More than 60% of the population of the Middle East are so-called gaming enthusiasts, according to the latest Game Changer report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), with mobile leading the charge. In fact, 50% of all apps downloaded throughout the region are games, above the worldwide average of 40%.
The report notes that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are emerging as key gaming markets, with Saudi Arabia in particular having a strong gaming strategy, including a $38 billion allocation to the state-owned Public Investment Fund’s subsidiary Savvy Games Group. So far, this has led to a number of acquisitions and key investments, such as the company’s intended acquisition of Scopely earlier this year. The country aims to create 40,000 jobs and develop 30 games by 2030.
In the MENA region, the gaming market has generated $4 billion in revenue with Saudi Arabia leading the way with a market of around $1.8 billion, approximately 45% of the total. More than 65% of this revenue comes from mobile games, which BCG attributes in part to "a stronger presence of non-casual mobile games like PUBG Mobile, Garena Free Fire, and FIFA Mobile". All three are among the country’s top ten most downloaded titles.
In contrast, of these three only Garena Free Fire is among the top 10 most downloaded games worldwide. MENA's passion for mobile is epitomised in the fact that consumers in the region download an average of 26,200 apps every minute, and spend an average of 5.5 hours a day on their phones.
Coming for the crown
BCG notes that while China is the largest market for streaming and is expected to reach an audience of 265 million in 2025, the MENA region’s audience is growing at three times the rate with a compound annual growth rate of 24.5%, compared to 7.6% for China. The region’s streaming audience is predicted to reach around 200 million in 2025. Assuming the CAGR for each region remains stable, this would see MENA overtake China soon after.
The report identifies several market conditions throughout the Middle East which support the significant acceleration of the mobile market. Significantly, half of the population in the region is 25 or below and tech savvy. Meanwhile, the variety of monetisation options available make mobile accessible for players, regardless of budget. However, the unique culture throughout the region necessitates localised content.
The report cites Tencent’s deployment of an Arabic version of its hit game PUBG Mobile in the Middle East as one example: Since its release, the title has become one of the five most downloaded games throughout the region and one of the top three in the United Arab Emirates, highlighting the game’s continued success not just in the Middle East but worldwide. However, the jewel in Tencent's crown continues to be Honour of Kings, one of the top-grossing mobile games of all time.
At BIG Festival, Nine66's Ricardo Flores discussed the steps to success in the MENA region. We listed Tencent as one of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2022, and in December we highlighted the MENA region in our list of the top 30 MENA game makers.