Growth Opportunities Exist For Digital Entertainment Startups In The Middle East And North Africa

Saifi Ismail – Group President – Yalla Group Limited.

As smart devices have rapidly swept across the world, they’ve paved the way for innovative electronic games (apps for smartphones and tablets) and previously unheard-of entertainment platforms that appeal to people from all walks of life and backgrounds.

As a result, the world is full of promising investment opportunities that digital entertainment startups can seize. In a nutshell, this is what the digital entertainment world is all about.

According to a recent report by Newzoo, a trusted source for games and esports analytics and market research, the games market is in a state of constant growth. Consumer spending on electronic games for mobile devices, computers and consoles is set to reach a record $203.1 billion this year—an increase of 5.4% from 2021. Mobile games alone are predicted to contribute to over half of gaming revenues.

The Middle East and Africa appear to be one of the most promising regions for investment, with consumers predicted to spend $7.2 billion on gaming this year—a year-over-year increase of 12.9%. And this growth is likely to continue. More than half of the population in the Middle East and North Africa is under 25 years old, and most people there have access to the internet. As of 2017, there were 587 million online gamers in the region, and that number has no doubt grown considerably since then. This large population of current and potential gamers means great prospects for the industry—and great development opportunities that digital content makers can seize.

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The Middle Eastern and North African gaming markets are bracing for a big future—one supported by major investments and creative startup projects. As group president of a social networking and entertainment platform headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, I have firsthand experience working within these markets. Here’s my advice for other companies that are considering investing in the region.

• Keep culture in mind. Some Middle Eastern societies may reject some digital entertainment content. With that in mind, be sure to develop digital entertainment applications, content and team games that take into account the region’s culture, values and aspirations.

• Prepare for a paradigm shift. It is clear that the gaming industry is only going to get bigger and better over the next several years, particularly as the world prepares to see more advanced experiences made available by virtual reality. I think the Arab digital entertainment and social networking market, in particular, will witness a paradigm shift over the coming period. Young people in the region have undergone cultural changes, which have sparked a great deal of creative energy. The unmet demand for local Arabic content has fueled the exponential growth of the regional digital entertainment and social networking market. Mobile technology use has also opened up new opportunities for digital platforms. Additionally, changes in paid and digital media have produced new rationales for investing. These developments give industry players the chance to reevaluate their business strategies and consider making investments in high-quality local content. They also give international players a reason to reconsider their regional presence. You can make the most of these opportunities by offering added value to your customers and launching new applications and services that help change the reality of Arab social media and take advantage of technological developments.

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• Partner with governments. This is one of the most important steps when it comes to the development of the digital games industry. Governments can play a significant role in creating an appropriate investment environment that supports digital development and enables the digital entertainment sector to be one of the key players in the market. We’re seeing many Middle Eastern countries already devising strategies and modifying current plans to take advantage of the lucrative investment opportunities in this promising market.

These tactics, if harnessed together, can help companies push the Middle Eastern and North African digital entertainment sectors toward a future full of great opportunities that will accelerate their growth.

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