New Payment Methods in North Africa and the Middle East

New Payment Methods in North Africa and the Middle East

October 31, 2023
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The gaming industry has been steadily expanding its global reach for years. Today, players hail from every corner of the planet, and there is a growing interest in gaming emerging from the Middle East and North African region. For game developers and publishers, now is the perfect time to take advantage of this growth to reach new audiences and increase revenue. Despite the complexities present in some of these countries, from politics to infrastructure, there is both an opportunity and a need to expand local payment options to players.

MENA's Gaming and Payment Landscape

The MENA region - with countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt - has experienced a surge in game revenue, increasing from $200 billion since 2021 to a projected $340 billion by 2027. This rise marks the MENA region as the fastest-growing gaming sector globally, with a growth rate of 25% compared to other gaming markets. Similar projections extend to the number of players, with over 85.76 million entering the game space in the next two years. 

What fuels this region's growth? Various factors, including increased investments in telecoms and the widespread availability of affordable mobile devices, have pushed MENA ahead of its counterparts. With nearly half of the population under 25, gaming is the primary form of entertainment for a generation growing up in the digital age. Government support also plays a role. Saudi Arabia and the UAE host major esports tournaments, adopt initiatives to promote game localization, and provide incentives for local and international game companies to establish a business presence within their borders.

The payment landscape has also seen increased development. As players from different socio-economic backgrounds reach for their mobile devices, seeking new ways to play, they also seek new ways to pay. 58% of players use smartphones and tablets, so online purchasing has propelled the popularity of bank transfers, digital wallets, and card-based purchases, even as cash remains the prevalent form of payment.

A Closer Look at Saudi Arabia

As in any region experiencing rapid growth in a particular industry, capitalizing on a new opportunity means understanding its growth prospects and challenges. For game developers, it's essential to understand the preferred payment methods in this region. But it's important to note that navigating the intricacies of the Saudi Arabian market can be challenging without a local entity to facilitate payment collection in the region.

Saudi Arabia has seen huge strides in driving new technology related to gaming and digital payment methods. As the country moves towards a less oil-driven economy, the government is "pushing ahead with diversification to build a more sustainable future for the nation." Over $38BN has been committed to creating a global gaming hub, focusing on buying shares in big-name gaming companies like Nintendo and Blizzard Activision. With a particular interest in esports, Saudi Arabia's SEF (Saudi Esports Federation) ”is home to 85% of gaming fans in the Middle East and North Africa."

While cash-on-delivery is the favored payment method, the landscape is evolving. Alongside the country's plans to become a major player in the gaming industry, changing policies aim for a cashless economy, with an "increase [in] cashless transactions to 70% by 2025." In a recent Mordor Intelligence report, the country is on track to become one of the most advanced payment markets, with a CAGR of 15.4% by 2028. Cards and digital wallets are poised for substantial growth in the foreseeable future. Bank transfers remain a reliable choice, particularly for players who either lack credit cards or favor the security of banking transactions. 

A Closer Look at Egypt

Compared to other countries in the MENA region, Egypt boasts the largest population and the highest percentage of gamers, at 68%. Mobile devices are the preferred medium for playing, with 58% of all gamers choosing a tablet or phone over PCs and consoles. As a nation, government and private sector funding has contributed to the popularity of esports, including running tournaments like the Insomnia Gaming Festival, where Egyptian-sponsored teams compete in games like Counter-Strike and Fortnite

In a recent study by 6Wresearch, Egypt's shift to a more urbanized landscape has also seen an influx of employment, allowing more people to have disposable incomes, a rise in the availability of inexpensive devices, and government investing initiatives, like the ICT Vision 2030. While these factors contribute to the development and growth of Egypt's gaming industry, the country still heavily relies on cash. 57% of people live in rural areas, 67% of the population does not have a bank account, and only 3% have access to a credit card. 

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed Egypt to transition to a more digital payment-friendly environment. As part of the country's information and communication initiatives, the government announced plans to create 17 smart cities to provide more digital solutions to the country. Digital wallets and BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later) are some payment methods currently growing in popularity in the country. 

Since these systems are relatively new, game developers should understand that the regulatory systems are also new. While initiatives are underway for the country to adopt a more online-based payment system, the country is still very cash-based. 

Xsolla Payments

As a global entity, Xsolla has the resources and the partnerships needed for game developers to branch into the MENA region. In addition to the worldwide payment methods currently accepted in MENA, including credit cards, digital wallets (Skrill, SkinsCash, PayPal, BitPay, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay), prepaid cards (Paysafecard), and DCB/PSMS in Saudi Arabia, Xsolla covers more local payment options available that are specific to each country's current digital economy. Accepting these payment methods will help boost your audience reach and overall game revenue. 

Saudi Arabia

While cash on delivery is the most widely used payment method in Saudi Arabia, cards and digital wallets are the fastest growing alternative options, with local methods accounting for over 30% of the market share. Xsolla partners with one of the most popular digital wallet options, STC Pay, giving your business access to a preferred payment method for the region.

Egypt

A recent survey carried out by Mastercard found that 88% of Egyptians now use a form of contactless payment, with local methods accounting for 15% of the market share. There, Xsolla partners with Meeza, giving your players a wide variety of ways to make in-game payments. 

Ready to add new payment methods for your Middle East and North African player community? Xsolla Payments is the solution for you to increase revenue and expand your audience with ease. Talk with an Xsolla expert and take your game to new heights today.

