With many gaming companies and platforms reporting increased revenues during the pandemic, it is no doubt that the COVID-19 lockdowns have taken the electronic games and esports industry to the next level.
The video game industry, which is expected to reach over $300bn by 2025, is also a fast-growing market in the country. And Qatar, which has advanced technological infrastructures and connectivity, can also emerge as a leading esports hub, according to Mark Engelhardt, CEO and Co-Founder of ‘Fridai the Gamer Assistant’.
The Berlin-based startup, which developed the first of its kind gaming technology, is part of the second cohort of the Qatar SportsTech’s (QST) accelerator programme, which was designed for innovative startup companies catering to the sports technology industry.
“Qatar can become an esports hub, with the connectedness of the people here, the country’s connectedness to Asia, Europe, and the US. Qatar will also have a major cloud infrastructure improvement coming up next year. And 5G is also here. So technologically, infrastructure-wise, Qatar is ready to build that. And I’d love to be part of that foundation,” Engelhardt said in an interview.
Fridai, which is an AIpowered voice assistant for gamers, is envisioned to be more like a friend sitting beside a gamer while playing his/her video game. The company also aims to contribute to Qatar’s esports ecosystem by helping local teams achieve a competitive edge by utilising Fridai’s AI and esports knowledge.
“On a global level, gamers play video games for around 3 billion hours a week. And the gamers who are in our target market actually spend around 108 million hours of that time googling guides, looking up forums, and accessing software, which is not game play. Fridai gives all the information gamers need without having to look at another screen, so they can avoid interruption and just focus on the games.
Coaches can also use Fridai to analyse their esports digital athletes’ performances,” added Engelhardt. Engelhardt, who has been developing AI-based solutions with his team, has set his sights and vision to participate in Qatar’s growing sports business scene beyond the Fifa World Cup 2022. He added that innovation, which is part of the Qatar National Vision 2030, is another reason why the country can emerge as a leading esports destination.
He added that Qatar is equipped with the needed infrastructures to achieve its National Artificial Intelligence Strategy. “Qatar delivers on what enables AI today: internet speed, data, and processing power. And us with QST and QDB, we can work together to deliver a safe AI for the future. I’m very positive about AI. But I also believe that at some point it should be regulated,” said Engelhardt.
Speaking about the future of the gaming industry, he added: “We’re at the part where technology is advancing exponentially and it actually affects esports a lot. In five to ten years, you will see virtual reality leagues and augmented reality leagues. Where people actually still do physical performances, but everyone can just see from whichever direction they want, because they just put on their virtual reality headsets”.
It may be noted that the Aspire Zone Foundation has previously announced a longterm partnership with Wega, the leading global payment solution developed by Truxtun Capital, to a multi-game eSports World Cup in Doha.
The new alliance between both companies is expected to offer over 2.5 billion gamers around the world the chance to compete for financial prizes. Globally, the esports industry is not only seeing the establishment of global esports tournaments. Esports schools are also opening up in various countries.