Once a mere side hobby, gaming has become a multibillionaire industry. Esports is driving that growth in multiple countries across the world. Competitive tournaments have been notoriously big in Asia and North America, with countries like China, South Korea, and the United States accounting for most of the big players in the esports ecosystem. But e-gaming is now aiming at untapped markets. And new countries are betting on esports, implementing bold strategies to attract gamers. So, let us look at some likely esports hubs of the future.
E-gaming is on the rise across the Middle East, and Abu Dhabi is taking the lead. The capital of the United Arab Emirates is looking at esports as a means of economic diversification in a bid to boost local creation for the gaming sector to become one of the country’s top ten economic industries. In 2021, the emirate struck a deal with investment company Mubadala to develop an esports ecosystem. And a year later, Abu Dhabi is ready to welcome gamers.
A colossal esports and VR venue is expected to open shortly at Al Qana, a popular leisure destination by the waterfront. When completed, the Pixoul Gaming complex will cater to both casual players and serious gamers looking to enrol in the first certified Esports Academy in the MENA region. This soon-to-be-opened venue will also position itself as the go-to spot for major esports events. In the meantime, the Etihad Arena will host the much-anticipated Blast Premier World Final in December 2022.
The UAE might have pioneered e-gaming in the MENA, but another Gulf giant is having a say. Earlier in September, leaders and experts of the gaming industry gathered in Saudi Arabia to discuss the future of esports at the Next World Forum. Held in Riyadh, this two-day forum explored the opportunities for Saudi Arabia to play an increasingly leading role and become the region’s undisputed esports hub. Yet, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took Saudi’s ambitions to the next level by announcing his plan to make it to the world’s top three countries for esports competitors. Doubling down on investments, the country aims at creating up to 39,000 jobs. Large-scale esports competitions are also underway, with Riyadh playing host to the Global Esports Games in 2023.
Yet, this strategy may face controversy. Regulations have long restricted some areas of gaming, notably the iGaming industry. Still, online casinos in Saudi Arabia offer a safe alternative to brick-and-mortar casinos. Privacy being key to most punters, top platforms offer tips for maximum discretion and anonymity. Thus, players may enjoy the best of innovative table games and slots. And hefty rewards like VIP programs and free spins are a click away to keep it rolling. But NGOs like Amnesty International have also regularly called out Saudi Arabia for infringing on human rights, raising questions to the participation of LGBTQ and female gamers in local tournaments.
Experts predict Southeast Asia might be a world leader in esport revenue by 2024. To date, the entire Asia-Pacific area boasts over 1,5 billion gamers. And one particular city-state has long been acting on this burgeoning market. With its thriving business environment, Singapore is looking forward to becoming the next big thing in international esports. Major publishers like Blizzard Entertainment and Riot Games have established Singaporean headquarters. Singapore is already taking the regional lead in the mobile gaming sector. And between 2019 and 2020 alone, the country’s esports market soared by 15%.
Singapore is also taking advantage of its state-of-the-art infrastructure. In 2021, a massive e-gaming facility opened within the Singapore Sports Hub. The E-sports Experience Centre features several pro e-sports team rooms alongside live-streaming-ready event spaces. Top-notch internet connectivity is another prominent local asset, with the country lauded for the world’s highest broadband speeds. Incidentally, Singapore is playing an increasing role on the international esports scene. Major Tier 1 tournaments have been held locally. The Singapore-hosted Free Fire World Series even garnered a viewership of 5.4 million in May 2021, while the Global Esports Games further put Singapore on the map in the same year.
Esports is fast taking the world by storm. And cities like Los Angeles, Seoul, and Malmö, are beacons of gaming culture. But other spots are emerging to take a piece of the esports cake.
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