Game changers: Women gamers fuel the rise of Dubai and the UAE as a global Gaming Hub
Over the past few years, there is a steady and yet consistent rise in the number of women gamers globally. A Lumikai report has pointed out that over 40% of all global gamers across mobile, console and PC are women.
And the MENA region is no different. RedSeer Consulting Report has pointed out that women gamers are set to push the MENA gaming industry past $5 billion by 2025.
“The increase in streaming and content creation has been one of the major reasons for the rise in the awareness of gaming. There has been a significant rise of content creators in the Middle East, and the primary reason for this is that the government as well as game publishers are supporting such content creators and bringing in major events in the region to boost gaming and esports. A special panel for women gamers in Dubai Esports Festival in 2022 proves that realisation and recognition for women gamers is on the rise in the region,” explains Soham Thacker, Founder, Gamerji, an eSports tournament platform.
The Indian gaming company had opened its Middle Eastern operations with Dubai late last year. It just isn’t Gamerji, even the gaming-focused fund W Ventures announced that it would be investing $50 million to build esports and the gaming infrastructure in Dubai.
In fact, to further push for focus on gaming, the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) had announced the launch of a gaming centre to tap into the whole region’s $1.8 billion gaming industry.
Interestingly, the growing number of women gamers has made the games industry an engine for entertainment and economic development. Lucy Chow, investor and Women in Games Ambassador, states that initiatives like Games for Change, the Dubai Esports Festival, and Gamers8 are important opportunities to bring more women in MENA into the gaming fold. The region is very open to women who game and stream.
“Governments are working to develop regional companies as well as local talent. Also, making gaming lucrative for all genders. This means there is a focus on creating opportunities for all youth,” Chow explained.
Earlier this year, the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy also hosted a digital industry workshop focusing on the gaming sector. With respect to women, the segment also has participation of a younger demography. This may have influenced women's growth in esports in recent years. The recent generations have grown up with a much more gender-equal worldview.
“The total population of the region is around 400 million, and almost half are under 25, and this segment continues to grow, with increased disposable income with existing gamers and longer gameplay by users, leading to a hike in advertisement revenue. The pandemic may have been a catalyst for this boom,” explains Mario Pérez, CEO of MENA Tech, a company owned by GGTech Entertainment.
“The Dubai eSports Festival along with Riyadh’s Gamers8 are the pinnacle of eSports in the region, competing to attract the best competitions and the best teams with hefty prize pools.” Perez added.
Apart from this there is also a push to get more women interested in pursuing tech careers. Chow explains that women in the region are taking up gaming like never before thanks to the access afforded by smartphones and the growth of video streaming platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and TikTok.
“When it comes to the gaming industry, it’s true that mid-core and hard-core games are played by a majority (although far from exclusively) male audience. It’s often these games that grab the most attention for content creators and streamers, as they tend to be highly competitive and, as such, can make for gripping entertainment. However, my perception is that there’s huge potential for talented female content creators to address that gap and engage with both male and female audiences,” says David Fernandez, CEO at Sandsoft Games, a mobile-first game developer, publisher and investor.
“Today, there is more diverse gaming content. To date, female gamers have favoured more accessible and casual games, often on mobile devices. There has also been a rise in gaming content designed specifically for women gamers, and it’s becoming increasingly common to see heroic female characters in gaming storylines,” added Fernandez.
What is also bringing more women into gaming is the fact that there are more opportunities available today. “As gaming and esports continue to grow, more job opportunities are created requiring people with specific qualifications. Beyond the players, in-person gaming events require event organizers, planners and managers, advertising, sponsorship, social media promotion, casting, filming and tech support, including participants, which involves players, coaches, and team organisations,” said Fernandez.
Women are also included in this growth. The paradigm shift that has been underway in recent years includes esports as well. “Many talented women are demonstrating their skills and becoming professionals in this field.” He added.
However, while the tide is shifting for women gamers, there still is a lot that can be done - “There are also more numerous and more prominent female content creators and esports players to look up to. While the numbers of women gamers have increased rapidly, we still have more to do to make women feel welcome across all platforms and forms of gaming content,” added Chow.
Dubai, with its supportive government policies and investments, has emerged as a key player in fostering the growth of gaming and esports.
As the region continues to witness a younger demographic with a more inclusive mindset, the gaming industry is set to thrive, creating new opportunities, and driving economic development in the years to come.
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