JEDDAH: The gaming and esports industry is growing rapidly in Saudi Arabia and the GCC, with major investments announced to support domestic game developers and world-class competitions taking place in the region.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently announced the Kingdom’s ambition to see 30 competitive games developed by Kingdom companies by 2030, as part of the country’s national gaming and esports strategy.
Last week, Savvy Games Group, a company owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, unveiled investments worth 142 billion Saudi Riyals (1 Saudi Riyal = 0.27 Euro) to transform the Kingdom into a global hub with world-class game companies.
The investments will include 70 billion riyals to take several minority stakes in companies that support Savvy’s game development program and 50 billion riyals to acquire a leading game publisher to become a strategic development partner.
Another 20 billion riyals will be invested in industrial partners and 2 billion riyals will be earmarked for industry pioneers to develop early-stage gaming and esports businesses.
“Savvy Games Group is part of our ambitious strategy to make Saudi Arabia the ultimate global hub for the gaming and esports industry by 2030,” the crown prince said last week, according to the report. Saudi press agency.
Speaking at the Next World Forum earlier in September, Prince Faisal bin Bandar, Chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, mentioned the rise of the sports sector over the past five years, adding: “One of the My favorite things about the game is that you first introduce yourself to someone using their gaming skills and not based on their history, religion, skin color, background or gender.”
The prince said: “This young community and people are really striving to take their place on the world stage. The ultimate goal is for Saudi Arabia to naturally evolve on the global path of gaming and esports.”
Through this initiative, the government hopes to create 39,000 jobs, introduce 250 game developers and promote a thriving internal talent pool for esports, which will bring the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s economy to 50 billion riyals. by 2030.
Dozens of national start-ups, as well as multinational developers, stand to benefit immensely from this wave of new investment.
Abderrahmane al-Soulaimani, an artificial intelligence engineer and game designer, who worked nine years in Japan before returning to the Kingdom in 2020, is one of them.
During his career, Al-Soulaimani has witnessed the astonishing growth of the world famous Japanese gaming community. Seeing the same potential in his home country, he returned there to set up his own studio.
Earlier this year, Al-Soulaimani launched AlBuraq Wings, a game studio that embraces young gamers eager to learn about design and programming.
“I wanted to help bring them together under one roof and I created the studio with the aim of making games that are not only made by Saudis for Saudis, but also to bring the world to the world. immense talent of our developers,” Al-Soulaimani told Arab News.
Whether it’s designers, developers, artists, voiceovers, or otherwise, game development isn’t a one-man thing. It’s a community of talent who come together to try out new technological tools and come up with innovative game ideas.
AlBuraq Wings recently won third place in the Gamers8 XR Gameathon, a time-limited accelerated innovation event where gaming enthusiasts come together to develop a game prototype from scratch in a week.
“These tournaments are what push many Saudis to come out and put their skills in the spotlight. I dare say, the skills of many Saudis surpass those of the Japanese,” Al-Soulaimani said.
He added, “Gaming events not only attract gamers, they also attract three unique and important segments of the gaming community: programmers, designers, and artists. If you get all three, you have a game. We’ve come full circle. »
Saudi Arabia is already rapidly emerging as a major gaming hub, with local competitors achieving world-class results in global esports tournaments.
In 2018, Mosaad al-Dossary, known online as “Msdossary,” became the first Saudi citizen to win the FIFA Electronic Gaming World Cup — an event that more than 20 million players attempted to win. to qualify.
A year later, Saudi gamers were thrilled when the Kingdom was chosen to host the region’s largest gaming tournament to date, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Mobile Star.
The global esports market size was valued at $1.22 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach $1.44 billion in 2022. Fortune Business Insights forecasts the market to reach $5.48 billion in 2029.
According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group earlier this year, Saudi Arabia now has 23.5 million gamers, or around 67% of the Kingdom’s mostly young population.
About 90% of these gamers participate in esports as amateurs or semi-professionals, while around 100 Saudi gamers are making esports a full-time career, according to the report.
« If you consider Arab countries, Saudi Arabia is the number one destination for the games, » he told Arab Newsa Saudi gamer and content creator, known as “PikaLoli”.
Like many Saudis, she has been playing games since a young age and recently decided to make it her career. She discovered a platform where a growing community of gamers and developers can share ideas and feedback.
“I play all kinds of games and give my opinion on my social media pages,” revealed PikaLoli. “The interaction and engagement that you find, even among the younger ones, is remarkable.”
“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time and the community of thousands of people have been helping each other for years. We have a common platform to communicate, share ideas, edit videos, play developer games and make feedback, and much more,” she explained.
Walid Abou Alkhayr, a recently graduated game designer, found his calling shortly after graduating from college and enrolling in Game Development Hima’s « intensive training » which focuses on game development by mastering skills and doing an internship at one international gaming firm before landing a job at another.
He entrusted to Arab News that computer training programs and esports and game development courses appealed to him the most, reinforcing the idea of becoming a game developer.
“I started playing games on the Sony Playstation 1 and haven’t stopped since. The love of games is what made me want to choose this profession, but I didn’t see enough support until very recently when the industry grew at an unprecedented rate; I knew then that was what I wanted to do,” he said.
Abou Alkhayr, also a member of AlBuraq Wings, pointed out that the rise of esports and game development is not just a fad, but something that has been in the making for years.
“The initiatives and programs launched by the entities that teach programming and game development are numerous and the resources even more, which provide opportunities and strengthen the technical competitiveness of the community. The greater the participation of talents, the more the community will develop and contribute to the realization of the vision that is proposed to us”, he advised.
For Al-Soulaimani, harnessing that energy, enthusiasm and raw talent is precisely what it takes to put Saudi Arabia on the global gaming map.
“The Kingdom nurtures local talent; it is ready to create a dynamic environment for electronic sports, as young people have long done with their love and passion for video games,” he said.
« As game developers have found our platforms, we are sharing our games and receiving support, but the recent announcement will give more chances to the younger generation who want to dive into this fun world, » Al-Soulaimani said.
This text is the translation of an article published on Arabnews.com