Beyond the Game: Exploring Saudi Arabia’s eSports Phenomenon

Explore the rising phenomenon of esports in Saudi Arabia, from its growing popularity among the population to its impact on the economy.

The Middle East is quickly establishing itself as a major player in the global eSports and gaming scene. The MENA-3 region (KSA, UAE, and Egypt) alone is estimated to have a gaming market worth $1.8 billion in 2022 and is projected to rise to $2.8 billion in 2026. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has witnessed a surge in eSports participation, with international and local organizations hosting multiple eSports events in the country.

eSports event in Saudi Arabia

This newfound interest in eSports has created a plethora of opportunities for gamers and enthusiasts in the region, propelling Saudi Arabia as a hotspot for eSports enthusiasts. In this article, we delve into the rapid growth of eSports in Saudi Arabia and provide unique insights into the population’s habits and attitudes towards the gaming industry, based on our analysis of survey results.

Overview of the Saudi Arabia Gaming Market

Saudi Arabia’s gaming industry is on a fast-paced trajectory, with the video games market projected to reach a revenue of US$1,969.00 million in 2023. The country boasts a significant gamer population, with approximately 21 million gamers, accounting for about 58% of the total population. Furthermore, the video games market is expected to demonstrate a robust annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.57% from 2023 to 2027, resulting in a projected market volume of US$2,636.00 million by 2027. This remarkable growth highlights the lucrative opportunities and potential for further expansion in the gaming industry in Saudi Arabia.

In our latest Consumer Report Saudi Arabia 2023, based on insights from over 1,000 respondents, we found that more than half of them (54.1%) watch video game content more than once a month. Additionally, 23.2% of the local population spends approximately 1-5 hours per week playing video games, while about 6.8% dedicate more than 5 hours per week to gaming. This indicates a clear demand for gaming content and services in Saudi Arabia, which presents lucrative opportunities for stakeholders in the gaming industry.

The Frequency of Watching Video Content Among People in Saudi Arabia

Growth of eSports in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is taking steps to diversify its economy beyond oil by investing a significant sum of $38 billion through its Public Investment Fund to position itself as a potential hub for the video game industry. This ambitious initiative aims to create 39,000 jobs, establish 250 game developers, and foster a vibrant in-house talent pool for eSports, with the ultimate goal of boosting the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s economy to SR50 billion (USD 13.33 billion) by 2030. This investment underscores the government’s commitment to developing the gaming industry and capitalizing on the growing interest and participation in eSports and gaming in the country.

In the mentioned report, 69.1% of the survey respondents reported having already watched or attended an eSports event in Saudi Arabia, showing the increasing popularity of eSports in the region.

Experience in watching/attending an eSports event in Saudi Arabia

The popularity of eSports across Saudi Arabia is even more pronounced among males and respondents aged 24-35. A staggering 72.8% of males reported having watched or attended eSports games or events, compared to 62.43% of females. Similarly, 70.9% of respondents in the 24-34 age group have also reported having watched or attended eSports events, surpassing the 67.3% reported by those aged 35 and above. This highlights the strong appeal of eSports events among these demographics in Saudi Arabia.

Experience in watching/attending an eSports event in Saudi Arabia: Males vs Females

As eSports continues to gain traction across the world, it is encouraging to see how much interest there is in Saudi Arabia for these events. It shows an appreciation for gaming culture, as well as a recognition of the potential entertainment value that eSports can provide.

What Platforms Do the Saudi Population Prefer to Watch eSports Games On?

In Saudi Arabia, Facebook and YouTube are the top platforms for watching eSports games and events. With a commanding 37.1% of the market share, Facebook is a major player in the region, providing viewers with access to a wide range of professional tournaments and highlights from around the world. Whether it’s popular titles like League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Overwatch, or lesser-known games like Rocket League and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, Facebook offers something for everyone. For instance, in 2019, Saudi Arabia hosted its first-ever eSports tournament, the ESL Pro League, which was exclusively streamed on Facebook Live.

Platforms to watch esports games/events in Saudi Arabia

YouTube holds second place with 30.34% market share in Saudi Arabia. It offers a wide variety of content related to various game genres, including live or recorded coverage of top tournaments like ESL One Cologne and IEM Sydney on its gaming channel. In addition, viewers can watch interviews, commentaries, and tutorials from famous streamers and teams competing in popular PC classics like StarCraft II, WarCraft III, and Defense of the Ancients (DOTA), as well as recent releases like Apex Legends and Fortnite Battle Royale.

Overall, both Facebook and YouTube offer a wide range of eSports content from Saudi Arabia and beyond, including live streams and video-on-demand (VOD) options, coverage of professional tournaments, and casual matches. Whether you’re interested in competitive gaming or just looking for entertainment, both platforms have something for everyone.

4 Key Factors Contributing to eSports Growth in Saudi Arabia

While there are obstacles to the growth of eSports in the future, including lack of funding, scarcity of local competition, the stigma associated with choosing a career in eSports, and no clear pathway for gamers to become pros – things are starting to change.

There is an increasing desire to exploit the Kingdom’s enthusiasm for gaming for several key reasons:

1. Economic Development

As the economy continues to grow, leading private and public companies are recognizing the potential of eSports and investing in it as an industry. The private sector is investing in businesses related to gaming such as tournaments while government entities are providing support through funding and initiatives which aims at promoting competitive video gaming within the country.

2. Employment Opportunities

With the emergence of new players within the industry, many new jobs have been created that span multiple sectors such as game development, marketing, production, and event management. Additionally, professional gamers have been able to make a living by streaming their games online and competing in tournaments both locally and internationally. Furthermore, developing organized leagues has made it easier for aspiring professionals to show their skills off and get noticed by potential sponsors or teams.

3. Positioning Saudi Arabia at the Forefront of 21st-Century Sport

Saudi Arabia has been keen on positioning itself as a global player in the eSports arena, recognizing the potential of eSports as a modern and fast-growing industry. The country has invested in creating state-of-the-art gaming facilities, hosting international tournaments, and forming partnerships with leading eSports organizations, thereby putting Saudi Arabia on the map as a prominent player in the global eSports ecosystem.

4. Enhancing Quality Of Life By Broadening Residents’ Entertainment Options

eSports has provided a new form of entertainment for residents in Saudi Arabia, particularly for the younger generation who are avid gamers. The availability of gaming tournaments, gaming cafes, and eSports events has broadened the entertainment options for residents, contributing to an overall improvement in the quality of life and driving the growth of eSports in the country.

What’s The Future of eSports in Saudi Arabia in 2023?

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is making significant progress in promoting eSports and gaming with various initiatives. One notable initiative is the launch of Amazon University Esports, which will be the first educational eSports league in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. This initiative aims to increase visibility and growth opportunities for players, while also raising awareness of gaming as a legitimate profession in the region. Additionally, Saudi Arabia will be hosting the 2023 Global Esports Games in Riyadh, which will bring together top talents from around the world.

Another noteworthy initiative is the Game Changers program, a collaboration between the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and DigiPen, a prestigious game design academy. This program offers career pathways for aspiring gamers in Saudi Arabia’s eSports industry, covering topics such as knowledge development, job readiness training, and access to financial resources for starting gaming startups. This provides excellent opportunities for individuals interested in pursuing a career in gaming or eSports, as it offers both education and financial assistance for launching their own projects.

Overall, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is actively promoting the growth of its eSports and gaming industry, providing ample opportunities for aspiring gamers and entrepreneurs to thrive in this rapidly expanding field.


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