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Last week's Leaders Summit demonstrated the huge potential of the $6.8bn MENA market

Saudi Arabia hosted a new type of event from the Pocket Gamer team which united games companies from around the world – here’s what you missed
Last week's Leaders Summit demonstrated the huge potential of the $6.8bn MENA market
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You can’t have missed that the Middle East is the fastest-growing market in video games. With growth that has continued despite the post-pandemic industry rebalance (some 8.2% growth in the player base this year), MENA has rightly been under the spotlight in 2022, culminating in a sector-boosting $38bn investment from the Saudi Arabian government.

With this in mind, PocketGamer.biz launched a new type of event there last week, which we hope will become a fixture in the games industry calendar. On Wednesday, November 30th and Thursday, December 1st, we hosted the inaugural PGC Leaders Summit, bringing together over 120 c-level executives in the luxurious Crowne Plaza in the Saudi capital.

Some 26 countries were represented at the Summit. After Saudi Arabia, the biggest delegations came from the UK, the United Arab Emirates, the USA and Jordan.

Global content and informal networking

Attendees enjoyed two days of networking, group activities and stage presentations designed to explore and celebrate the Middle East and North Africa region and identify its growing place in the global video games market.

Topics under discussion included the Saudi national gaming and esports strategy; trends that are shaping the global games market; what it takes to succeed in the MENA market; building and selling globally successful games businesses; games investment and where the smart money is going; new tech, trends and models including web3; building and supporting a games ecosystem; and loads more.

Two packed days of talks and panels began with Chris James and Kadri Harma revealing the opportunities of the MENA region.
Two packed days of talks and panels began with Chris James and Kadri Harma revealing the opportunities of the MENA region.

Speakers included representatives from the likes of Tencent Games Global, Game Hermits, Tamatem, Spoilz, Wargaming, Superfine, Genvid, and Savvy Games Studios.

On Wednesday evening, the networking continued in the desert. Attendees headed out to the Nox Camp to experience dune buggies, camel rides, falcons, incredible food and a roundtable about how to grow the local games ecosystem – around a fire under the stars.

Thursday saw the first ever Top 30 MENA Game Makers countdown, hosted by Pocket Gamer’s own Chris James and celebrating the developers and publishers in the region. The top spot was seized by Savvy Games and its Nine66 wing, thanks to the current investment and future potential promised by the group. You can read the full Top 30 list on PocketGamer.biz here.

Steel Media's Chris James discusses the growth and potential of the Middle East and North Africa games scene.
Steel Media's Chris James discusses the growth and potential of the Middle East and North Africa games scene.

On Thursday evening, once the Top 30 was revealed, VIPs headed to the immense Soundstorm music festival. This multi-stage dance music celebration confounded expectations of entertainment in the traditionally conservative region, with big names such as Tiësto and Post Malone performing to a crowd of hundreds of thousands of young people.

A positive experience that united the global industry

To all the CEOs who attended: thank you so much for joining us and making our first event in Saudi Arabia, and our second event in MENA this year, enjoyable and productive. It was a pleasure, and we can’t wait to be back next year.

A trip to enjoy activities in the desert led to an informal roundtable about how to share knowledge and grow the games ecosystem.
A trip to enjoy activities in the desert led to an informal roundtable about how to share knowledge and grow the games ecosystem.

A show of this magnitude and incredible success would never be possible without the support of our partners, associates and sponsors! This show was made possible thanks to our phenomenal partners Nine66, Sandsoft, stc and WIZZO.

"It was inspiring to see over 120 CEOs from the region and globally come together and share their experiences and plans in the MENA region," said Kadri Harma, CEO of Nine66. "Interest in the region is definitely high, and we at Nine66 agreed on several collaborations starting in 2023 with the participants of the event."

There was positive feedback from attendees. “It was an excellent opportunity to get a better sense and feel of the emerging region, MENA and especially Saudi Arabia,” commented Martin Kwasnica, CEO of Cherrypick Games.

“It was inspiring to see over 120 CEOs from the region and globally come together and share their experiences and plans”
Kadri Harma

Mohamed Zaher of Niko Partners praised the networking and the casual atmosphere: “Even though it was a business meeting, it had casual warmness to it.” Meanwhile, Atheer Alkubeyyer of PlayerOne celebrated “how the attendees are from different backgrounds and regions.”

What’s next for the PG Connects roadshow?

If you’re looking ahead to 2023 and planning your next adventure, our next Connects conference is just around the corner. We’re back on our home turf with PGC London on January 23rd and 24th. Don’t miss signing up for our flagship conference, where we’re featuring all-new track themes and future-gazing business content and expecting to welcome 2,000 people from across the industry. Book today, and you can secure your ticket now and save hundreds at our Early Bird prices.

Additionally, perhaps you’re looking to put your brand in front of the global games industry? In that case, you can discuss booths, speaking slots and our sponsorship opportunities with our b2b sales team. Please contact chris@steelmedia.co.uk for more details.