Level Up: Gaming in the MENA region

Jul 2, 2024

The gaming industry is experiencing explosive growth worldwide, and the MENA region is no exception. With technology advancement, increased internet penetration, and a young, tech-savvy population, the region is becoming a catalyst for gaming innovation and startups. This week, the Esports World Cup kicks off in Riyadh on the 2nd of July, boasting a prize pool of over $60 million and featuring popular games like Apex Legends, League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike, Warzone, FIFA, and many more. This event underscores the immense potential and lucrative opportunities within the gaming sector. Let's dive into the dynamics of the gaming industry and how startups in the MENA region can seize these opportunities.

The Growing Popularity of Gaming in the MENA Region

The MENA region has one of the fastest-growing gaming markets globally. Several factors contribute to this trend:

  • Youth Demographics: Approximately 60% of the population in the MENA region is under 25 years old, making it a prime market for gaming.

  • Increased Internet Access: Rapid improvements in internet infrastructure and mobile connectivity have made online gaming more accessible.

  • Cultural Shifts: A growing acceptance of gaming as a legitimate form of entertainment and a potential career path is fueling interest and investment in the industry.

Esports: A New Frontier

The Esports World Cup in Riyadh is a testament to the rising prominence of esports in the MENA region. With a prize pool exceeding $60 million, this event not only attracts top gamers from around the world but also highlights the region's commitment to becoming a global esports hub. The inclusion of popular games like Apex Legends, League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike, Warzone, and FIFA reflects the diverse interests of the gaming community.

Opportunities for Gaming Startups

The gaming industry presents numerous opportunities for startups in the MENA region. Here are some key areas where gaming startups can thrive:

  1. Game Development:

    • Local Content: Developing games that reflect local cultures, stories, and languages can create a unique niche in the market.

    • Mobile Gaming: With high smartphone penetration, mobile gaming is a rapidly growing segment. Startups can focus on creating engaging mobile games that cater to regional tastes.

  2. Esports Platforms:

    • Tournament Hosting: Creating platforms for organizing and streaming esports tournaments can tap into the growing esports audience.

    • Player Training: Developing tools and platforms to help gamers improve their skills can attract both amateur and professional players.

  3. Gaming Technology:

    • VR and AR: Leveraging virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies can offer immersive gaming experiences.

    • AI Integration: Using artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance gameplay, create smarter NPCs, and provide personalized gaming experiences can set startups apart.

  4. Gaming Communities:

    • Social Platforms: Building social networks and communities specifically for gamers can foster engagement and loyalty.

    • Content Creation: Platforms that support game streaming, content sharing, and community interaction can attract a large user base.

Success Stories and Emerging Startups

Several gaming startups in the MENA region are already making waves:

  • Nine66 (Riyadh): Nine66 is creating an integrated support system for game developers across the globe, providing infrastructure, skills development, network, capital, and advisory services to game studios and developers in Saudi Arabia and worldwide.

  • Tamatem (Jordan): A leading mobile games publisher in the MENA region, Tamatem specializes in bringing international games to the Arab world.

  • Sandsoft Games (Saudi Arabia): Focuses on publishing games in the MENA region. Sandsoft Games also recently launched Future Projects, dedicated to over 500 million players. 

These startups demonstrate the diverse opportunities available in the gaming industry and serve as inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Future Trends in the Gaming Industry

The gaming industry is dynamic and constantly evolving. Here are some trends that gaming startups in the MENA region should watch:

  1. Cloud Gaming:

    • Cloud gaming services are gaining traction, allowing players to stream games without the need for high-end hardware.

    • Startups can develop cloud gaming platforms or optimize existing games for cloud services.

  2. Blockchain and NFTs:

    • Blockchain technology and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are revolutionizing game ownership, in-game assets, and player rewards.

    • Startups can explore blockchain-based games or integrate NFTs into existing gaming ecosystems.

  3. Cross-Platform Play:

    • Enabling cross-platform play allows gamers to interact and compete across different devices, enhancing the gaming experience.

    • Startups can focus on developing or optimizing games for cross-platform compatibility.

  4. Educational Games:

    • There is a growing market for educational games that combine entertainment with learning.

    • Startups can create games that help players develop skills or gain knowledge in a fun and engaging way.

The gaming industry in the MENA region is on the cusp of a major transformation, driven by technological advancements, a young and enthusiastic population, and significant investments in esports. The Esports World Cup in Riyadh is a clear indicator of the region's potential to become a global gaming powerhouse.

At Parachute16, we are committed to supporting gaming startups and fostering innovation in this exciting industry. If you're interested in exploring opportunities in the gaming sector, reach out to us. Let's level up together!

Parachute16 is an ecosystem enabler that supports startups looking to develop their MVP and launch it by building high-quality acceleration programs and services for growth purposes. If you want to build impact and accelerate your startup's growth, reach out to us to schedule a meet-up over coffee. You can contact us at fly@parachute16.com!