Breaking down barriers for mobile esports in GCC
Now Reading
Breaking down barriers for mobile esports in the GCC

Breaking down barriers for mobile esports in the GCC

Gulf Business webinar discusses the future of mobile esports in the GCC with key insiders


The mobile platform offers the GCC a chance to catch up with more established regions of Asia, Europe and North America in esports development.

Since mobile esports is relatively new, the starting point is more or less even globally. “If the skill level in the region is good enough, regional teams should be able to compete with any other team in the world,” says Lalit Vase, club director at Nasr eSports, a Dubai-based esports club.

This contrasts with established PC games like Counter-Strike, where European-based esports have been competing at a competitive level for at least 10 years. Nasr eSports only set up a Counter-Strike team three years ago. Teams in Europe therefore would have a clear advantage in terms of coaches available, the number of players, etc, Vase observes.

Mobile competitive gaming in the region still has some way to go, insiders agree. Most of the esports titles that have consistent participation in the region are all PC titles such as League of Legends, observes Edward Kondrat, esports executive at Empire Entertainment.

But the general mobile gaming scene in the region is booming. The pandemic-imposed lockdowns saw a massive increase in mobile game downloads. “Whether that translates into comparable momentum for mobile esports remains to be seen,” Kondrat says.


Further, the huge mobile penetration rates in the Middle East, which hover well over 100 per cent, provides a potentially massive pool of gamers, both at amateur and pro-level, observes Jamie Ryder, partner at DLA Piper Middle East, an international law firm with offices in the region.

Sam Cooke, managing director and co-founder, Esports Insider, says the growth on mobile esports is driven not just by the ease of access to smartphones but also by the sheer advances in the quality of mobile games in a relatively short time.

But for mobile esports, and esports in general to grow in the region will require extra efforts from all stakeholders.

Kondrat says games localisation is crucial. “FIFA is a good example where publisher EA Sports invested in Arabisation early on and that’s probably why the FIFA franchise is so popular in the region. Ubisoft has done the same with Rainbow 6 and that also explains their consistency in the region,” Kondrat explains.

Government support
There is a real potential for esports in the region if the various governments were to engage with the community and roll out specific esports regulations and legislation, says Ryder. These rules should make clear how esports is governed, how to host competitions, etc.

“South Korea offers a great example of what government backing, clear rules and regulations and investment in infrastructure can achieve,” says Ryder.

In Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS) has published some draft guidelines on the development of the sector.

Vase says the region has plenty of models from more mature markets to learn from. “The regional sector can develop in a better way by learning from the experience of others,” he adds.

Mobile esports is starting to attract corporate money, crucial for the growth of the sector. Cooke gives the example of PUBG Mobile, which recently announced a $2m league. “As these games and the ecosystem develops, you can expect money to follow, particularly from corporate sponsors,” says Cooke.

The one challenge mobile esports faces that other esports platforms do not is ‘converting people from players into payers’, says Ryder. “The perception from the public is that games should be free because they are on mobile. A major mindshift in the population is required to eliminate that barrier between mobile on one hand and PCs and consoles on the other,” Ryder says.

More universities in the region should consider adding gaming majors in their curriculum. “The strengthening of the relationship between the education sector and esports is vital for teams to discover talent and for young people to develop their gaming skills,” he says.

You might also like


Scroll To Top