Saudi gamer prince announces esports World Cup


Saudi sports minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal with Al Nassr's Cristiano Ronaldo and FIFA president Gianni Infantino during the announcement of the esports World Cup in Riyadh on Oct 23. — Saudi Sports Authority Media Office/Handout via Reuters

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Oct 23 it would organise an esports World Cup starting next year, the latest boost to a sector Riyadh hopes will create tens of thousands of local jobs.

“The esports World Cup is the natural next step in Saudi Arabia’s journey to become the premier global hub for gaming and esports,” the Gulf kingdom’s de facto ruler, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said in a statement.

Prince Mohammed is said to be an avid gamer partial to Call Of Duty, and Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in the sector since the 38-year-old became first in line to the throne six years ago.

Last year, the crown prince announced a US$38bil (RM181.73bil) investment strategy for the kingdom’s Savvy Games Group, owned by the deep-pocketed sovereign wealth fund.

The goal is to create 39,000 esports-related jobs by 2030.

Officials also want to make Saudi Arabia “an Eden for game developers” that can produce new titles “promoting Saudi and Arabic culture”, according to the national esports strategy, targeting 30 globally competitive games produced in domestic studios by 2030.

The first edition of the esports World Cup is expected next summer, taking the place of the eight-week Gamers8 festival of esports tournaments which this year featured a prize pool totalling US$45mil (RM215.21mil).

“You can look at Gamers8 as a dry run for the esports World Cup,” said Ralf Reichert, CEO of the newly formed esports World Cup Foundation.

Tourism falls off considerably during the summer in Saudi Arabia when temperatures in the capital Riyadh clear 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on a daily basis.

But the esports World Cup “will be complemented with a diversified set of activities and events that will draw visitors and tourists to the capital, transforming it into a gaming capital”, Monday’s statement said.

“As they come to Riyadh maybe it might be quiet in Riyadh relatively, but the destination is very busy,” said Saudi Tourism Authority CEO Fahd Hamidaddin, highlighting attractions in the cooler southern highlands and on the coast.

Officials have not specified which games will be included in the esports World Cup, saying only that details will be made public early next year.

“The tournament will include the most popular games in the world across all genres and have the largest prize pool in esports history,” the statement said. – AFP

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