• Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Game on for esports in Saudi Arabia as a whole new world opens-up for global gamers


Jan 19, 2024
Game on for esports in Saudi Arabia as a whole new world opens-up for global gamers


APCO – Saudi Delegation to WEF is a Business Reporter client.

Vast youth demographic and videogaming investment strategy could propel the Kingdom into the world’s biggest esports hub before the end of the decade

Illuminated by fireworks and drones, Boulevard Riyadh City rocked to the rhythm of drumbeats and bass as it opened the world’s biggest esports festival last summer. Gamers8 grabbed the gaming world’s attention as thousands of pro gamers arrived in the Saudi capital to compete for $45 million in prize money in front of a sell-out live audience.

The buzz around Gamers8, which has evolved and expanded into the Esports World Cup, is a reflection of the immense and growing popularity of videogaming in Saudi Arabia, whether competitive or recreational.

Today, Saudis are among the keenest gamers in the world. Recognising this surging popularity, the government is investing billions of dollars into its digital and videogaming landscape as it pursues its ambition to become one of the world’s biggest videogaming and esports hubs.

The move also aligns with Saudi’s economic diversification strategy, known as Saudi Vision 2030, which is driving an economy-wide series of transformative investments into new cities, infrastructure, tourism, aviation, research and development, advanced technologies, sports and entertainment.

Propelled by local demand, talent and its global economic potential, videogaming is, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, also earmarked as a key growth driver of Saudi Arabia’s future. Revenues from gaming in the Kingdom are expected to soar by the end of the decade, thanks in large part to the more than 23.5 million gaming enthusiasts in Saudi.

And, at the professional level, Saudi has already enjoyed well-documented success in the esports arena, with then-18-year-old Mosaad Aldossary, known as MSDossary, clinching victory in the 2018 FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final.

In the five years since MSDossary’s global success, the videogaming community in the Kingdom has grown and diversified, alongside its economy. Young female Saudis are now a major part of the videogaming fabric, with estimates showing that women and girls make up 42 per cent of Saudi’s gamers. Tapping into this historically underrepresented segment is enabling the Kingdom to capture new business and cultural opportunities emerging from new sectors being built from the ground up, with plans to do so already underway.

Under Saudi’s National Gaming and Esports Strategy, launched in September 2022, the Savvy Games Group was established and tasked with investing $37.8 billion into the acquisition and development of leading games publishers, as well as early-stage games, esports companies and mature industry partners. Savvy is expected to establish 250 games companies in the Kingdom, which will create 39,000 jobs, and raise the sector’s GDP contribution to $13.3 billion by 2030.

Unlocking this economic potential will also be spurred by some of the giga-projects under development across the Kingdom, with Qiddiya and NEOM both set to house innovative, immersive gaming districts within their sprawling masterplans.

With the infrastructure, core demographic and vision in place, there is no reason why Saudi Arabia cannot become a world-leading videogaming and esports hub before the end of the decade. The history and the evolution of the sector makes this point clear. Videogames were mostly pioneered in the 1950s and 1960s in the United States alongside the creation of the modern computing industry, before Japanese companies later became a force in both hardware and gaming content development.

While the US and Japan still remain major players, hugely successful and popular videogames are being developed all over the world. Angry Birds came from Finland, Candy Crush Saga from Sweden, Subway Surfers from Denmark and Assassin’s Creed from Canada. Given the demand for local content, and its engaged young consumer base, and the investments it is directing into the videogaming sector, Saudi Arabia is poised to stake a claim on today’s esports sector.

Through the new Esports World Cup, Saudi Arabia will attract the world’s best gamers, bringing esports fans together and delivering something that it hopes is out of this world. That determination to innovate and create what’s never been done before stems from a steadfast conviction that esports is a sport – and amongst its most important. It is also a product of Saudi’s youth – those who want to be part of the biggest sports events, whether online or offline. They are the driving force behind the desire to host major sporting spectacles, whether that’s the FIFA World Cup, or the Esports World Cup.

As Saudi’s transformative investments into videogaming and esports bring the virtual and physical worlds closer together, unlock new opportunities, and create new ways for industries to collaborate, it’s very much game on for Saudi’s videogamers.


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