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Pandemic-Accelerated Gaming will Continue Post COVID-19 Lockdown in UAE and KSA

The gaming sector is continuing to flourish in the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as gamers are making the while due to being confined to their homes during the pandemic lockdowns. Latest findings from a gaming survey conducted by GfK in the two markets revealed that over half (50%) of all UAE and KSA respondents increased their time spent on gaming.

In addition, the pandemic has also triggered a newly installed base of gamers in the UAE (+15%) and Saudi Arabia (+10%) with women accounting for over 40 percent of this new base. The majority of new gamers overall were between the ages of 26 and 35.

“With social distancing and strict policies to curb COVID-19 being imposed by policy makers in both countries, gaming is still seen as one of the leading forms of entertainment, and more women turned to gaming to fulfil that void,” said Shika Samuel, Analyst for IT panel at GfK.

It is apparent that the pandemic has significantly altered gaming habits on the three main devices: smartphones, consoles, and laptops in both UAE and Saudi Arabia. Survey findings revealed a spike in the number of gaming hours on these devices by consumers during lockdown.


Nearly 1.5 additional hours daily spent on smartphone gaming post lockdown

Even though the number of gaming hours were reduced after the lockdown ended, the time spent gaming post lockdown was still higher than before it began as people continued to spend more hours playing games. In the UAE, an additional 1.4 hours were spent daily on smartphone gaming after the lockdown ended, compared to before it began, and the duration is slightly higher, at 1.5 hours, in Saudi Arabia.

In the UAE, 52 percent of respondents downloaded new games on their smartphones, with the average of AED 50 spent in the past three months on in-app purchases. It was slightly less in Saudi Arabia with 44 percent downloaded new games and made in-app purchases of approximately SAR 42.

A quarter of the respondents in the UAE also looked at the app rating prior to downloading it, whereas one in five in Saudi Arabia did the same. Almost a third of the UAE respondents also wanted the capability of playing offline, whereas only a quarter of Saudi respondents mentioned the same.

Among Smartphone gamers, 31 percent UAE respondents are bothered that they could not play game offline whereas 25 percent KSA respondents mentioned the same.


More Saudi’s purchase laptops specific for gaming

Growth in the laptop gaming segment tracked by GfK was higher in Saudi Arabia. Amongst those surveyed in the Kingdom, 57 percent purchased a laptop for gaming compared to 49 percent of those in the UAE. Among this segment of gamers, online purchases of gaming titles were relatively higher in Saudi than that in the UAE, a trend that continues from before until after the lockdown period. The report also showed that 55 percent of respondents in the UAE and 57 percent in Saudi Arabia surveyed would consider purchasing a laptop for gaming by mid-2021.

The top five gaming genres amongst laptop gamers remained the same in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia; Action, Adventure, Sports, Racing, and Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG).

Console gaming habits on the rise

Console gaming habits saw a significant change, where in Saudi Arabia (+63%) it increased more than the UAE (+55%). Also, more respondents (53%) from Saudi Arabia are likely to buy gaming consoles, than UAE respondents (45%), in the next six-months. However, directly after the lockdown restrictions ended, UAE respondents (15%) purchased more gaming consoles than in the Kingdom (8%).

Amongst console gamers in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the top five types of gaming titles were also the same in both countries: Action, Adventure, Sports, Racing, and Arcade.

Samuel added, “With restrictions still being imposed, and more people turning to gaming as a form of entertainment we will most likely see a continued growth in time spent playing across all devices in the coming months. I believe that experience fosters a growing habit, and with more time for gaming, we will most likely see an increase in purchasing consideration for devices, accessories, and games as people might look to enhance their gaming experience.”

Where are gamers buying their device?

Online has registered unprecedented growth in recent months, thanks to multiple lockdowns, social distancing, and compelling online retailer promotions. Gamers have always preferred shopping for devices online as they are certain of the products they want to buy and look out for discounts on what could be considered as expensive gaming devices. Amongst PC gamers, 46 percent in the UAE and 48 percent in Saudi Arabia have purchased their PC used for gaming through the online channel based on the GfK study. This number is higher for console gamers with 56 percent in the UAE and 49 percent in Saudi Arabia making their console purchases online.

About the survey

GfK’s Know your Gamer study was conducted in November – December 2020 with the objective of understanding how gaming habits have been shifting and continue to evolve since the COVID-19 outbreak. Nearly 3000 gamers in the United Arab Emirates (1,000), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (1,047), and South Africa (874) were surveyed online on topics around gaming, including their habits and preferences, purchase behavior, as well as preferred brands and game genres.

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