The eighth edition of The Gaming Summit took place last weekend in Amman, Jordan.
Approximately 700 people – developers, students, publishers, business experts and more – gathered to share industry knowledge and discuss the opportunities and challenges of the region.
It was a successful event, showcasing a diverse group of participants, and with the royal seal of approval, it paves the way to a bigger event next year in collaboration with Steel Media and Pocket Gamer.
The Middle East opportunity
In the coverage of the world's biggest markets, from the US to Asia, the potential of the Middle East is sometimes forgotten.
Arabic is the fourth largest spoken language in the world. The MENA territories (the Middle East and North Africa) have a growing and young population, with a huge proportion of those online identifying as gamers.
Some of the biggest spenders in mobile gaming are based in the region. Although it's still a small games market compared to the US and China, it's the fastest growing. Jordan is a very stable country at the heart of the Middle East, with strong friendships in the west, and so provides ideal access to this part of the world.
The Gaming Summit is organised by the Jordan Gaming Lab and the Jordan Gaming Task Force, headed by Nour Khrais of Maysalward, with support form the King Abdullah II Fund for Development. Since 2011, The Game Summit has become MENA's best-known gathering for games developers, publishers and decision-makers in the ecosystem.
PocketGamer.biz and our parent company Steel Media were invited to participate and we also organised a team of distinguished international speakers to attend with us.
We hosted a number of panels in which international experts debated the big topics facing the global industry. We also ran a Big Indie Pitch session for local developers and contributed to the IMGA MENA judging and awards ceremony.
The main part of the conference took place on the first day, Saturday, November 3rd, in the grand auditorium of Amman's King Hussein Business Park. It featured opening speeches and five panel debates.
The panels were Launching Your Game And Getting Attention, Unleashing The Monetization Potential Of Your Mobile Games, Analysing Success With IMGA MENA, Gaming Trends and Opportunities: Where To Focus Your Attention Now And Next, and Game Design & The Role Of Publishers.
The panellists came from all over the world to share their insight. Joseph Shomali and Samer Abbas represented Jordanian publisher Play 3Arabi, and there were panellists from Lebanon (Wixel Studios' Reine Abbas and Epic Games' Joseph Azzam), Tamalaki's Martine Spaans from the Netherlands, Recontact Istanbul's Simay Dinc from Turkey, Game Lab's Ivan Fernandez from Spain, British games industry experts Mike Rose and Dan Da Rocha, representatives from Voodoo, THQ Nordic, and many more.
The day also hosted the App Challenge, the IMGA judging and ceremony, and our own Big Indie Pitch for local developers.
The winners of the Big Indie Pitch were Tariq Mukhttar with A Cat's Manor in first place, Sakura.Jo with Crimson in second place, and Salah Abu Ali with Happy Leap in third place. You can read more about those games on PocketGamer.biz soon.
The second day of the event, Sunday, took place at the Royal Tank Museum, which was an incredible venue. Business meetings took place amid the tank exhibits, while upstairs a round-table featuring international and domestic delegates thrashed out some of the opportunities and challenges facing the local games scene.
Steel Media's Chris James hosted the panel, which also included representatives from the US Embassy in Jordan. The intention was to establish some action points for the industry in the form of a manifesto.
His Highness Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II visited the museum to see the group in action, and chaired a brief afternoon session in which the proposals were shared with him, including the intention for Steel Media to return to the country next year with a full Pocket Gamer Connects event – details to be unveiled soon.
شرفنا سمو الأمير الحسين بن عبدالله الثاني، ولي العهد، بحضور جانب من قمة صناعة الألعاب الإلكترونية @GamingSummitJO والتي ينظمها الصندوق للسنة الثامنة على التوالي كأحد أنشطة مختبر الألعاب الأردني @GamingLabJo بالتعاون مع رابطة صانعي الألعاب الإلكترونية#الأردن #JO #GamingSummitJO pic.twitter.com/bllTD41pIu— KAFD (@KAFDJordan) November 6, 2018
Thanks to the Crown Prince's participation, The Gaming Summit received considerable media attention during the week in the Arabic-language press.
Tanks for everything
The Summit was a great success. One thing that struck all delegates was the diversity of the event, with a large percentage of the audience – almost 50 per cent – being female.
"Have you been waiting for a games event with more women than men? Me too. And I found it!" posted Ivan Lobo on Twitter.
There's clearly a desire to grow the local games market and compete on the global stage. On his official Instagram feed, the Crown Prince posted: "It was great to participate in part of the eighth Gaming Summit at the Royal Tank Museum. The gaming industry is a vital sector that needs constant development and attention."
The conference ended with a trip to the historic site of Petra (famous from Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade). It was an opportunity for the speakers and selected local developers to experience one of the wonders of the world in Jordan's desert.
In partnership with Maysalward, there is an Arabic-language version of our mobile games coverage available at PocketGamer.me. It's also our intention to deliver more coverage about the Middle Eastern games scene here on PocketGamer.biz, in preparation for next year's conference in Jordan.
In the meantime, get up to speed with this panel discussion (including Nour Khrais) from Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki 2018.