Saudi Arabia has raised the bar, yet again.
Gamers8, the popular esports and gaming festival, is set to return in the summer of 2023 with a massive $45 million prize pool. The eight-week event, which will feature a series of community competitions and real-money prizes, will kick off on July 6 at Boulevard City Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
In addition to the esports competitions, the event will feature music concerts and the Next World Forum conference. The list of games that will be played during the tournament is yet to be announced, but it is expected that popular titles such as Rocket League, Rainbow Six Siege, Dota 2, Fortnite, and PUBG Mobile will be included.
The Saudi Arabian government has been actively promoting esports, with the ambition to become the global epicenter of the industry. As part of this plan, the Saudi Esports Federation has acquired ESL FACEIT, which is now under the Savvy Games Group powered by the SA Public Investment Fund.
The Gamers8 has been garnering attention from industry for years. Esports journalist Richard Lewis reported that his sources acknowledged that ESL has proposed combining its Dota 2 properties, DreamLeague and ESL One, and Gamers8’s Dota 2 tournament, called Riyadh Masters, into “one global circuit” to complement Valve’s Dota Pro Circuit and The International.
However, the ambitions of the Saudi Arabian government have been met with criticism from some in the gaming industry who are wary of the country’s records of human rights violations and their views on the LGBTQ+ community, as well as their reputation for “dirty oil politics”.
Despite the criticisms, Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, the chairman of Savvy Games Group and a Saudi royal, has stated his ambition to make Saudi Arabia the next generation hub of esports entertainment.
“We envision a thriving global esports sector with a vibrant, talented, and dynamic community at its core, and we appreciate the immense opportunities for this industry, especially here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with such a young population of approximately 23 million enthusiasts,” he said.