The MENA region has earned a reputation as a booming region for both marketing and mobile game development, and enjoys great popularity among the region’s gamers. While the boom is underway and gaming revenues will reach $1.76 billion in 2021, the opportunity is still immense: that figure is expected to surpass $5 billion by 2025, as we recently reported.
A number of countries make up the diverse region, and here at PocketGamer.biz you’ll find features throughout the month highlighting the challenges and opportunities in individual territories, starting with Saudi Arabia. But it’s worth looking at some statistics about the entire market.
2021 was truly a stellar year for games in the MENA region, with downloads climbing to 4.9 billion, nine times the global growth rate. In addition, consumer spending topped $1.6 billion, three times faster than the rest of the world. In 2021, there were 65.3 million gamers in MENA, a number that is expected to rise to 85.7 million by 2025.
MENA is a region with no fixed or agreed definition. But for the purposes of our editorials and our upcoming top 30 companies list, we are considering numerous countries including but not limited to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE/Dubai, Bahrain, Iran and Lebanon, and Egypt and the North African countries across to Morocco. (Markets like Israel and Turkey are of course of interest, although these are places where gaming sectors are already extensively covered and differ from other nearby areas.)
The big story in MENA gaming is told by demographics. The region’s total population is around 400 million, and almost half are under the age of 25. Raised as digital natives, this young generation is eager to embrace what’s new in apps and games, especially through their mobile devices. In 2021, app downloads were 53% higher than in 2019, with consumer in-app spending more than doubling over the period.
The MENA market is also opening up for NFTs. Established names host play-to-earn tournaments and drive next-gen web development
Although some MENA countries speak French and English is also common, Arabic is the dominant language. When we spoke to publisher Tamatem CEO Hussam Hammo in 2019, he reminded us: “Arabic is the fourth most spoken language in the world, but less than one percent of all content available online is in Arabic… More than 70 percent of the population of Arabic-speaking countries – around 400 million – use Arabic as the default language on their smartphones. Add to that the fact that countries like Saudi Arabia have the highest ARPPU in the entire world and you have a perfect opportunity.”
New markets for young people
The under-25s group helps fuel the tremendous popularity of the sport in MENA. The market is attracting big international players: Earlier this year, Riot Games, Tencent, Intel and Ubisoft jointly announced that this year’s expanded Intel Arabian Cup – their third esports tournament collaboration in the Middle East – will feature a $130,000 prize pool becomes. Newzoo forecasts a 15.1% compound annual growth rate for esports through 2024, compared to 10% globally (courtesy of Wired).
MENA’s gaming market also opens up to the world of NFTs and cryptocurrency. Established names in gaming, such as Crypto Gaming United and Vorto Gaming, host play-to-earn tournaments and leverage their presence in the region to push blockchain, NFT, DeFi, DAO, fintech, crypto mining and the web to the next generation to drive development.
New themes like Web3 and blockchain join established themes like esports, advertising and growth strategies at Pocket Gamer Connects Jordan in Amman next month. Tickets are still available. And we encourage CEOs, directors and decision makers to gather at the Leaders Summit in Riyadh in late November for insights into international opportunities.