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Abu Dhabi emerges as a powerhouse in the global gaming landscape

Abu Dhabi emerges as a powerhouse in the global gaming landscape
29 Apr 2024 12:07

ISIDORA CIRIC (ABU DHABI)

In the era of rapidly expanding digital landscapes, the UAE is marking its territory as a powerful gaming hub.

With strategic investments and a burgeoning tech-savvy demographic, the country is not merely participating in the global gaming industry; it is actively shaping its future.

In an interview with Aletihad, Massimo Falcioni, Chief Competitiveness Officer at Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), revealed that the growing sector is expected to significantly boost the UAE economy and generate thousands of jobs within the next decade.

“The UAE’s gaming market is rapidly growing through the introduction and use of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), which will contribute $4.1 billion [Dh15.05 billion] to the country’s economy and create 42,000 jobs by 2030,” he told Aletihad.

He noted that the UAE, where 73% of the population are gamers, is currently the world’s 35th largest gaming market in terms of revenue, ranking 5th worldwide in terms of gaming influencers. The industry is also witnessing massive expansion in the MENA region.

Gaming revenues are projected to hit Dh22 billion ($6 billion) by 2027, while the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s combined gaming markets are expected to reach more than Dh11 billion ($3 billion) in revenues by 2025, Falcioni added.

Abu Dhabi: A Gaming Hub
With over 70 content-creating companies, Abu Dhabi’s gaming sector is witnessing rapid expansion, Falcioni said, adding that the emirate recognises the strategic importance of this vibrant sector and its potential impact on the country’s economy.

“Gaming in Abu Dhabi is seen as an important part of the digital economy, and as it grows in popularity, the emirate is keen to harness its potential to bolster the UAE’s journey towards economic diversification and innovation-driven growth,” he explained.

The emirate adopted a forward-thinking approach, ensuring a transparent regulatory environment and simplified licencing for companies looking to open, expand, or relocate here.

“Abu Dhabi has a dedicated e-sports legislation to ease licensing and set up with a world-class and transparent regulatory environment designed with gaming and e-sports companies in mind,” the ADIO competitiveness chief said.

Further adding to Abu Dhabi’s gaming allure is its robust infrastructure, state-of-the-art facilities and studios, high-speed network connection, as well as post-production and audio/voice-over centres.

A Magnet for Gaming Giants
Thanks to its friendly investment climate and innovation-conducive environment, Abu Dhabi is also rapidly emerging as a key destination for major players in the global gaming industry, attracting some of the biggest names.

Ubisoft, one of the largest video gaming companies globally, has deepened its presence in the emirate, reflecting the global gaming community’s confidence in Abu Dhabi’s potential.

ADIO played a key role in this move by providing comprehensive support for the establishment of the company’s gaming studio in Abu Dhabi, which will serve as a regional hub, Falcioni said.

In a similar vein, the Arabic mobile games publisher Tamatem Games, with an impressive portfolio of more than 50 culturally relevant games and over 150 million downloads, last month announced the relocation of its headquarters to Abu Dhabi to fuel its growth and create new job opportunities, joining a burgeoning local ecosystem.

To further its commitment, Tamatem, known for adapting games to cater to the Arabic-speaking community, plans to hire more than 40 gaming experts in Abu Dhabi, as well collaborate with local universities to offer internships and training programmes, enriching the educational and professional landscape for aspiring game developers in the region.

In addition to facilitating these high-profile moves, Falcioni revealed that ADIO is also enhancing the local gaming scene through collaborations with tech giants like Microsoft.

Together, they’ve launched the GrowthX Accelerator programme, aimed at connecting startups with Microsoft’s resources to help them scale.

“Committed to connecting startups with the best of Microsoft to help them in scaling their operations, GrowthX encompasses training and networking opportunities where startups can showcase their concepts to venture capitalists and Microsoft’s regional enterprise customers,” he explained.

This virtual programme supports startups across four critical areas: tech enablement, corporate readiness, financial readiness, and investor readiness.

Abu Dhabi is not only attracting global giants but also fostering an environment that nurtures innovation and growth across the gaming, esports, and sports sectors.

For instance, KALM, the world’s first esports and sports consultancy focused on player development and performance, recently launched its global headquarters in Abu Dhabi.

“KALM is joining a solid lineup of global players who are setting up their operations in the emirate, and we are confident that they will drive further growth for Abu Dhabi,” Falcioni said.

Industry-bolstering Initiatives
Always striving to expand its digital and creative sectors, Abu Dhabi continues to push the boundaries with ongoing strategic projects that aim to facilitate access for both companies and creators.

One of the standout initiatives is the AD Gaming Hub, strategically located within the Yas Creative Hub, a space dedicated to showcasing the latest gaming technologies, content ideas, and development.

Its primary objective is to “foster creativity that will generate high-quality gaming content”, Falcioni said, noting that the hub also plays a crucial role in facilitating connections within the industry by providing “access to partners, including publishers, developers, artists, and freelance talent”.

In addition to the AD Gaming Hub, Yas Creative Hub is also the home of Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 community, which is rapidly becoming a centre for a diverse mix of content creators.

This initiative, designed to nurture talent and innovation, is inclusive of sectors such as gaming and edutainment, and “is expected to attract 16,000 professionals by 2030”, the ADIO competitiveness chief added.

Comprehensive Support for Growth and Development
The ADIO is spearheading these efforts by providing growth-enabling support including setup enablement, connections to the Abu Dhabi ecosystem and international trade opportunities, according to Falcioni.

“The comprehensive range of financial and non-financial support we offer is contingent upon companies achieving clearly defined KPIs around the positive impact on Abu Dhabi’s private sector and knowledge economy,” he explained.

High quality of life, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and superior connectivity further solidify Abu Dhabi as a prime location for business and investment, he added.

In parallel, ADIO assists companies in maximising the benefits of the emirate’s attractive investment environment, characterised by a robust regulatory framework, political stability, security, and access to a highly skilled workforce.

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