Dubai-based Riva Group has built a strong track record in media & entertainment businesses. And like many companies in the space, its now positioning to get a slice of the rapid growth in esports.

Founded in 2002, Riva initially established its business model by working with key local stakeholders to develop theme parks and family entertainment centres.

And speaking with Stockhead, Riva Group chairman Paul Roy said the company is now leveraging the strength of those relationships as it pivots into the $US130 billion global esports market.

Australian opportunity

On the development side, Riva Group is focused on Australia as a key destination for the rollout of its video-game based entertainment centres.

“Outside of the Middle East, we’re looking very strongly at Australia. We’re yet to make a final decision on location but Australia will defintiely be the next stop,” Roy said.

The company has also established a strategic partnership with ASX-listed MSM Corporation (ASX:MSM), with both sides aligned on a regional esports strategy.

In mid-July, Riva Group signed a $2m deal to license MSM’s Megastar gaming platform to help drive distribution of online games in the huge Indian market.

“We pay Megastar to develop the products for us, but because we have a mutual interest to break into the Indian market, with two teams working together I think the result will be very significant,” Roy said.

Riva Group hopes to add value by leveraging its existing network of industry contacts to build awareness in India for the Megastar games library, which includes an online cricket game.

“Our product will initially be pitched to the Indian market, but we’re building a really strong core gaming engine that can be adapted for different markets, so I think the idea is really scalable,” Roy said.

Global ambitions

Looking abroad, Roy says Riva Group’s established base of networks and contacts in Dubai leaves it uniquely placed to benefit from growth in the global esports market.

He highlighted various initiatives, but chief among them was a focus on gaming diversity — which in itself also offers a business opportunity.

“If you look at the recent Fortnite competition, you had around 100 finalists and not one of them was a woman. But over a third of all gamers globally are women, and likewise for the global esports viewing audience,” Roy said.

In view of that, Riva Group has licenced the popular Girl Gamer festival, which is now one of the largest esports competitions in the world.

“From 2019 onwards, the global Girl Gamer finals will be held in Dubai and I’m the one who brought that into this market,” Roy said.

Qualifier competitions are currently underway in six countries globally ahead of the finals which will be held in December.

Roy said the project had heavy backing from the Dubai government, and also provided a sound base for Riva to launch its own esports organisation in the Middle East market.

“We love groundbreaking and new ideas but we also ask — how does this work commercially and what does it mean for our shareholders?”

“It has to work commercially, but we’re really excited about this one. Girl Gamer has achieved double-digit growth each year and viewership is growing,” Roy said.

“So I think there’s an opportunity to achieve a commercial outcome by providing a first-mover advantage for women in sports.”