GameDev and IT company registration in the UAE

company registration
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The registration of GameDev and IT companies in the UAE has certain specifics. It is important to choose the right type of company, the right freezone, and not to make mistakes with the types of activities. In this article, we’ve sorted out the important nuances for GameDev and IT companies planning to launch a business in the UAE.
Mainland or Free zone. Which is the right choice?
Mainland and Free Zone are the most common types of companies in the UAE. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Free Zone companies enjoy an exemption from income tax. Even from June 2023, Free Zone companies will not pay income tax, unlike Mainland. However, the geography of Free Zone companies is limited: they cannot conduct business in the UAE outside their free zone. This means that a company cannot rent an office anywhere in Dubai (e.g. Downtown).

Mainland companies, although they will not benefit from tax incentives from June 2023, have certain advantages. For example, practice shows that banks are quicker and more willing to open accounts for Mainland companies than Free Zone companies. The KYC procedure for Mainland companies is simpler.

However, the most popular form of IT and GameDev company registration in the UAE is still the Free Zone.
Which Free Zone should I choose for my GameDev or IT company?
twofour54 Abu Dhabi
This freezone has positioned itself as a hub for businesses from the media, IT and GameDev industries. It is located in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, an hour’s drive from Dubai.

Freezone features:
  • Exemption from company registration fees for 2 years.
  • No minimum authorised capital requirement.

There is an opportunity to become a member of AD Gaming (for GameDev companies). The project aims to attract as many GameDev companies as possible to Abu Dhabi, making the emirate the hub of the gaming industry in the Middle East. The project provides participants with various subsidies and support. For example, it compensates up to 30% of developers' salaries.
Dubai Internet City (DIC)
This is one of the most prestigious freezones in the UAE, home to the offices of major corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Intel.

Freezone features:
  • The minimum authorised capital is AED 10,000 (about USD 2,700). It is mandatory to pay.
  • Mandatory office rental. The number of visas available depends on the office space size.
Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO)
This is another freezone in Dubai that specialises in high-tech businesses.

Freezone features:
  • A favourable infrastructure for opening a company office.
  • There are various support programmes for technology projects.
Meydan Free Zone
This freezone is not narrowly specialised in IT or GameDev, but provides the most value for money. The registration procedure is very quick and does not require personal attendance or the signing of a large volume of documents. Once registered, the company can be managed remotely via a special freespace portal.
What activity codes should I choose?
It is very important to decide exactly what the company will do before starting to incorporate. Will it only license software or distribute games? Will it only outsource development to customers or affiliated companies? On what basis will the revenue come in? For advertising or in-game purchases? Based on this, the activities and their codes need to be selected.
Providing development services
Depending on company type (Mainland or Free Zone) the activity numbers may differ. The wording may also be different, so it is important to be careful when selecting codes.

For example, in Meydan Free Zone the following activities may be appropriate for development services:

  • 6200,00 — Computer programming, consultancy and related activities.
  • 6201,00 — Computer programming activities.
  • 6201,01 — Designing the structure and content of, and/or writing the computer code necessary to create and implement: Systems software (including updates and patches), Software applications (including updates and patches), Databases, Web pages.
  • 6201,02 — Customizing of software, i.e. modifying and configuring an existing application so that it is functional within the clients' information system environment.
The following activity type would be suitable for GameDev studios in the twofour 54 Abu Dhabi freezone: Gaming Studio. It is recommended to choose Publishing as the activity type if the company specializes in game publishing.

You may find quite rare activities as this freezone specializes in GameDev companies. For example, game localization services (Gaming — Localization Services) or development of VR games and solutions (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Service Provider / Developer).