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The upcoming ESI Digital Summer B2B esports conference will focus on the Middle East and other emerging regions

The upcoming ESI Digital Summer B2B esports conference will focus on the Middle East and other emerging regions

On August 18, the day will be dedicated to the Middle East, the world’s fastest-growing gaming market

ESI Digital Summer

The Middle East has a thriving gaming community estimated to be 377 million strong – and reported to be growing at an exponential rate of 25 per cent year-on-year, making it the fastest-growing gaming demographic in the world.

Countries across the region including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, among others, are pushing forward a wide-ranging set of initiatives to further esports within the region.

In May, Saudi Arabia announced that its Gamers Without Borders tournament, organised by the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS), with technical support from ESL, by some metrics the world’s largest esports company, became the world’s largest charitable gaming tournament with the participation of over 120,000 players spread across 72 countries, with gamers participating for a total charity prize pool of $10m.

A recent study by the kingdom’s General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) revealed that over two-thirds of Saudi Arabia’s population is under the age of 35 – revealing a vastly untapped fanbase for gaming and esports.

That latent potential has even led to Twitter and gaming platform Millenium Arabia, the esports arm of Saudi Gamer, launching the first Arabic esports series – Hala bil Gamers – on the social media platform.

“In countries such as Saudi Arabia, with a huge chunk of the population under the age of 30, it seems inevitable that gaming and esports could succeed as a part of a new revolution of the local entertainment sectors. Based mostly on anecdotal evidence, social media tracking and assumptions, the appetite for competitive gaming is there. What is missing is the opportunity,” said Sam Cooke, co-founder and managing director at Esports Insider.

That opportunity is being leveraged in countries like Jordan and the UAE. For example, Jordanian firm FATE Esports recently partnered with Orange Telecom Jordan to build an esports training facility at the Orange Digital Village in Amman, Jordan, to help nurture talent in the region, and also to host gaming events across the MENA region.

In the UAE, W Ventures announced last year that it would invest $50m in online and offline gaming infrastructure to bolster the local esports community. It said that it expects the MENA gaming industry to be worth $4.4bn by 2022.

Key figures from the country have been appointed to prominent positions within the global esports industry. Last year, the UAE’s Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifah Al Nahyan was elected to join the new board of the International Esports Federation (IESF), a global esports body focused on governance.

Read: UAE government signs agreement with IESF to promote tolerance in esports

Tapping into and unravelling the esports juggernaut within the region, B2B esports events and media company ESI will be organising an online ESI Digital Summer conference from August 17-21, presented by Kinguin Lounge.

Each day of the conference will be dedicated to a specific regional market including Middle East, Europe, LATAM, North America and Asia Pacific. Attendees will be able to chat with one another directly throughout the week.

August 18, the second day of the conference, will focus on the Middle East market. It will be held in association with Dubai-headquartered Motivate Media Group, the parent company of Gulf Business, which has partnered with ESI for the entire day’s event.

The digital conference will include sessions such as the “ESI Brand Showcase” where Mohammad Majali, founding partner of FATE Esports and Nizar Abu Karaki, director of marketing and sponsorship manager at Jordan Orange, will discuss how their collaboration came about, success so far and what they plan to achieve by way of it.

In another session titled “Esports events in the Middle East: Challenges & Opportunity”, the panel discussion will include the likes of Dubai-based Klaus Kajetski, the founder and CEO of Yalla Esports, and Phil Wride of Cheesecake Digital, who will discuss the roadblocks ahead for the esports community in the region and ways in which they can be tackled.

Another session titled “The Fragmentation Challenge and Esports Broadcast Rights in the Middle East” will include a panel discussion with Edward Kondrat, esports executive at Empire Play, DLA Piper’s Jamie Ryder, and Cameron Reed of Ross Video who will all elaborate on the challenges that differences in Arabic dialects throw up for event organisers leading to a fragmentation of the market and events.

With esports sponsorship spends expected to cross $1bn in 2022, according to a study by marketing intelligence service WARC, the broadcast rights of these mega events will be a vital talking point during the session.

However, one of the most keenly awaited segments that day is reserved for the late afternoon called The Clutch Digital, where esports startups will pitch their ideas and in return stand a chance to secure sponsorship and mentorship.

“Four startups will have just minutes to pitch before the esteemed judging panel. The investors will decide the best company over the span of the rest of the week, with the winner to be announced on social media during the final day of ESI Digital Summer,” said Cooke.

The four startups which have been selected to pitch their ideas are 3D Aim Trainer, the first multi-platform that allows you to simulate your in-game aim; XPlayn a discovery platform for esports gear and gaming equipment, with a data-driven algorithmic Xscore-ranking of every peripheral in esports; Anzu which connects advertising and gaming by immersing non-disruptive brand ads inside video games across platforms; and Juked, an esports hub which allows fans to follow their favourite games, players, and teams in one place.

The judging panel meanwhile includes Matthieu Dallon, CEO of Trust Esport Ventures, Helen Sarah Gammons, Relationship Manager – Media & Entertainment Group at HSBC Private Bank and Spike Laurie, venture director at Hiro Capital.

“The winning company will be offered both extensive promotion, and access to the sort of the mentorship and guidance that will help elevate their company to the next level,” added Cooke.

Allowing participants to unwind at the end of each day, and network while they’re at it too, will be a casual gaming tournament hub where attendees can compete with each other across games including Rocket League, FIFA and CS:GO.

Esports within the Middle East is bound to leap into a period of rapid growth – the Digital Summer conference will throw up clues on how not to get left behind.

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