Dubai: The Gulf’s young are hooked on games – so much so the video gaming market is going to cross $821 million by 2021. That’s from the $691 million in 2017 – clearly, a lot of games are getting downloaded on smartphones or played on consoles.
“Mobile gaming currently leads all gaming categories - constitutes around 66 per cent of the global video gaming market value,” said Jad El Mir, Principal with Strategy& Middle East, which released a report on the state of the gaming market. “Usage or even spend on mobile is higher than other categories.”
The global gaming industry is now valued at $129 billion a year. That is more than the annual worldwide numbers taken in by box-office, music streaming and album sales, and major sports leagues all put together.
There are close to 2.5 billion gamers worldwide.
The video game industry is a massive opportunity for GCC telecom operators. Like a video game itself, it needs the players to exhibit skill, patience, and use the right strategy.
Language no bar
Having Arabised or localised versions of games do help – “language is obviously an important parameter in the region,” said El Mir. “But when we talk about localizing games, it’s not only about language.
“This can be around the characters used in the games or even the cultural sensitivities. for example, some top global games are not allowed in some countries in the region because they are not fit with some cultural sensitivities.”
Global gaming titles take up all the top spots in the Gulf - PUBG Mobile, Intikam Al Salatin, Fortnite, and Rise of Kingdoms.
“However, we are seeing a lot of regional developers rising and coming up with new promising games,” said El Mir. “Any game developed in the region is being published on the top app stores – so, this is not a stumbling block.”
Gaming as a revenue driver
The big names are cottoning on to the fact that there is a lot more money to be juiced out of gaming addicts in the years ahead. Apple has revamped its gaming store, and it looks all the better for it.
According to El Mir, “It’s no secret that video games are a global cultural tour-de-force. To fully understand the magnitude of its significance, take the video game Grand Theft Auto V.
“It achieved seven Guinness World Records after its release in 2013, including a world record for $1 billion of sales within three days of its launch.”
These days, when streaming content is all the rage, gaming blends in perfectly with the times. So much so, Strategy& notes that it has led even Netflix to “concede that online games such as Fortnite pose a bigger challenge to them compared to their competitors in the same space”.
Saudi Arabia claims title
Chances are that its army of youngsters is leading Saudi Arabia’s charge to be the gaming capital of the region, a rank held by the UAE.
Telcos can turbo growth
Now, if the region’s telecom providers get more engaged in delivering gaming content, growth can only be headed to another level. “A wily gamer knows when to explore a new path - video gaming represents precisely that alternative approach for telecom operators,” the report adds.
“First they should explore distribution of games, and once their gaming ecosphere is operational, GCC operators can begin by localizing simple games at first, or by making games relevant to the local audience.
“If this resonates with the players, they can then take the next step, develop their own games, and take the fight to global game publishers. Caution is key here – it’s a step-by-step process to gaming greatness and the next level.”
“The video game industry is a massive opportunity for GCC telecom operators,” said Hicham Fadel, Partner with Strategy& Middle East. “Like a video game itself, it needs the players to exhibit skill, patience, and use the right strategy.”
The ‘sporting’ way
Another growth enabler would be when telecom operators in the region take up an interest in eSports.
“Operators can launch events and form eSports teams to compete worldwide,” the report states. “It is no surprise that the eSports market is likely to see a substantial boost from its currently low base. The unlocking of sponsorship, advertising, and media rights is projected to increase its annual global revenue to more than $1.7 billion by 2021 - around 1 per cent of the total gaming market.”
- Getting to next level in Gulf’s gaming space
- * Provide enhanced connectivity through infrastructure is the simplest way to play for telecom operators. It is also the safest and least ambitious, according to Strategy&. “Operators can supply data packages offering better quality of service for gamers, potentially bundled with gaming hardware, content, and online platform subscriptions.”
- * The next stage would involve creating partnerships with leading gaming companies, giving customers access to exclusive game releases or introducing in-game advertisements for the operator’s own products. Such partnerships would also facilitate direct carrier billing for popular games.
- * Close partnerships with developers. The goal is to make gaming content more relevant for GCC players. That can mean Arabizing games, or adapting images and the storyline to the GCC culture.
- * Enter eSports. For this, the operator will need to invest heavily by launching its own events and building its own eSports teams to compete worldwide.