) and was played on new PlayStation 5 consoles due to Sony’s partnership with EA and FIFA.
Source: Insomnia Egypt Gaming Festival
There is gamer demand for AAA titles
Gamers demoed AAA games at the festival including Far Cry 6, Rainbow Six Extraction and Hitman. The latest PC hardware and PlayStation 5 consoles were in use, and gamers could purchase these devices directly from exhibitors. The PlayStation 5 has been available in Egypt since 2021, but its high cost and the addition of taxes has limited its install base. The PlayStation brand is popular in Egypt, and it benefits from Arabic localization for the broader MENA region which has been included in a growing number of PlayStation games. PC gaming is also huge in Egypt, and is larger than console gaming, in contrast to other MENA markets such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE where console is larger. F2P and competitive games such as League of Legends and Conquer Online drove growth initially and led to a growing PC gaming and internet cafe culture in the country.
The indie developer scene is growing
The festival included an indie gaming section where developers from the country and the broader region could show off their games and get feedback from gamers that played them. Most of the games in this section were still in the beta or pre-beta stage and the event was mainly a way for the developers to test various concepts and see which ones were received well. The indie developers we spoke to told us that they were self-learners that had grown up with video games and were now looking to create their own. Niko Partners notes that game development courses at higher education are few and far between in Egypt, so many indie developers have to rely on teaching themselves how to code. Most of the games on display were casual titles developed for smartphones. This is primarily because developing these types of games is a good entry point for indie developers and because mobile is the largest platform for gaming in Egypt, with 7 of the top 10 most downloaded games being casual titles.
The future of gaming in Egypt
The return of the Insomnia Gaming Festival shows that gaming has continued to grow in Egypt and has become more accepted in the country, as evidenced by the professional esports tournaments and influencer meet ups that took place at the event. Not long ago, the idea of having a son that streamed games or a daughter that competed in esports tournaments was not well received by parents. The festival is a great step forward for the gaming industry in Egypt and the MENA region as a whole. We are very much looking forward to attending 2023’s event with more games, tournaments, and most importantly of all, gamers.