The Middle East's Silicon Valley? Jordan's booming, yet struggling, gaming industry
Nadine Ajaka, a journalist and photographer, recently explored Jordan’s video game industry and the challenges the burgeoning market faces. Called the Silicon Valley of the Middle East, Jordan has a good future if predictions of a 29% annual market growth in the Middle East hold true.
Video games are a multi-billion-dollar industry, with the global gaming market projected to reach over $86bn by 2016. In the Middle East, the video game market is burgeoning, with an expected annual growth rate of 29 percent.
While console gaming remains largely under-developed in the Middle East, mobile gaming here is the fastest growing gaming sector in the world – and of all the digital games produced in the region, Jordan churns out over half of them.
While Jordan has been described as the Middle East’s Silicon Valley, there are many challenges that stand in the way of the country’s entrance into the global gaming market.
“Dealing with failure in the Arab world is really hard, no one gives you another chance,” said 31-year-old Hussam Hammo, who founded a game company called Wizard Productions. Unable to find help from the local entrepreneurial community, the company folded after investors pulled the plug, and Hammo left to join an accelerator in the US. Last October, he came back to open a games publishing company in Amman.
Zeyad Tuffaha, 27, spent 20,000 Jordanian dinars ($30,000) out of his own pocket to create a browser-based zombie game. He has doubts that investors will continue investing in Jordan as a gaming hub. “As much as we can see ourselves as liberal comparatively, everything is tied to politics,” Tuffaha said. “Can you guarantee that Jordan will be stable politically and security-wise in five years? No one can. So, I’m sceptical that this will continue.”
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