Over the years, video games have taken the world by storm, being one of the most lucrative industries and one of the most enjoyed forms of entertainment worldwide. Unfortunately, the MENA region has been a bit behind when it comes to the gaming industry for some time, but in the past couple of years, that has changed extensively; now Saudi Arabia is taking it to another level, planning to be the world’s biggest gaming hub in the next few years.
Several prominent figures within the gaming industry locally and internationally, as well as government officials, elaborated further on this plan over the last couple of days at the Next World Forum, which took place in the kingdom’s capital, Riyadh.
The Force Behind The Focus
HRH Prince Faisal bin Bandar, president of the Saudi Esports Federation, which organized the event, talked about how the country’s youth have been the driving force behind this focus since a considerable number of them comprise the country’s population.
“We have a population of 34-odd million in Saudi Arabia, and 63%, or approximately 21 million, consider themselves gamers. So this is a community of gamers and what we are doing is something that they’ve been looking for and striving toward. This is not just a passion, but it’s also a work path, and it’s what they want to do on a daily basis. They want the opportunity to work hand in hand with government organizations and the private sector to really build something that will showcase their skills on a global stage.”
– Federation president Prince Faisal bin Bandar
The Vision For The Future
The kingdom’s vision for the gaming industry to boom in such a manner that whole gaming districts become the norm was discussed by NEOM chief executive Nadhmi Al Nasr. Al Nasr stated that he expects the NEOM The Line project to have “one of, if not the largest gaming holding businesses in the world” and that he’s sure that NEOM would “be the capital of gaming.”
The panel also discussed another project that will have another impact on the gaming scene in the kingdom, the Qiddiya city, which is under construction outside of Riyadh. The new city will have a district designated for gaming, with hopes that gamers from all over the world come to the country, lend their expertise, and possibly settle there too.
The Region Is Also Working On New Projects
The UAE is also taking steps toward integrating gaming into its multiple industries, where it announced Pixoul’s opening this December in Al-Qana, which will feature several zones that will accommodate gamers of all kinds.
Pixoul will also have the first esports academy of its kind within the region, have an 800-seat arena to host tournaments and events, a Virtual Reality (VR) Gaming Zone, a Retro-Gaming area, and more.
“As an integrated, immersive entertainment destination with the region’s first Esports Academy, Pixoul Gaming has the potential to redefine the modern gaming experience. We believe that everyone should be a gamer today as Esports fosters creativity, encourages problem-solving, and builds leadership skills.”
Paul Hamilton, General Manager at Pixoul Gaming told WIRED Middle East.
Egypt is also following suit, holding Esports and gaming events over the past few years, it also has several Esports teams, such as Ra’ad who has participated in several tournaments both locally and internationally.
A Look At The Future
The future of gaming is looking bright so far. As more countries take more interest in the industry, there’s hope to see studios launching from within the region that will create new stories and share the local creativity with the world.
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