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Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Egypt together will have 85.8 million gamers generating $3.1 billion in games revenue by 2025, according to market researcher Niko Partners.
Saudi Arabia’s games market alone reached $1 billion in 2021, based on the report on the MENA (Middle East North Africa) market.
MENA has quickly emerged as a key growth region for the global video game industry, Niko said in its first report on the region.
For a representative slice, the report focuses on what Niko calls the MENA-3: Saudi Arabia (KSA), the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt. It also did a survey of 3,000 gamers in the region, and it has spotlights on the Gulf States, North Africa, and Jordan.
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The report said MENA-3 games revenue was $1.76 billion in 2021, rising to $3.14 billion in 2025 at a 5-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.8%. The number of MENA-3 gamers reached 65.32 million in 2021, and that will rise to 85.76 million in 2025.
Saudi Arabia is the gaming powerhouse of Arabic-speaking nations in MENA, balancing population size with high spending power yielding the highest revenue. The UAE is representative of smaller Gulf states. Arabic is the official language, yet the population is predominately expatriates.
Egypt is an emerging games market with an active and competitive gaming community and MENA-3’s largest market by gamers. Growth will be driven by higher spending per user, additional government support across games and esports, and more gamers entering the market.
Nearly half of the MENA population is under 25 years old and have grown up as digital natives with gaming playing a huge role in their entertainment.
Governments in the region are supportive of the video game sector. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have introduced policies to encourage game localization, local game development, new studios and offices of international game companies, and hosting major esports tournaments.
“MENA represents a key opportunity for the video game industry,” said Daniel Ahmad, senior analyst at Niko Partners, in an email to GamesBeat. “The region has often flown under the radar due to its small game development scene, fragmented markets as well as language and cultural barriers, but it has quickly become a region of importance.”
Ahmad said the region has a wide swing between countries with high disposable income and low, and the report covers two high spending markets (Saudi Arabia and UAE), and one large yet lower spending gaming population (Egypt).
“Esports is booming in MENA and a key driver of growth, with Saudi Arabia even including it in its Vision 2030 plan,” Ahmad said.
He said console was the first major growth market and remains a key market in the region. Mobile is the largest market thanks to accessibility of smartphones, abundance of free-to-play (F2P) games, mobile esports, and strong internet infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the UAE (Improving in Egypt).
A majority of gamers in MENA-3 said they spent more time playing F2P games on PC and Mobile in H1 2021 v H1 2020, Ahmad said.
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