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Thousands attend Gamerz, Israel’s premier video game convention. (David Rawlings)

Israeli Gaming Fest Celebrates Thriving Industry – and Nintendo’s Official Arrival (with VIDEO)

Key players discuss latest trends and Israel’s role in multi-billion dollar entertainment sector

The multi-billion dollar gaming industry is captivating a growing number of Israelis, with thousands attending Gamerz, the country’s largest annual gaming convention. This year’s gathering highlighted the official launch of Nintendo, which up until now had no official distributor in the country.

All of Nintendo’s products, including its full line of interactive Amiibo figurines and its mobile Switch console, will now be available in the Holy Land, with TorGaming having recently been designated the official distributor.

“This amazing [event marks] the first time that we’re meeting our end customers – the gamers,” Ron Kaldes, CEO of TorGaming, told The Media Line. “The gaming industry, especially the gaming consoles industry, is booming, with more than two billion gamers around the world.”

Aside from Nintendo, two other giants in the field – PlayStation and Xbox – presented their own latest games and up-and-coming technologies at the four-day festival, which took place at the Tel Aviv Port, and also featured in-house tournaments.

Gaming has become one of the world’s largest and fastest growing entertainment sectors. According to market researcher Newzoo, the industry is expected to hit $180 billion in worldwide revenues by 2021. Today, the Asia-Pacific region makes up the biggest share, accounting for 52 percent of what is currently a $137.9 billion market.

However, as more and more people gain access to smartphones and mobile games, other regions are beginning to witness massive growth.

Israel itself has an estimated one million avid gamers.

“Everybody calls Israel one of the biggest countries that creates and [exports] mobile games,” Danny Ly Ziser, chief editor and host at IGN Israel, related to The Media Line. “We’re really good at this.”

One of the major trends among young gamers nowadays is live-streaming video games on YouTube, with some garnering millions of followers. According to Ziser, who helped bring some of Israel’s leading YouTube gamers to the Tel Aviv convention, the content-sharing website has in effect come to play a central role in the gaming experience.

“To be a gamer nowadays is not only to play on your own, it’s to consume all of the gaming content [available],” she explained.

Another craze that has recently taken over the industry: virtual reality, also known as VR. In roughly two years since its release, Sony PlayStation has sold 4.2 million VR systems and currently offers 200 VR games.

“We have a lot of new games coming out every month or two,” Eitan Drori, vice president of PlayStation Israel, told The Media Line. “Gaming is becoming better. The games are becoming richer and deeper in terms of graphics and playability.”

Drori said that many Israelis work in this bustling entertainment sector, though most opt to work abroad at one of the major publishers. Nevertheless, young Israelis are actively being encouraged to enter the lucrative local industry.

Big Idea, a technology-focused Israeli summer camp, hosts hundreds of kids aged 8-18 who learn how to make video games from scratch, among other technical skills.

“We have gaming developing workshops, Minecraft workshops, as well as everything from design and computing to robotics and everything in between,” Hadas Drukker, a community coordinator at Big Idea Israel Summer Camps, told The Media Line. “We really like to get them interested in something and we believe that if they keep [at it] and practice, they can achieve whatever they want.”

As technology continues to evolve and products become more sophisticated, Gamerz shows that gaming is no longer just child’s play.

“Everybody’s a gamer,” Kaldes emphasized. “My mother’s a gamer. I’m a gamer. My eight-year-old kid is a gamer.”

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