True Gamers Plans $45m Expansion to Saudi Arabia

By Nour Edin El Shaeri

Saudi Arabia’s gaming industry is poised for a major uplift with UAE-based esports network True Gamers planning to establish 150 centers in the Kingdom.

Established in 2019, the company aims to make video gaming more accessible by combining entertainment, technology, and competitive elements to offer an immersive experience to a wide range of players.

Speaking with Vlad Belyanin, co-founder of True Gamers, he discussed the strategic expansion plans for Saudi Arabia – which is expected to double the company’s current network.

“True Gamers has been closely monitoring the burgeoning esports and gaming scene in Saudi Arabia, a key player in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. Recognizing the tremendous potential of this market, we have embarked on a strategic expansion into the Kingdom, aligning with the ambitious Vision 2030 development plan,” Belyanin said.

He further stated that True Gamers has reached a major achievement by signing a master franchise deal with entrepreneur Nawaf Al-Bishri, who has a background in healthcare and investment.

This collaboration marks a $45 million investment to develop a strong esports infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. It includes launching over 150 True Gamers lounges, significantly enhancing the gaming experience for numerous fans and boosting the country's growing esports scene.

To Saudi Arabia and Beyond

In the UAE, the company is independently establishing new clubs, aiming to open more than nine gaming centers this year by establishing a presence in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Talks are also underway for a project in Egypt, with prospects of extending to nearby nations such as Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait.

Business Fundamentals

The company’s commitment to the esports industry is demonstrated by a $13.5 million investment for expansion in the MENA region.

“Additionally, we have invested over $11 million in creating world-class cybersport infrastructure, ensuring our gamers have access to the best equipment and facilities. This dedication led to a 140 percent growth in 2023, increasing the company’s valuation from $10 million to $24 million, cementing its position as a leader in the esports industry,” Belyanin said.

As the company expands, it is focused on ensuring that both its centers and franchisees consistently achieve growth and progress. True Gamers is dedicated to supporting offline and online franchisees. The company facilitates a smooth onboarding process through in-person meetings with representatives.

Additionally, online educational resources provide franchisees with all the essentials, including comprehensive commercial and technical documentation, necessary equipment, training materials, marketing tools, and a detailed brand book.

“Our primary objectives are to foster a thriving gamer community, empower gamers through education, and inspire gamers to pursue professional esports aspirations,” Belyanin said.

The company has not only diversified its offerings but also its business model to secure various sustainable revenue streams. True Gamers generates consistent income from royalties and direct sales to clients, including ticket sales and memberships. A significant part of its revenue also comes from franchise sales in the MENA and Eastern Europe regions.

Additionally, Belyanin mentioned that the company earns from additional services like marketing, equipment supply, white-label solutions, and sponsorship contracts. Currently, True Gamers is focused on securing strategic investments to support its core operations and is also exploring opportunities for funding its various projects, which encompass new technologies, innovative ideas, and potential partnerships with industry leaders.

A True Gamers Emergence

Belyanin recounted his lifelong passion for video games and esports, starting from his youth spent in internet cafes mastering games like Battlefield Hardline and Counterstrike. His entrepreneurial journey began with organizing entertainment events and marketing for parties, where he met his future business partner, Anton Vasilenko, the CEO of True Gamers.

They recognized a market demand for esports lounges and embarked on the journey in 2019, starting with an $80,000 investment in their first lounge. The success of their franchise model, especially in smaller cities, contributed significantly to their growth and social mission of providing access to professional gaming facilities for young people from diverse backgrounds.

True Gamers is now focused on innovation, including the introduction of robotic dog waiters in their Dubai clubs, developed in collaboration with engineers and specialists from the UAE and Central and Eastern Europe region, with an investment of over $100,000. These robots offer accessibility and opportunities for employees with disabilities, aligning with their commitment to corporate social responsibility.

As True Gamers continues to evolve and expand its footprint, one thing remains clear – the company is not just riding the wave of the esports revolution; it's shaping it.

Photos: True Gamers

April 14, 2024