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Making Abu Dhabi a global gaming hub
Up until four years ago, the emirate only had five to 10 gaming companies, and there were no support programs for small studios looking to break out. Learn how Abu Dhabi Gaming found the key to growing the local gaming industry.

Abu Dhabi Gaming: A center of excellence case study

How does a government accelerate regional growth in the gaming industry? Abu Dhabi Gaming, an initiative led by the government, was created to address the gap in talent and game development within the ecosystem. Upon discovering the Unity Center of Excellence during an event in India, they initiated plans to establish a similar model at the Abu Dhabi Gaming Hub. Their mission was to expand the region’s gaming industry, provide career opportunities, and produce top-tier content.

The challenge

Building the Emirate’s gaming industry from the ground up


Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

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Building from the ground up

Abu Dhabi Gaming was looking for a strategic partner to support its initiative of supporting and developing games made in Abu Dhabi. “We needed strong expertise to support the generation of high-quality content and the development of our local talent,” says James Hartt, Abu Dhabi Gaming’s director of strategic partnerships.

They learned about the Center of Excellence program and community support at a local event showcasing the services in India. Seeing a shared vision, they asked Unity to help them achieve their goals.

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The results

  • Grew a pipeline of 80+ Abu Dhabi-based gaming and e-sports companies within two and a half years
  • Launched its first game by indie developer, Kashkool Games, at Gamescom 2023 and won 14 awards at the NYX Game Awards
  • Over 600 students and 60 professors trained in Unity through Abu Dhabi Gaming
Getting the universities on board

The Abu Dhabi Gaming team first wanted to incorporate training programs into the university system through a Train the Trainer initiative, where professors would learn Unity to teach their students, then bridge the education system to the gaming industry. Universities weren’t initially enthusiastic.

“They were receptive, but not really hungry for it as they didn’t see the potential for growth in gaming companies or jobs in Abu Dhabi,” explains Hartt.

With the rapid expansion of the gaming industry, Abu Dhabi Gaming aimed to cultivate the ecosystem by supporting game development companies and creating job prospects. This initiative garnered interest from universities, leading to the adoption of the Train the Trainer program. Currently, the program is in high demand and over subscripted, and has effectively trained 600 students and 60 professors in Unity.

“This program is a fantastic opportunity for me to learn something new, and I feel like my students will be able to excel in their careers,” says Stacey Kalkowski, professor of art and game design at UAE University.

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Broadening knowledge and the potential for success

The Abu Dhabi government initially saw the potential to grow Abu Dhabi’s gaming industry because of the region’s world-class education system. To succeed, the program needed to bring students Unity knowledge and practical skills.

“With the way that technology is moving and how accessible it is, Unity has made it quick and easy for students and professors to create real-time 3D content. The applications for it are endless,” says Hartt.

The program helped expand students’ horizons and career potential.

“I had no prior knowledge of game development with Unity,” explains UAE University student Omnia Osama Ahmed. “After the workshop, I’m creating my own game with a wonderful group of people. I feel comfortable and prepared to embark on this journey, especially that it provided me with essential game development knowledge.”

Empowering the community with events

Events are key to fostering an ecosystem of real-time 3D knowledge sharing and skills development. The Abu Dhabi Gaming team partners with educational institutions and gaming companies on developer days and webinars to build awareness for Unity offerings and services.

“We want to encourage and provide opportunities for up-and-coming talent. These events will help educate the community and improve the gaming industry landscape,” says Abu Dhabi Gaming’s e-sports and gaming community unit head Haya AlQadi.

Both types of events have helped studios such as Kashkool Games in multiple ways.

“These events have helped us get deeper into the industry, meet industry professionals, and learn about the latest tools to enhance our development process and production pipeline,” says Kashkool Games’ creative director and cofounder, Haroon Al Mansoori. “The seminars have also helped expand our knowledge and boost morale.”

Upskilling to indie success and beyond

Through the Center of Excellence program, Abu Dhabi Gaming is able to offer its game developers technical support and guidance on logistics and infrastructure-related matters. “It reduces the stress of managerial tasks and helps us focus on game development,” says Al Mansoori.

Unity’s Services team upskilled the Kashkool Games team, helping them launch their first game at Gamescom 2023 and win 14 awards at the NYX Game Awards.

“The technical support team helped discover and troubleshoot different bugs and issues in the game. Their assistance made the game a lot more playable and engaging,” explains Abu Dhabi Gaming talent development specialist Humaid Eissa Mohamed Ali Alblooshi.

Al Mansoori agrees, “We initially built our game for PC, and faced issues when we moved to consoles. Unity’s technical support team gave the game a great performance boost.”

Building the future together

At the heart of the Center of Excellence program is an opportunity to grow your economy, create jobs, and upskill your workforce. This is a huge, potentially multi-year undertaking, so patience, compassion, and experience are paramount.

Al Mansoori says, “The people at Unity understand our needs, what we want to do, and how to get us there.”

As a true partnership, flexibility and common goals make an indelible difference.

“The key to this partnership was to find and dial into where the studios needed the most help,” adds Abu Dhabi Gaming’s head of gaming & e-sports Sultan Alriyami. “We discovered areas that we didn’t plan to support, and thankfully Unity’s been open to bolstering their value proposition of what we, together, can offer the gaming industry of Abu Dhabi.”

“The amount and caliber of technical support that Unity’s Accelerate Solutions team provided to Kashkool Games has drastically improved the quality of their game.”
“I really enjoyed the workshop, it’s an experience I won’t forget. Game development had never been something I was able to try out because it seemed so daunting but this program was the perfect diving board into it.”
Foster an ecosystem of real-time 3D skills

Grow your economy, create jobs, and upskill your workforce with real-time 3D knowledge and support through our Center of Excellence program.