The Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, recently announced the launch of an annual Esports World Cup scheduled for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in the summer of 2024. This groundbreaking tournament will be managed by the newly established Esports World Cup Foundation, a non-profit organization established alongside the event.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia announced the launch of an annual Esports World Cup, featuring the world’s most popular games and boasting the most substantial prize pool in the history of esports. With an anticipated prize pool of $10 million, the annual extravaganza is poised to become the largest global event of its kind, solidifying Saudi Arabia’s status as a prominent center for international esports.
Expressing his enthusiasm for the occasion, the Crown Prince remarked, “the Esports World Cup is the natural next step in Saudi Arabia’s journey to become the premier global hub for gaming and esports, offering an unmatched esports experience that pushes the boundaries of the industry.”
The Esports World Cup is poised to augment the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP by over SAR50 billion by 2030, generating 39,000 new job opportunities and fostering an environment conducive to the growth and sustainability of players, clubs, and the sector as a whole.
While specific details regarding the titles featured in the tournament are yet to be revealed, the Crown Prince indicated that the competition will encompass the most popular games across all genres. Notably, it will incorporate a unique cross-game competition format designed to reward and incentivize clubs striving to claim the prestigious title of Esports World Cup Champion, further bolstering the growth and sustainability of the entire esports community.
Moreover, the tournament aims to enhance Riyadh’s appeal as a tourist destination, envisioning the capital as a gaming hub through the organization of indoor tournaments, intended to drive Saudi tourism during the summer months. This initiative holds particular significance, given Saudi Arabia’s historical 16% decline in hotel occupancy rates, an 18% reduction in tourism spending, a 13% dip in restaurant and cafe expenditures, and a 9% decrease in consumer purchasing power during the summer.
In recent times, Saudi Arabia has launched a substantial government-led investment drive in esports. This includes the formation of the tournament organizer conglomerate ESL FACEIT Group, the inauguration of a $45 million esports festival, and the acquisition of stakes in multiple leading game developers. In September 2022, the government-owned Savvy Games Group announced ambitious investment plans totaling $38 billion in the esports and gaming sectors.
With its impressive prize pool, Saudi’s esports festivals, particularly the inaugural and subsequent editions of Gamers8, have garnered widespread attention, propelling the nation toward the realization of the National Gaming and Esports Strategy.
However, Saudi Arabia’s endeavors to establish itself as a global esports hub have faced substantial criticism from various quarters within the esports community. Particularly, critics in the Western regions have vehemently denounced Saudi’s aspiration to become a global esports hub, perceiving it as an effort to wash the country’s history of human rights violations.