Ahmed Bin Sulayem

The gaming industry is booming. Let’s ride the wave of opportunity together

The global gaming industry has boomed over the last decade, with advancements in technology, greater governmental support, accessibility, and inclusivity of its user base. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), we are experiencing unprecedented growth in the industry with revenues expected to almost double by 2027 since 2021– reaching USD 6 billion.

The MENA region is quickly gaining momentum, and with estimated gaming market revenues topping USD 9 billion, Israel’s expertise in areas such as mobile gaming, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) positions the country as an intrinsic player in the global ecosystem and in lock step with the developments taking place in Dubai and the wider Middle East. As the sector surges in the region, there is a major opportunity for further collaboration between Israel and the UAE.

Our latest ‘Future of Trade’ report on gaming and esports, shows that gaming in the MENA region constitutes 15 percent of the global player base. This surge is fueled by a young and digital-savvy population, high levels of digital connectivity, and government support, making the region a hub for both consumers and creators. While the UAE and Saudi Arabia are currently leading the sector’s developments in the region, there is great potential for leverage across neighboring countries with strong digital engagement and fast-growing consumer segments. Meanwhile, esports is expected to post regional revenue growth of 23.3 percent between 2019 to 2024. To do so, we need to diversify e-sports revenue streams from sponsorship to new direct-to-fan monetization models – including digital merchandising, loyalty programs and training platforms for amateur gamers.

We can learn from the successes of the Israeli gaming ecosystem.

For instance, Theta Network introduced a unique model to drive revenue by decentralizing its video streaming and developing a blockchain-led system that enables alternative revenue verticals and a deeper connection to its fanbase. The Israeli company has created greater revenue streams for business owners within the gaming ecosystem, empowering developers and designers and increasing engagement among players and streamers. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv-based Overwolf provides third-party developers with extensions and add-ons for computer games and counts tens of millions of active users worldwide. The wider Israeli gaming ecosystem is reported to make up a further 360 companies from mobile and video game developers to apps and hardware services.

Israel’s history of start-up success positions the country well to play a key role in the growth of gaming internationally. The country is at the sharp end of gaming innovation in everything from sensors to detect movement and emotions, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Big Data for online marketing and leveraging of user databases, computer vision and video analysis. Israel stands alongside the world’s biggest markets as a major player and startup nation not only in gaming but across tech – in 2021 Israel received 28 times more capital flows than the US on a per capita basis.

Our Gaming Centre which opened in 2022, underscores DMCC’s commitment to support the growth of the gaming industry in the region. Gaming companies based here have access to global capital, leading industry talent, and a wider ecosystem that allows companies to operate efficiently and with confidence. A key area where the ecosystem could collaborate with Israeli companies is in the development of appropriate regulatory safeguards to ensure privacy, security, and safety online. The industry must develop a business-friendly environment – including smoother visa systems to allow esports professionals and audiences to attend live events – to attract talent to the region and elevate it into a global industry leader.

This is a model that has served us well over the years. Beyond gaming, DMCC is home to several centers dedicated to specific sectors, such as its Tea Centre and the Dubai Diamond Exchange – both now global industry leaders and great evidence of the shared economic trade growth Israel and the UAE have established so far. At the academic level, there is the potential to collaborate with the likes of Israel’s Shenkar, which created the country’s first academic program designed to train students in the design and development of digital games and encourages research and innovation. It’s promising to see Shenkar’s concentration on research and innovation in the gaming world, as part of its focus in developing the future leaders of this sector.

As we seek to solidify Dubai’s position as a global trade and economic hub, DMCC welcomes more Israeli companies in the sector to join the Gaming Centre and set up their businesses in our Free Zone. Through its proven track record of creating a measurable impact on markets around the world, Israel has a unique opportunity to participate as a key player in the MENA gaming landscape, offering its expertise in technology advancements and innovation in digital design and development on an acute scale, which lends itself well to the sector globally.

About the Author
Ahmed Bin Sulayem is the Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre and has driven its growth from a start-up of 28 member companies in 2003 to the world’s leading free zone in 2023 with over 23,000 member companies from 180 countries, employing over 65,000 people. Mr. Bin Sulayem currently serves as the Chairman of the Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE) and the Dubai Gold & Commodities Exchange (DGCX).
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