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A report on the esports industry, its impact in the UAE and what processes and companies are involved.

1. What is it?

Esports, or electronic sports, is a form of competition that focuses on video gaming. Its most common form is competitive, organised tournaments that pits professional players or teams against each other with the use of multiplayer video games. 

Although online or offline competitions were a largely active part in early video gaming culture, its popularity surged when spectators and professional companies participated in these events through live streaming. Esports now has reached a significant point in both popularity and worldwide influence and several developers work towards designing new games that could make impacts in this industry and subculture.

2. What games are suitable for esports?

Esports video games are generally ones that offer multiplayer gaming capabilities. 

First person shooters (FPS), Battle Royale, Real Time Strategies (RTS), Fighting & Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) are some common esports genres.

CS: GO, Halo, Gears of War, Call of Duty, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds(PUBG), Fortnite, Tekken, Overwatch, Super Smash Bros, Fifa, Dota 2 and League of Legends are some widely acclaimed video games that are played during esports events.

3.Teams and Players; their training and earnings

Professional or “pro” gamers are usually associated with esports gaming teams. Teams like FaZe Clan, OpTic Gaming, Evil Geniuses, Team SoloMid, Cloud 9, Fnatic, Mineski, Counter Logic Gaming, SK Telecom T1, Splyce, Team EnVyUs, and Natus Vincere consist of such professional gamers. Professional esports gamers include “Faker”, Clinton “Fear” Loomis, Milan “Milan” Kozomara and Nikola “NiKo” Kovac, Seth “Scump” Abner, Matt “Nadeshot” Hagg.

These players apart from their gaming training, also go through several mental health programs like: studying strategies and team building activities.

The earnings of esports gamers come from several sources. They are paid regular team salaries, receive money in the form of prize pools from tournaments and sponsors. Sponsors also cover travel expenses in return for advertising. One form of advertising is having the sponsor’s logo on the player jerseys. Some prominent sponsors include Razer, Dell, Scuf Gaming, G Fuel, MSi, Hyper X, DXRacer and Logitech.

In addition, several famous athletes own well-known esports teams, such as Rick Fox’s ownership of the team Echo Fox.

4. Is esports classified as an actual form of ”sport”?

This topic stands in a very unstable debate. While many argue against the classification of esports as an official form of sport, there have been counter-arguments stating that “careful planning, precise timing, and skilful execution” ought to be the main factors of a “sport” over the implementation of physical activities in various traditional and non-traditional sports. On the flip side, esports has been classified as “not a sport but a competition”. There have been occasions when esports has also been referred to as a “mind sport”.

While this situation remains unanswered, the search for a suitable solution is often put aside or even ignored. Although there have been several attempts to obtain official recognition of the esports industry, one such attempt would be running esports events alongside traditional international sporting events. A notable example of this is when 2007 Asian Games and X Games involved an official esports competition and a medal-winning ceremony together with other sports.

The Olympic Games stands as a potential method of esports official recognition. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has acknowledged the growing popularity and the possibility of its consideration as an official sporting activity, stating that the training and intensity that the players perform are equivalent to that of a professional athlete’s training process. However, the International Olympic Committee requires games fitting the “rules and regulations” of the Olympic Games. One such rule is that any sport involving violence is not allowed and several esports games involves violence, for example first person shooters and fighting games, this results in yet another indecisive situation.

Hopefully in the near future, esports will receive recognition and a place among other traditional physical activities as a sport.

5. Impact on the UAE

The esports gaming industry is still young and developing in the Arabian Peninsula, its popularity had only recently begun to take root. 

One of the problem this industry faces in its adoption by the Middle East is the fact that it is only recognised as a worthless waste of time and an unaffordable luxury. Many would assume it is solely a kids-oriented medium of entertainment, while this in fact is not true as most esports gamers are well over the age of 18 and have mindsets equivalent to that of a professional chess champion.

This has not stopped the esports gaming industry in leaving memorable traces of its influence on the UAE. Esports competitions occur frequently and in various locations in the UAE from small-scale gaming cafes to large-scale events like the previous Middle East GamesCon held at ADNEC Abu Dhabi.

6. Where do companies like Gamers Hub Middle East come in?

The job of Gamers Hub Middle East (GHME) is to organise and spread the influence of esports in the Middle East region through multiple contacts with various gaming vendors, retailers & gaming cafes, GHME is a platform that specialises at creating LAN & online esports tournaments.

In addition, GHME also provides information such as: player rankings, upcoming tournaments information, unique point of view on the gaming industry, product reviews and latest product releases to the current industry in forms of blogs & video content that is available as VOD’s on GHME TV; thus serving as an information hub for gamers in the Middle East.

– Devangshu “Gridz” Rath & Nabeel Aziz

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