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Niko Partners predicts that games revenue in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt (MENA-3) will grow 56% from $1.8 billion in 2022 to $2.8 billion in 2026. This represents a CAGR of nearly 10% — indicating a major growth opportunity for the region. This forecast is part of the games market research firm’s second annual MENA-3 Games Market Report & Five-Year Forecast.
In addition to this revenue growth, the firm estimates the number of gamers will also grow nearly 30%, from 67.4 million last year to 87.3 million by 2026. This translates to a CAGR of about 6%, which means that users are not growing nearly as fast as spending. As a result, the firm predicts that average user spending will increase over the next five years.
Niko Partners points to three drivers of this revenue growth: mobile gaming, public and private sector investments and esports.
Mobile is the largest platform by revenue and players in MENA-3. Accessibility is a key factor — there’s a healthy market for consoles and PCs, but mobile is projected to grow by double digit CAGR over the next five years.
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Investments in gaming and esports have made headlines recently. In particular, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and its subsidiary Savvy Games Group made several high profile investments. This includes a $38 billion plan to make Saudi Arabia a global hub for gaming.
Esports in MENA-3
Esports serve to drive travel and tourism to the country and strengthen the country’s position in the games market. Savvy acquired top event organizers ESL Gaming and FACEIT for a total of $1.5 billion last year and the flagship Gamers8 festival will return in July 2023. Additionally, rival organizer BLAST has partnered with Abu Dhabi Gaming to host events in the UAE.
Niko Partners expects that by 2026, MENA-3 will be competing with hubs like Singapore and China.
The firm’s data also supports this investment strategy into esports. 73% of gamers in MENA-3 engage with esports in some capacity. This includes such as watching esports content, playing esports-focused titles or competing in amateur or professional tournaments. This shows broad appeal for competitive gaming in the region.
More specifically, about two in five gamers across the MENA-3 region watch esports content (41.7%) or play esports titles (40.7%). A further 12.4% have competed in amateur or pro esports tournaments themselves. Further investment and high-profile events could incentivize more engagement with esports — a needed growth segment for the industry.
Regional Differences and Demographics
MENA-3’s audience is also driving its growth potential. While gaming continues to skew heavily male in the MENA-3 region — 67.4% of gamers in MENA-3 are male vs. 53.7% of the population — the audience is young on average.
76% of gamers in the MENA-3 region are under the age of 35. Egypt in particular stands out, having a significantly higher percentage of gamers under 25 years old compared to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Additionally, Egypt has the largest population of gamers and is the fastest growing market in the MENA-3
In comparison, Saudi Arabia is the largest market by games revenue and is considered the gaming powerhouse of the region according to Niko Partners. Of course, this is partially fueled by the PIF’s investments. Meanwhile the UAE has the highest ARPU of the three markets.
These results are based on Niko’s ongoing insights and analysis from regionally-based analysts, proprietary market model and 5-year forecast, a survey of 1,126 local gamers and interviews of industry professionals from the region. Niko Partners full 100-plus page report on the MENA-3 region is available now.
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