The pioneers of electronic sports competitions in Dubai aspire to a greater role in the industry

In a modern headquarters in Dubai, young men are organizing regional video game competitions sponsored by major international brands, after e-sports fans in this Gulf emirate aspire to become players in the exciting industry.

Among them, Saad Khan, who entered the world of electronic competitions four years ago with the opening of a chain of internet cafes in Dubai, has quickly turned into a platform to launch into the industry, says the 45-year-old Indian expat.

Khan has leveraged his relationships with global companies such as Intel, HP and Microsoft to open his own company, which has just bought a new headquarters, and start organizing and producing regional eSports competitions.

With the aim of diversifying its economy and strengthening its "soft power" on the world stage, the UAE has invested in various sectors, especially the technology and sports sector, especially through its young expatriate population.

The video game industry is achieving annual growth of 12 percent, and it generated about $ 139.9 billion in 2020, according to the US consumer measurement company Nielsen.

It is expected that this amount in the Gulf alone will reach 821 million dollars in 2021, noting that the UAE and Saudi Arabia are the main consumers of international products in this regard, according to estimates by the consulting company "Strategy and".

"The value of (commercial) sponsorship has increased, and the number of players has increased," said Khan, who preferred not to disclose his company's profits. "I see a lot of very good teams forming and shining, which was not the case before," he added.

And last year, his company entered into a contract with BMW, which organizes regional competitions. But his group aims to go further, with offices opening in Barcelona, ​​India or South Africa to cover other regions.

Ghazi Beydoun, in charge of business development at the company, who is passionate about video games, said that the future of esports in the Middle East is bright.

"We have a lot of talent that lacks support," the 29-year-old expatriate said, referring to prominent Lebanese, Jordanian, Egyptian, Saudi and Emirati teams.

According to Baydoun, "the appropriate system is gradually taking shape and will improve and grow."

With 25 years of experience in this sector, Gereen Bongai also wants to be part of this new system thanks to his company that he established in Dubai and is currently working on producing what the UAE says is the first game taken from the Gulf culture.

Slated to be released at the beginning of the school year, it is a game based on the adventures of four Emirati women, who are famous characters in the local animated series "Freej".

"It's a completely private initiative, but we have tremendous government support," Bungay told AFP.

This British man chose Dubai a year and a half ago because of its appetite for this sector, and its embrace of engineers in this field from all over the world, and also due to the presence of an important market represented by its large neighbor, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

He noted that Saudi Arabia, which ranks fifth in the world in terms of video game revenue, has a "very large" market. "Before I came to the area, I didn't know that," he added.

"Not many people are aware of the size of the video game market in the region in general," he added.

The Gulf states ’appetite for e-sports is part of a larger effort towards“ self-sufficiency ”and“ local industries, ”said Robert Mogielnicki of the Washington-based Arab Gulf States Institute.

The researcher explained that "e-sports and other gaming industries provide new platforms for governments and companies in the Gulf to reach a global audience."

In a constant endeavor to establish a good image abroad, "it is not only about the entertainment of young people," who are the majority in these countries, but also "portraying Gulf societies as prosperous and creative poles," according to Mogielnicki.

 

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