So it happened in one of my job interviews, and that question was addressed to me: how can you make an educated guess and calculate how many World of Warcraft gamers / WoW players are there in the Middle East region?
Truth be told, I wasn’t prepared for such a question, and my top-of-my-head answer at that interview did not satisfy me, so I decided to dig deeper, and do the math on my own, specially that Blizzard / Activision do not share such statistics.
As I reside in Dubai, (UAE), I knew a friend / an insider who used to work in 2010 for RED Entertainment Distribution, the sole distributor of Activision – Blizzard games in the whole Middle East region. He told me that on average, RED used to sell around 2,500 World of Warcraft 60 Day Pre-Paid Time Card each month. If such time card would entail the player to keep playing online for two months, that means 5,000 players keep buying cards every two months. No, I won’t reveal the identity of this secret insider!
The math behind counting the WOW Players in the Middle East
Let’s assume a similar number of players pay their subscription fee online, through their own credit cards, that would bring the total number to 10,000 WoW players in the UAE alone. The population of United Arab Emirates consists mainly of expats, people who keep coming and going, moving in and out of the country, for good, or for business and travel. Based on that, it will be safe to add another 25% to that number, bringing it to around 12,500 UAE WoW players.
How big is the market of online players in the Middle East anyway?
The online gamers / players in the Middle East are divided into two groups: those who can only play, and those who can pay and play. The first group will pick the Freemium MMOs to get their online playing fix. The other group, which is important for our purpose here, lies mainly in the oil-rich countries, namely the 6 GCC states.
Saudi is the biggest online gaming market in the Middle East, by far!
After Emirates next comes Saudi Arabia. Saudi is 4 times more populous than UAE, and so it would be fair to claim that around 40,000 WoW players ride together to finish those WoW quests. We can then claim that Kuwait has another 10,000 WoW players, and Bahrain, Qatar and Oman would score together another 10,000 WoW players. According to this wild estimation, I”d claim there are over 70,000 WoW players in the GCC states alone.
Coming back to the remaining of the Middle East countries, Like Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, I’d add another 30,000 WoW players, making the total number 100,000 WoW players in the Middle East.
Such estimation might be a bag of crap, or it might be the best figure anyone can come up with, based on the fact that Blizzard does not give a more detailed breakdown of its WoW subscriber base. On the other hand, if that figure is true, it means that the Middle East region is not that critical to the WoW realm. That might explain why Blizzard is not in a rush to add Arabic to its list of supported languages in WoW.
In October 7, 2010, Blizzard announced that the subscriber base for World of Warcraft has exceeded 12 million players worldwide.
According to Arpu Plus, a VAS provider headquartered in Egypt, online transactions in the Middle East crossed $9 billion in 2012, and are expected to reach $15 billion in 2015, with $5 billion to be spent on digital products. This figure is expected to reach $13 billion in 2017.