The gaming industry has been steadily expanding its global reach for years. Today, players hail from every corner of the planet, and there is a growing interest in gaming emerging from the Middle East and North African region. For game developers and publishers, now is the perfect time to take advantage of this growth to reach new audiences and increase revenue. Despite the complexities present in some of these countries, from politics to infrastructure, there is both an opportunity and a need to expand local payment options to players.

MENA's Gaming and Payment Landscape

The MENA region - with countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt - has experienced a surge in game revenue, increasing from $200 billion since 2021 to a projected $340 billion by 2027. This rise marks the MENA region as the fastest-growing gaming sector globally, with a growth rate of 25% compared to other gaming markets. Similar projections extend to the number of players, with over 85.76 million entering the game space in the next two years. 

What fuels this region's growth? Various factors, including increased investments in telecoms and the widespread availability of affordable mobile devices, have pushed MENA ahead of its counterparts. With nearly half of the population under 25, gaming is the primary form of entertainment for a generation growing up in the digital age. Government support also plays a role. Saudi Arabia and the UAE host major esports tournaments, adopt initiatives to promote game localization, and provide incentives for local and international game companies to establish a business presence within their borders.

The payment landscape has also seen increased development. As players from different socio-economic backgrounds reach for their mobile devices, seeking new ways to play, they also seek new ways to pay. 58% of players use smartphones and tablets, so online purchasing has propelled the popularity of bank transfers, digital wallets, and card-based purchases, even as cash remains the prevalent form of payment.

A Closer Look at Saudi Arabia

As in any region experiencing rapid growth in a particular industry, capitalizing on a new opportunity means understanding its growth prospects and challenges. For game developers, it's essential to understand the preferred payment methods in this region. But it's important to note that navigating the intricacies of the Saudi Arabian market can be challenging without a local entity to facilitate payment collection in the region.

Saudi Arabia has seen huge strides in driving new technology related to gaming and digital payment methods. As the country moves towards a less oil-driven economy, the government is "pushing ahead with diversification to build a more sustainable future for the nation." Over $38BN has been committed to creating a global gaming hub, focusing on buying shares in big-name gaming companies like Nintendo and Blizzard Activision. With a particular interest in esports, Saudi Arabia's SEF (Saudi Esports Federation) ”is home to 85% of gaming fans in the Middle East and North Africa."

While cash-on-delivery is the favored payment method, the landscape is evolving. Alongside the country's plans to become a major player in the gaming industry, changing policies aim for a cashless economy, with an "increase [in] cashless transactions to 70% by 2025." In a recent Mordor Intelligence report, the country is on track to become one of the most advanced payment markets, with a CAGR of 15.4% by 2028. Cards and digital wallets are poised for substantial growth in the foreseeable future. Bank transfers remain a reliable choice, particularly for players who either lack credit cards or favor the security of banking transactions. 

A Closer Look at Egypt

Compared to other countries in the MENA region, Egypt boasts the largest population and the highest percentage of gamers, at 68%. Mobile devices are the preferred medium for playing, with 58% of all gamers choosing a tablet or phone over PCs and consoles. As a nation, government and private sector funding has contributed to the popularity of esports, including running tournaments like the Insomnia Gaming Festival, where Egyptian-sponsored teams compete in games like Counter-Strike and Fortnite

In a recent study by 6Wresearch, Egypt's shift to a more urbanized landscape has also seen an influx of employment, allowing more people to have disposable incomes, a rise in the availability of inexpensive devices, and government investing initiatives, like the ICT Vision 2030. While these factors contribute to the development and growth of Egypt's gaming industry, the country still heavily relies on cash. 57% of people live in rural areas, 67% of the population does not have a bank account, and only 3% have access to a credit card. 

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed Egypt to transition to a more digital payment-friendly environment. As part of the country's information and communication initiatives, the government announced plans to create 17 smart cities to provide more digital solutions to the country. Digital wallets and BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later) are some payment methods currently growing in popularity in the country. 

Since these systems are relatively new, game developers should understand that the regulatory systems are also new. While initiatives are underway for the country to adopt a more online-based payment system, the country is still very cash-based. 

Xsolla Payments

As a global entity, Xsolla has the resources and the partnerships needed for game developers to branch into the MENA region. In addition to the worldwide payment methods currently accepted in MENA, including credit cards, digital wallets (Skrill, SkinsCash, PayPal, BitPay, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay), prepaid cards (Paysafecard), and DCB/PSMS in Saudi Arabia, Xsolla covers more local payment options available that are specific to each country's current digital economy. Accepting these payment methods will help boost your audience reach and overall game revenue. 

Saudi Arabia

While cash on delivery is the most widely used payment method in Saudi Arabia, cards and digital wallets are the fastest growing alternative options, with local methods accounting for over 30% of the market share. Xsolla partners with one of the most popular digital wallet options, STC Pay, giving your business access to a preferred payment method for the region.

Egypt

A recent survey carried out by Mastercard found that 88% of Egyptians now use a form of contactless payment, with local methods accounting for 15% of the market share. There, Xsolla partners with Meeza, giving your players a wide variety of ways to make in-game payments. 

Ready to add new payment methods for your Middle East and North African player community? Xsolla Payments is the solution for you to increase revenue and expand your audience with ease. Talk with an Xsolla expert and take your game to new heights today.

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