Survey: Esports in Saudi Arabia driving purpose-built venues


A survey conducted by YouGov has revealed that gamers in Saudi Arabia are increasingly interested in attending live esports events and want more opportunities to do so.

The survey was commissioned by global architectural design firm Populous. It found that 53% of gamers who had participated in a live esports event preferred the experience to tuning in from home, with just 5% saying they did not like the experience of going out of their house to attend live events.

Populous partnered with YouGov, a research, data and analytics group, to survey more than 1,000 male and female residents of Saudi Arabia, aged 18 or older, who spend at least seven hours a week gaming. The analysis was aided by YouGov Profiles and Global Fan Profiles to provide insights on key points of difference between gaming and esports fans in Saudi Arabia and other major international markets, including gamers in the US, UK, Germany and Japan.

“As a designer of this new breed of venues, this research will help Populous to continue to raise the bar for live e=sports experiences, creating venues that bring people together, placing them at the heart of the action and providing an unforgettable shared experience,” said Rhys Courtney, Senior Principal and EMEA Esports Lead at Populous.

The research findings demonstrate a growing crossover appeal between gaming and esports taking place in Saudi Arabia, with more than three quarters of gamers (78%) saying they were interested in esports, with 39% “very interested”. The survey’s findings come on the back of Gamers8, an eight-week gaming and esports festival held in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, which closed with The Next World Forum. It also follows the unveiling of the National Gaming and Esports Strategy on September 15. Its stated aim is to make the country ‘the global hub’ for both sectors by 2030.

Held in Boulevard City, Gamers8 took place over an eight week period commencing July 14 (Photo: Gamers8)

Of those who had participated in an esports event,  86% of respondents said the venue itself had a direct impact on how they experienced that event. Proper layout for viewing and gaming meet-up spaces were identified as the two most important design elements for consideration in any current or future esports venue. Subsidiary events such as cosplay and conventions happening alongside the main competition play were also cited as desirable, along with high-quality hospitality and retail spaces for fans.

Although a third said they had participated in an esports event as a spectator, a significant portion of esports’ fans are unengaged or have not been effectively marketed to. 25% of respondents said this was because they don’t live close to an esports arena, but 35% didn’t know when or where e-sports events happen. The survey findings indicate a need for increased marketing to raise awareness of events, particularly given that 81% of those surveyed felt esports events should happen in Saudi Arabia more often than they currently do.

Significantly, the research found that 37% of people surveyed had attended or participated in an esports event held in a venue that was not specifically designed to host such events, suggesting there is considerable room for the growth of bespoke e-sports venues in Saudi Arabia.

“The findings underline the huge interest in esports in Saudi Arabia and why many experts in the sector are predicting the Kingdom will become not just a regional but a global hub for the gaming industry,” said Courtney, adding, “Whether new build, retrofit or mixed-use, esports venues and destinations will be central to the successful delivery of the National Gaming and Esports Strategy and the significant number of associated job opportunities.

The full report is available to view here.

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Benedict is editorial assistant, social media manager and staff writer across several aviation, automotive and performance technology titles published by Mark Allen Business. He is a graduate of the University of Southampton and spends his free time organising comedy shows, playing basketball loudly and guitar quietly.

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