While Covid-19 hit the esports sector hard with live activations and events halted, it also created a rise in the number of people competing and watching online video game tournaments.
The Middle East and North Africa’s esports video game community will grow significantly in the next few years, following a surge in interest during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Esports is an untapped opportunity that shows great promise, according to Serge Zabbal, Business Director at Empire Entertainment, who took part in Dubai Media City’s latest GAME_ON Instagram Live session.
Dubai Media City regularly brings together best industry voices to share knowledge and insight on the media sector as part of its GAME_ON digital series held in collaboration with ON.DXB.
To develop the ecosystem and create a community capable of rivalling heavyweights in Asia, Europe and the US, more investment and collaboration from the public and private sector is needed, he said.
This shift to virtual events bodes well for the industry; it will make it easier to build engagement organically, deepen ties with fans and create authentic experiences with more esports competitions expected to embrace a digital-first format.
“The possibilities for e-sports growth in the region are endless and we can become one of the main global players,” Zabbal said. “Major publishers and developers are already looking seriously at the region and hopefully within two years we will be asking how the MENA region became a world-leading e-sports ecosystem so quickly.”
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are among the world’s top 50 markets for video game sales, with local experts stating the MENA region is home to world’s most active gaming community. As such, there is huge potential to develop the market and capitalise on the esports buzz.
Developing a successful community requires support from the public and private sector to generate investment, develop bespoke infrastructure for the community, as well as nurture and grow talent to create an e-sports ecosystem that is internationally competitive with countries in Asia, Europe and the North America who lead the world in esports.
Greater collaboration between government entities, major developers, local SMEs and entrepreneurs will ensure the MENA region’s e-sports industry is successfully developed, Zabbal added.
By providing the right tools, infrastructure and investment, there is an opportunity to accelerate the growth of esports on a local and reginal level to create vibrant community for fans, as well as a competitive market for developers, publishers, content creators and distributors who are looking at the market with interest.