Saudi Arabia is preparing to host the first-ever Esports World Cup in the summer of 2024. This announcement comes as part of the country’s national gaming and Esports strategy, aiming to contribute to the country’s GDP and create thousands of jobs by 2030. The Esports World Cup will serve as a significant milestone in Saudi Arabia’s journey to become a global hub for gaming and Esports.
JUST ANNOUNCED: HRH Crown Prince unveils the Esports World Cup 🏆#NGSC2023
🗓️ Starting Summer 2024
📍Hosted in Riyadh, KSA pic.twitter.com/ETb0DG2quP
— الاتحاد السعودي للرياضات الإلكترونية (@Saudi_Esports) October 23, 2023
Australia Withdraws Bid, Leaving Saudi Arabia as Sole Host Candidate
Australia had initially shown interest in hosting the Esports World Cup but subsequently backed out of the bidding process. With Australia’s withdrawal, Saudi Arabia became the sole candidate to host the competition, ensuring its selection as the host nation.
Multi-Game Format and Record Payout
Unlike traditional sports competitions, the Esports World Cup will not focus on a single video game. Instead, it will feature teams competing across various games from different genres to determine a world champion. Additionally, the organizing board has suggested a record payout to the eventual winner, adding to the anticipation surrounding the tournament.
Economic Goals and Growth Potential
Saudi Arabia’s commitment to hosting the Esports World Cup is part of its broader strategy to leverage competitive video gaming to boost economic growth. The nation aims to create over 39,000 jobs related to the gaming and Esports industry by 2030, contributing over $13.3 billion to the country’s economy, as reported by Sports Pro Media. The Esports World Cup aligns with these economic goals while promoting the nation’s vision as a global leader in gaming and Esports.
Crown Prince’s Vision on Esports World Cup
Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, emphasized the significance of the Esports World Cup in realizing the country’s vision. He believes that the event will offer an unparalleled Esports experience that pushes the boundaries of the industry. Saudi Arabia’s investment in gaming and Esports showcases its commitment to promoting innovation and attracting a global audience to the country.
Alignment with Upcoming FIFA World Cup
The Esports World Cup’s timing, set for 2024, holds no direct connection to the FIFA World Cup. However, it can serve as a precursor to the 2034 FIFA World Cup, also set to be hosted by Saudi Arabia. The successful organization of the Esports World Cup can set the stage for the FIFA World Cup, further solidifying Saudi Arabia’s position as a host for international sporting events.
Growing Popularity of Esports
Esports has experienced significant growth in popularity over the past decade, with a massive global audience. The selection of games for the Esports World Cup, coupled with its organization and format, will be crucial to its success. While Asia currently dominates the Esports scene, the Esports World Cup aims to attract players and enthusiasts from around the world.
Saudi Arabia’s decision to host an Esports World Cup may raise concerns similar to those surrounding the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Critics argued that Qatar used the tournament to engage in sportswashing, attempting to divert attention from social and economic issues. Saudi Arabia’s addition of the Esports World Cup could be seen as an attempt to capitalize on the young and digitally engaged audience while promoting the nation’s image.
Tourism and Audience Growth
While the Esports industry continues to grow, events like the Esports World Cup provide an opportunity to draw global representatives and a diverse audience. The tournament could boost tourism and foster audience growth, even though the Dubai Esports and Games Festival in 2023 had a viewership of 23,000, which, while not insignificant, is relatively modest in comparison to traditional sports events. The Esports World Cup may have the potential to cultivate a more substantial and consistent following.
Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the Esports World Cup in 2024 marks a significant step in its aspiration to become a global centre for gaming and Esports. The event’s unique format, coupled with the nation’s economic goals, aligns with its broader strategy to diversify its economy and promote innovation. However, concerns related to sportswashing may arise, and the success of the tournament will depend on its ability to attract a growing global audience and leave a lasting impact on the Esports industry.