Gaming and Animation: Game On!

  • The MENA animation industry was valued at $1billion in 2011
  • The regional online gaming business had revenues of approximately $100 million by the end of 2012 and is projected expand steadily to more than $800 million by 2022.
  • 80% of the 200 million Arabs under the age of 25 are tech-savy gamers.
  • Games software sales in the MENA region triple to 3 billion dollars in the next 3 years
  • Middle East Film and Comic Con attracted more than 20,000 people across the region.

A staggering 12 million Arabs already actively play Facebook games every day with this set to expand in the coming year. Gaming software sales are also forecast to triple to over $3 billion within the next 3 years. With this market beginning to explode, there is a perfect opportunity to take advantage.

Abu Dhabi’s ambition to produce and export media content certainly makes good economic sense. The MENA animation industry was valued at $1bn in 2011, while the regional online gaming business had revenues of approximately $100m by the end of 2012 and is projected to expand steadily to more than $800m by 2022. The gaming sector in the Middle East, Gulf in particular, is estimated to be between USD 1 billion and USD 2.6 billion in terms of revenues including software and hardware.

Two of our flagship tenants at twofour54 Abu Dhabi are Cartoon Network and Ubisoft. They both established offices in the campus alongside dedicated academies in both animation and gaming.

Ubisoft: Finding opportunity in Middle East gaming

When global entertainment company Ubisoft decided to launch a development center in the Middle East, it was a vote of confidence that the region could be more than just a market for the company’s video games. Yannick Theler, managing director of Ubisoft Emirates, explains that the Middle East has a significant talent base as well, thanks to the large population of young people who have grown up in a mobile and video game environment.

Ubisoft clearly understands the importance of talent: With 29 studios on six continents, the company has the world’s second-largest in-house development staff. Ubisoft has over 15 franchises, with over 9,200 team members in 28 countries, and more than 85 percent of employees are dedicated to game development. However, Ubisoft’s local presence in many markets notwithstanding, it is very much a global player. Each studio develops games for global distribution, and the company’s Abu Dhabi studio is no exception. After coming online in 2011, Ubisoft Emirates developed “CSI: Hidden Crimes,” released in 2014. “Everything was done in Abu Dhabi, from the concept design to the production, the development of technology, and the graphics and artistic work”,” noted Theler. The game, which has generated more than 15 million downloads worldwide, is available on tablets and smartphones.

Mobile is an important new market for Ubisoft, and one of the reasons the company was interested in the Middle East as a development center — the region has adopted mobile technology more quickly than other markets. All about the people

One of the most important regional priorities for Ubisoft in the coming years will be continuing to develop the talent base. The Abu Dhabi studio currently has 40 employees, and Theler aims to reach 100 in the next few years. The current staff have very diverse backgrounds —in their 20 nationalities and in their professional histories. The studio has spurred innovation and creativity by hiring people with a wide range of experience, including those who have worked in console gaming as well as those who have worked outside the gaming industry.

Many employees are programmers and artists who might not have experience in game development, and thus require a few months of training. Ubisoft is working with twofour54 media training on courses in gaming, and selects interns and employees among those who have finished the coursework.