How Abu Dhabi is developing an entire gaming ecosystem
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How Abu Dhabi is developing an entire gaming ecosystem

How Abu Dhabi is developing an entire gaming ecosystem

Abu Dhabi plots a path to gaming hub status

Gulf Business

Just like competing in a popular online game, creating a world-class gaming and esports ecosystem requires a multi-faceted ground plan.

First, you need a launching pad.

Rising in Abu Dhabi is Yas Creative Hub, a state-of-the-art media and entertainment complex that opens its doors in Q4 2021. Yas Creative Hub will include a purpose-built Gaming Hub, which will provide a physical home for the gaming industry in Abu Dhabi in partnership with industry giant Unity Technologies.

To attract gaming companies to the hub, developers twofour54 Abu Dhabi launched a subsidy and support programme in the second half of last year.

“The response has been phenomenal from companies that are looking to expand into and move their content production teams to Abu Dhabi,” says James Hartt, director, Strategy and Business Development for AD Gaming.

The Yas Creative Hub is attracting companies from the US, the UK, Brazil and also from parts of the Arab world such as Jordan and Lebanon, thus creating a healthy pool
of talent and developers, says Hartt.

Second, you need a strategy.

Twofour54 has launched Abu Dhabi Gaming (AD Gaming), a new initiative to aggregate the emirate’s efforts to build a gaming and esports community. Supported by Unity Technologies, Flash Entertainment, UAE Pro League, Emirates Esports Association and the Media Zone Authority, AD Gaming aims to provide a support system for game developers, players, consumers, and businesses in Abu Dhabi.

“The government’s role is to support the growth of the industry so that creative talent can forge careers in the game development industry,” Hartt adds.

Third, you need to develop the talent.

AD Gaming’s partner Unity Technologies will be leading a “train-the-trainer” development programme, working with several educational institutions in the UAE, including Abu Dhabi University, NYU Abu Dhabi, Higher Colleges of Technology and the University of Sharjah. The programme aims to equip professors and teachers with the skills
they can pass on to their students in AI, virtual reality, game development and coding.

The Unity qualification for game development will sit alongside their existing degrees, Hartt explains. “The programme gives the students the practical experience so they can hit the ground running when they move into the industry,” he adds.

The education component is split into two: the university angle and what is being offered at the gaming hub, says Sultan Al Riyami, associate manager at twofour54.

“AD Gaming will host workshops and activations for university students and graduates who want to pick up game development skills,” he adds. AD Gaming will also link students with gaming and esports partners to gain real industry experience. “It is not just about bringing in existing mature game development businesses; we aim to also find the local talent that has a passion for game development and provide them with support while they develop content,” says Riyami.

Unity Technologies is providing this support free of charge. “It is only a matter of time before a blockbuster game comes out of Abu Dhabi,” he adds.

Fourth, you need to bring the rest of the populace on board.

Gaming has had a bad rap in the past, often seen as antisocial. This calls for a shift in the understanding of the gaming industry, says Hartt. On the economic side of things, gaming and esports are thriving industries that employ hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. The current global video game industry is approaching $200bn while the spend per capita in the UAE is one of the highest in the world.

Also, gamification in education is a budding field. “It has been proven that memory retention is higher, and you get more engagement from school children when they combine playing and learning,” says Hartt. Gaming has also emerged as the ultimate global movement.

“Gaming bridges people from different communities, backgrounds, religions and regions like no other platform,” says Riyami.

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