With substantial revenue potential, high-quality jobs creation, various reputational benefits, and approximately three billion active participants, the gaming and esports industry is sure to provide rich opportunities for players and governments alike over the coming decade – with Saudi Arabia poised to take a leading role on the global stage.
The report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) titled ‘Gaming & Esports: Media’s Next Paradigm SHIFT,’ reveals that should gaming and esports’ popularity continue increasing at its current trajectory, overall consumption in Saudi Arabia is expected to reach USD 6.8 billion by 2030 at an average compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22% – up from USD 959 million in 2020.
As per the report’s findings, the Kingdom is currently home to 23.5 million gaming enthusiasts, equivalent to 67% of the national population. Moreover, 90% of this segment – 21.1 million –already play esports titles on a semi-pro or amateur basis, with ~100 professional esports players pursuing fulltime careers. Given the growth potential of the Kingdom’s gaming and esports community, the coming period represents an advantageous opportunity to ensure related benefits are fully capitalized upon in due course.
“From a Saudi standpoint, these growth projections undoubtedly bode well for the local gaming and esports community,” explained Povilas Joniskis, Partner, BCG. “Despite the Kingdom being a relatively recent entrant to this space, the industry is vibrant and fast-growing, nevertheless. Passionate gamers are primarily powering its growth and popularity at present, and it is more than feasible for them to embark on full-time careers and become involved on the international stage. Yet first, key barriers concerning aspiring Saudi competitors and professionals must be overcome.”
While there is much potential in the Saudi gaming and esports industry today, challenges also await due to the landscape being in an early development stage compared to other international markets, namely a lack of funding to compete full-time, scarcity of local competition, no clear pathway for gamers to become professional, and social stigma associated with choosing a career in gaming and esports.
As such, the Kingdom’s leadership now has an opportunity to capitalize on the widespread passion for gaming and translate the current high level of consumption intensity to a corresponding production intensity. Already positioned to be a key enabler of ecosystem growth for the industry, the report details the reasons for why the government should support the industry.
- Economic impact: The gaming and esports industry’s sustained rapid growth will inevitably yield positive gross domestic product (GDP) contributions, simultaneously supporting adjacent sectors.
- Jobs creation: Gaming and esports is a major employer within many countries’ entertainment industries. A thriving, dynamic sector will present the same at the national level.
- Robust reputation: Investments across the industry will position the Kingdom at the forefront of driving 21st century sport, culture, and entertainment.
- Enhanced quality of life. The sector promises to broaden residents’ entertainment options, enabling them to share in a global phenomenon.
Collaboration, funding, and financial support
Additionally, the report demonstrates the vital role of the gaming and esports industry in the Saudi government’s future-focused ‘Vision 2030’ development plans, elaborating on key players already supporting widespread sector development. One local example is Manga Productions, part of Misk Foundation, the government-sponsored non-profit organization focused on cultivating KSA’s youth as stewards of the region’s economy. Manga Productions is providing funding and financial support, as well participating in education and talent attraction efforts.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and DigiPen, the world-leading game design academy, recently collaborated to launch the Game Changers program, which was designed to provide “unique career pathways for entrepreneurs in the Saudi game industry” and increase the number of independent game company startups.
“When examining gaming and esports in Saudi Arabia, we see interest in the industry growing among the government and less traditional business players alike,” added Povilas Joniskis, Partner, BCG Riyadh. “By focusing on areas for improvement and approving the necessary investments across specific segments, the Kingdom’s economy, reputation, jobs market, and talent pool all stand to reap the rewards. “