The United Arab Emirates is one of the richest regions in the Middle East, and one that is home to a promising video games market.
An avid gaming community is catered for by several specialist games retailers. The passion of this customer base can be seen at events like Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima’s appearance at retailer Geekay in January.
“The Middle East software and hardware market has been growing at an average rate of 20 per cent over the last five years, and continues to grow in spite of the challenges we face,” says Lalit Vase, COO at Red Entertainment Distribution.
The biggest challenges in the region are piracy and grey importing, although they are not as severe as they are in other Middle Eastern nations like Egypt. Strict censorship is also an issue.
“There are different laws in different countries here, which leads to some games being banned as they harm the cultural or religious aspect of a particular country,” says Geekay Group’s business development manager Nimit Deepak Palija.
“Spec Ops was banned in UAE because it showed Dubai under attack, but this was not the case in other Middle East countries.”
The government works hard to build the development sector. Its content creation firm TwoFour54 secures investment for UAE studios.
Retailers and distributors want more titles released in Arabic. In fact, Red Entertainment Distribution even localises EA titles.
“There is a shortage of localised titles and that can ultimately affect overall sales,” says the firm’s PR and marketing boss Tristan Irons.
“With the potential of Middle East markets, we are only scratching the surface and foresee more titles being translated into Arabic.”
CEO Arvind Agrawal at distributor LS2 Pluto adds: “With a prospective audience of over 300m people spread across the Middle East, the gaming industry leaders will find a fresh and young market, eager to try new games.”
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: THE FACTS
Currency: UAE dirham
GDP (Per Capita): $67,008
Capital City: Abu Dhabi
Virgin Megastore, Geekay Games, Sharaf DG, Plugins, Toys R Us, Emax, Carrefour
Red Entertainment Distribution, Pluto Games (LS2 Pluto), Viva Entertainment, Gameplay Entertainment, Geekay Distribution
Tahadi Games, Game Power 7, DAO?Games, Ubisoft Abu Dhabi
Microsoft, Sony, TwoFour54