Smartphones are successfully taking over the world. While they’ve become much more commonplace in some jurisdictions than others, even where mobiles are quite new to a market, they’re already starting to make waves.
While smartphones and the use of mobile gaming isn’t particularly new to the Middle East, the ongoing evolution of technology is transforming many aspects of everyday life in the region. Perhaps the most prominent changes seen already are in the entertainment industry, with forms of entertainment that were formerly dismissed or stigmatized going mainstream thanks to the convenience of mobiles.
The Middle East has gone mobile
The percentage of people across the Middle East that are active mobile users and mobile cellular subscribers is huge. Regarding the percentage of mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 people, the United Arab Emirates clocks in at 209 percent, followed by Kuwait (176%), Bahrain (158%), Oman (149%), Qatar (146%), and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (121%). In fact, the only countries in the region that sit below 100 percent are Jordan (99%) and Lebanon (65%).
In general, the Middle East’s population is being defined by its ever-increasing smartphone ownership and the high mobile broadband penetration, leading to it being classed as ‘ultra-connected.’ The mobile internet infrastructure is in place, and top-class devices are being sold in the Middle-East, allowing people to easily pick-up and make the most of the technology.
Known for wanting to be as modern and embracing of technology as possible, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, launched UAE Innovation Month. During this time, people are encouraged to innovate in preparation for the next 50 years of the country. Mobiles have already been embraced for their game-changing capabilities under this program, with the Sharjah Museums Authority launching a new culture app to put all UAE museums on a digital display.
Now, thanks to the evolution of customer behavior, government ambitions, and, of course, the increasing availability of new technologies, mobile is close to moving into a new era in the Middle East. The tech is reinvigorating the state-of-play for businesses, but it’s also seeping into peoples’ personal lives, changing social habits, and unlocking new forms of entertainment to the masses.
The Middle East is rapidly becoming a region of gamers
In many regions around the world where the mobile market is starting to take hold, it has introduced the population to gaming. In the Middle East, the overall gaming space – which includes PC and console gaming – is nothing new, but mobiles are certainly accelerating the rate of gaming growth in the region.
Nearly 60 percent of the online population in the Middle East are gamers, with the region accounting for the highest growth rate in the world. As mobile penetration continues to rise, the Middle East is achieving an incredible year-on-year growth rate of 25 percent. This fact is further verified by the UAE and Saudi Arabia being two of the three leading countries for gaming growth while also boasting some of the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world.
Convenience has been key to this rise. In the past, it has been much easier for people to not engage in video or digital gaming, especially as many are encouraged to pursue academic-heavy career paths. As such, gaming has been stigmatized in the past, but now, people can try the entertainment medium for themselves and are taking a liking to it.
In the UAE, the highest-grossing mobile games are the free-to-download titles like PUBG Mobile, Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade, and Last Shelter: Survival, which merge convenient gameplay at accessible (non-existent) prices. It’s the same via mobile browsers and PC browsers, with free slots online like Cleopatra, Spartacus: Gladiator of Rome, and Pompeii being easily accessed, free, and simple to play, as well as platforms like Vegas Slots.
Mobile adoption will only continue to rise across the Middle East. With governments backing the technology to transform all aspects of daily life, and even national institutions embracing mobile’s capabilities, devices will become much more prevalent and intertwined with everything from business to entertainment.
As has been the case all over the world: where smartphones get big, mobile gaming gets bigger. The convenience and accessibility of these games is too great to deny, even in areas where social stigmas would have stopped some people from embracing the medium in the past.