The MENA region is booming for gaming and esports according to Niko Partners’ ongoing tracking of the Asia & MENA games industry. As a result, event organizers and government agencies have initiated many conferences, exhibitions, and esports events in MENA countries. Niko Partners analysts have attended key events this year to present our research, engage with clients and learn more about the exciting on ground developments that will lead to 87 million gamers spending over $2.8 billion across the MENA-3* region in 2026. The most recent event we attended was the Next World Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (KSA), which took place between August 30-31, 2023. Lisa Hanson, the President and CEO of Niko Partners, was invited to be a speaker at the event.
Our insights on MENA-3
Lisa delivered a 30-minute presentation at the Next World Forum that outlined the opportunity for the MENA video games market, based on our high-integrity research. The presentation included data on the size of the market, the importance of localization, the growth of esports, the rise of social gaming, the need to build talent and a comparison with China’s video game market. China was the first market that Niko Partners covered when it was founded in 2002 and we believe it provides a strong benchmark and example for other markets to follow as they look to develop a domestic games industry.
MENA-3 Games Market Overview
In celebration of the potential of the MENA-3 video games market, Niko Partners has a limited time offer of 25% off our 2023 MENA Games Market Report which you can get by using code NWF2023 online or by emailing us for an invoice with the request for that discount. This offer expires September 30, 2023.
Our insights from the Next World Forum
The Next World Forum, which was held to mark the end of the impressive Gamers8 esports tournament, had more than 60 high-level speakers and more than 1,000 delegates present (and we were told more than 4,000 tried to get in). The Saudi Esports Federation (SEF) planned the event and did not miss a beat. Every high-tech display, every choreographed schedule, every aspect of the forum, each one was top notch. It was a true reflection of the promise that is the KSA gaming and esports market, and that of the rest of the region.
Next World Forum 2023 Entry Hall
The Saudi Esports Federation (SEF) signed cooperative agreements with the esports federations of several other MENA markets, including Qatar and the UAE. Most impressively, the government bodies and quasi-governmental bodies of KSA are all working in concert to promote gaming and esports together. There seems to be no competition, just collaboration and that will take the Kingdom far down the road to building a huge and impressive gaming and esports ecosystem. An ecosystem that is already home to 21 million gamers and will generate over $1 billion in player spending on video games this year.
There have been monumental changes in cultural policy in KSA over the past few years. Women attended the forum at a high rate and many female executives are shaping the direction of the industry. This has been reflected in the surge of female gamers, now representing 32.6% of gamers in the MENA-3 region, as well as increased success stories for women esports athletes. Changes in investment policy have led to the creation of the National Gaming & Esports Strategy which pledges nearly $40 billion to develop the domestic games industry and build a portfolio of game companies. The increased focus on esports has led to 73% of MENA-3 gamers engaging with esports in some capacity.
In addition to visits with companies and government officials, the trip included a visit to Riyadh’s NEOM: The Line Experience, a special KSA zone and futuristic city along the Red Sea that is under development. NEOM has already formed a joint venture with MBC Group to create the region’s first AAA games development studio and more companies are being recruited to relocate to NEOM in the future. There was also a chance to attend the Gamers8 Club Awards in which Saudi esports team Twisted Minds was crowned the first place.
The first place goes to…. the home-grown Twisted Minds
Our Insights from events across the region
Niko Partners also attended other important gaming related events over the past year. Our UAE-based Analyst, Bahaa Hamza, attended the Dubai GameExpo Summit and Moonton’s MPL MENA Spring 2023 finals, both of which were held in the UAE. Egypt-based Niko Analyst, Mohamed Zaher, a lso participated in the PG Connects conference held in Saudi Arabia, in addition to his attendance at the Insomnia Gaming Festival in Cairo, Egypt.
The Dubai GameExpo Summit was organized by Pocket Gamer Connects and took place on June 21-22 alongside the Dubai Esports and Games Festival. The event shed light on the UAE’s ambitions to build a vibrant ecosystem for video games and esports. It was here that the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism reaffirmed its commitment to support the development of more than 20 new businesses within the esports sector and generate over 300 employment opportunities.
MPL Mena Spring 2023 finals (left) and Dubai GameExpo Summit (right)
The Mobile Legends Pro League MENA Spring-Split 2023 finals took place on May 13, hosted by Moonton and eSports Middle East, with Egyptian esports organization Team Occupy winning $29,000 after defeating Okami Esports. The finals event took place over the course of three days, drawing in massive crowds, particularly on Saturday. The event was hosted at the Pixoul Gaming Esports Arena which opened at the end of 2022 and supports a capacity of 800 fans. The success of the event led to Moonton signing an agreement with VOV Gaming, a subsidiary of Savvy Games Group, to host the 2023 fall split and offer marketing support.
The Insomnia Gaming Festival is the largest gaming event in Egypt and is held annually each February. The 2023 edition marked the 4th time the event was held since the event was created in 2018 (2020 and 2021 were cancelled because of COVID-19). The event is government-backed with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology being a lead sponsor. Esports also takes center stage at this event with multiple amateur and professional tournaments for games such as League of Legends, Valorant, Fortnite, Call of Duty: Mobile, Clash Royale and more. This year’s event had a total prize pool of $47,000 across all tournaments.
We Telecom Booth at Insomnia Gaming Festival
Learn more from Niko Partners
We are proud to have initiated coverage of the development MENA-3 games market in 2020. With our MENA-based Analysts and their local perspectives, we’ve accumulated a huge amount of data on gamers, companies, regulations, and local insights to help our clients creating strategic plans to enter and interact with the fastest growing regional market in the world.
In addition to our 2023 MENA Games Market Report, we highly recommend you check out our latest Esports in Asia & MENA Report to fully grasp the opportunities and challenges in the market. We also offer our MENA Value-Added News Analysis (VANA) for executives and researchers that need to keep up with the latest developments in the market as they happen. We’re also available to discuss your need for custom research on MENA games market.
*Niko Partners defines MENA-3 as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.