This summer, Saudi Arabia will host the world’s largest esports and gaming festival, Gamers8, with a prize pool of more than $30 million. The 2023 season, named “Gamers8: The Land of Heroes,” will take place in Riyadh starting on July 6th and will offer double the prize money from the previous year.
This means that retailers have endless opportunities to benefit from merchandising. The popularity of video games has led to a significant increase in merchandise sales, including clothing, toys, collectibles, and other products branded with popular game franchises. These products are often sold both online and in physical retail stores. As the gaming industry continues to grow, it is likely that merchandise sales will also continue to increase.
As of 2021, the gaming industry in Saudi Arabia was valued at approximately $1 billion, with over 20 million gamers in the country. The market is expected to continue growing, driven by the increasing number of young people and the high penetration of smartphones and internet usage.
Already in the kingdom, consumers rushed to purchase Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr jersey after he signed a two-year contract. The demand was so high that a football kit store in Riyadh saw crowds flocking to buy the jersey of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner only hours after the news broke.
The rapid demand for Cristiano Ronaldo’s jersey has depleted T-shirt stocks, causing customers to bring in their own shirts to have the player’s name printed, a process which will take up to two days, according to an AFP report.
This merchandise craze is expected to hit esports fans as well. Last year at Gamers8 which was also held in Saudi Arabia, famous international teams such as Team Falcons, PSG.LGD, FURIA Esports, and FaZe Clan participated. These teams play games like Call of Duty and Dota 2, and have massive fan followings. FaZe Clan that plays Call of Duty for example, has close to six million Twitter followers.
Last year, the Gamer8 event attracted more than 1.4 million visitors and was watched by 132 million people. The festival showcased the skills of 392 professional players and 113 international professional teams, with players from 61 different countries participating and showcasing their talents.
Gamers and companies in the UAE are also capitalising on this. Manish Bakshi, Managing Director of BenQ Middle East and Turkey, told Gulf News that, “companies in the UAE are beginning to understand the potential of the gaming industry and are starting to invest in it.”
“For example, Dubai-based Geekay provide the community with gaming merchandise, accessories, and events,” Mr. Bakshi added.
“The Dubai Internet City Free Zone also announced a $100 million fund to support the development of local gaming studios.”
Moreover, Amazon University Esports had held a competition in December last year. Esports’ Winter Split Competition for 2022-23 season has ended with student teams from over 40 universities vying for a $10,000 prize pool.
The competition, featuring games such as “League of Legends,” “VALORANT,” and “Rocket League,” determined the top teams in the region. Teams earned points towards the overall scoreboard, and the top-ranked teams from UAE, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Egypt will qualify for the Amazon University Esports Masters MENA Series 2023, a live event to crown the regional champion.
All of this shows that esports are gaining massive traction in the region, and has the potential to benefit retailers who will venture into merchandising for this growing industry.