Dubai: The world’s tech talent is coming to the UAE - and so are the gamers. And with salary and perks to match their fast-on-the-console skills and turning ideas into new gaming possibilities.
Salaries for gaming professionals - those who have just started out on jobs or starting to climb the ladder - are averaging Dh8,000 and Dh25,000, said Bibi Zumot, the Head of Talent Acquisition at Division (a digital marketplace where gamers and brands can collaborate).
As a result, programmers and game developers from anywhere - especially those who previously worked at AAA game developer companies like Riot Games and Tencent - are choosing the UAE as their new home, drawn by the scaled up remuneration prospects.
Zumot - a seasoned gaming professional himself - said there are many avenues where gaming enthusiasts can earn a stable income. Sort of turning their passion into professional credentials.
“Given the UAE’s strong support and encouragement for game developers to establish their operations in the country, we are witnessing the emergence of several new studios here, all actively engaged in extensive recruitment efforts,” said Zumot.
There is more money in gaming than movies and music combined.
He predicts there will be a 30-35 per cent increase in demand for jobs in the gaming industry five years from now. “There is more money in gaming than music and movies combined,” Zumot added.
Game development, marketing
These new-gen studios are seeking experts in game development, art design, 3D modelling, and sound designers. “The studios are well funded not just by UAE and Saudi Arabia governments, for example, but the revenue from in-game activities is quite large,” said Zumot.
“We are now seeing AAA-level game developers - Epic, Riot, Tencent - and indie studios hiring in a big way. The demand is high for role-playing games (RPG), strategy and first-person shooter games.”
If not developing games from scratch, these big studios also recruit talent to localise the content. “The studios are keen on adding local flavour and Arabic language content to the games.”
There are also multiple opportunities in advertising and marketing divisions. “From influencer marketing to in-game advertising to in-game branding, this is where companies need the talent to use streaming platforms (YouTube, Twitch) and social media to amplify products,” Zumot added.
You can learn gaming too in the UAE
UAE-based universities offer game development and programming as an added module along with a bachelor’s in Computer science.
The University of Wollongong in Dubai is offering a game development Bachelor’s Degree, allowing fresh graduates to acquire the skills before they enter the workforce.
Lucrative prize pools
If gamers are interested in something other than seeking full-time jobs in gaming, they can capitalise on opportunities presented by e-sport tournaments. Gamers8 Saudi Arabia recently announced a staggering prize pool of $45 million.
The Farcana playtest, one of the first third-person shooter arena games to develop in Dubai, rewarded winners with one Bitcoin. (Depending on how the crypto market’s been behaving, that Bitcoin will be worth around $30,000.)
The Dubai Esports and Gaming Festival (DEF 2023) saw multiple live tournaments like Fall Guys, Fortnite, Rocket League, and FIFA 23, with finals for Overcooked, Street Fighter 6, and Call of Duty. And a prize pool in the thousands of dollars.
Opportunities rife in streaming
Mario Pérez, CEO of MENA Tech (a company of GGTech Entertainment), said: “As more and more AAA developers establish themselves in the region, it has become easier to find talent now. And the talent pool is a mix of local and international professionals who moved to the UAE in search of opportunities.”
The gaming industry is growing at a rapid pace in the region. Governments and private firms are investing heavily in the sector, opening up a huge playing filed for gamers and job seekers.
Perez said opportunities are available for more technical areas like broadcasting design and video editing on the streaming front. “A few years ago, to find gamecasters (similar to sportscasters) in the UAE was very hard. Only three or four of them were doing it; now, you have so many people seriously considering these roles, especially university students.”
Seasoned UAE gamers are continuing to make streaming a priority. For example, a dedicated gamer, 32-year-old UAE national Eisa Obaid Al Kaabi, boasts 217k YouTube followers and over 22 million views. He said: “The UAE gaming market offers ample opportunities, and the government’s backing through events and early access to gaming technology makes it very attractive for gamers.
Fulfilling job responsibilities, being there for my family, having off-screen time, and having enough time for content creation can demand some serious planning, organizing, and focus.
Time spent on content can easily and quickly slip through your hands, and if you plan correctly, it can be manageable. For those situations in which things get out of control, and I have to spend extra time at my computer, I'm lucky to have supportive friends and family.
“Earnings in the gaming industry can be decent, but building a reputation and attracting collaborations takes time and quality content.”
Game designer: Dh 20,000
Product manager for online gaming: Dh15,000
Middle game designer: Dh6,000 to Dh20,000
Head of e-sports: Dh45,000
Game design internships at major developers: Dh5,000
Dubai’s True Gamers, Baz Station Interiors, to open 9 new e-sport clubs
Soon, Dubai will have nine new e-sport clubs. Dubai-based True Gamers has partnered with UAE design company Baz Station Interiors to launch the new spaces in locations such as Dubai Mall, Blue Waters, and Jumeirah Beach Residence. True Gamers are a worldwide network of e-sport clubs.
Moreover, the company also plans to develop mobile interiors that can be transported and installed in various locations. The company also plans to introduce the world’s first robot waiter dogs in Dubai as part of the experience.
“The company is expanding its club offerings beyond public locations and is committed to enhancing the infrastructure of private communities. One of these clubs is located in Damac Hills 2,” said Vlad Belyanin, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of True Gamers.
The club boasts a range of amenities, including two high-fidelity driving simulators, two open PlayStation areas, twenty computers, and two VIP rooms with customizable lighting.
The clubs have over 120 games on offer, including popular titles like Fortnite Battle Royale, Counter-Strike, League of Legends, Dota 2, Valorant and Call of Duty.