Gulf Business

Skin in the game

Here’s why the sales of gaming equipment have soared in recent months


There were a few winners to emerge from the Covid-19 lockdowns. Zoom calls, e-commerce, online educationa­l courses, virtual fitness classes. And gaming. Confined to the home, and their Netflix library quickly depleted, a lot of people turned to online gaming to escape and cope.

According to a study by the ISFE, a gaming industry group, playtime increased weekly by 1.5 hours compared to the same period in 2019 among players aged 6-64 years. A third of the players say video games helped them feel happier, less anxious and less isolated and 29 per cent claim that video games had a positive impact on their mental health during the lockdown, especially those who play multi-player games.

The sales figures for gaming equipment support this rosy outlook. The UAE had strong double-digit growth in gaming year-on-year, especially for the premium gaming segment ($1,800+), statistics from research firm GfK show. Dell saw a 161 per cent year-on-year growth in its gaming division Alienware in the Middle Eastern markets, according to Utkarsh Pandey, category manager, Middle East, Dell Technologi­es. HyperX, which manufactur­es and sells gaming peripheral­s, had a 40 per cent growth in revenue globally, says Hani Suwwan, business developmen­t manager, MENA for HyperX.

Winds of change

Pandey notes that the narrative of gaming has undergone a significan­t shift in the recent past, as game developers evolve to tackle complex societal issues. This change is challengin­g negative perception­s towards gaming.

“Contrary to popular opinion, gaming is being enjoyed by demographi­cs of different ages, genders and background­s, although the habits between the audiences differ depending on the genre, platform and style of gaming. The demographi­cs will continue to shift depending on the new genres available and new ways of playing the games with added social elements,” says Pandey.

HyperX’s motto, “We’re All Gamers” lends itself to the idea that players range from your hardcore PC gamer through to those who play for a few minutes a day on their phone, says Suwwan. “The profile of a ‘typical’ gamer has never rung true for us and there has always been a diverse range of people gaming. We aim to make sure that we are catering to everyone within that broad range,” he adds.

The Covid-driven gaming surge seems to have staying power. Globally, the gaming industry is forecast to reach $200bn by 2023, with the number of gamers topping a staggering three billion by that time, according to market researcher Newzoo. The GCC gaming market is also expected to reach $821m in 2021, according to a study by Strategy&. Saudi Arabia was placed in the 19th position globally for gaming revenues in 2019 at an estimated $837m, according to a report by Frost & Sullivan.

“Esports and gaming will become more popular in the region, especially in the UAE and Saudi markets, and the appetite for local gaming content will also grow,” Pandey says.

“Because of this [growth], the region has started receiving unpreceden­ted support and attention from major publishers and gaming companies, with big names like RIOT, CDPR, Ubisoft, and Sony localising their games,” observes Suwwan.

He says HyperX is keen to leverage this trend, creating a dedicated social media channel for the region, adding Arabic to the HyperX website as well as a local layout keyboard.

Overall, technologi­cal innovation­s will be the major driving force that will continuous­ly push gaming experience­s to whole new levels in the future, Pandey says. “The increase in demand for state-of-the-art gaming systems coupled with the advancemen­ts in technology will drive the increased incorporat­ion of mixed reality in gaming, blending the real and the virtual,” he adds.

Gaming is being enjoyed by demographi­cs of different ages, genders and background­s

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