Serious Players

Saudi Arabia prepares to welcome thousands of gamers for Esports World Cup

More than 2,500 players are expected to compete for a $60 million prize pool

eSports are becoming big business in the Gulf. (Photo: Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia is getting set to put its stamp on the global gaming market this summer when it hosts the Esports World Cup over eight weeks in July and August.

Boulevard Riyadh City will be the venue for the competition’s debut from July 4 to Aug. 25. More than 2,500 players are expected to compete for a $60 million prize pool, the largest in esports history.

German esports entrepreneur Ralf Reichert is CEO of the host organization, the Esports World Cup Foundation, a nonprofit established in 2023 and based in Riyadh. 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said to be a devotee of the Call of Duty zombie military game, has earmarked $38 billion from the Public Investment Fund – with the aim of attracting 250 gaming companies and studios while creating 39,000 video game-related jobs in the process.

The homegrown strategy builds on the kingdom’s credentials in the e-arena with investments in the biggest players like Tencent, Nintendo, Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft.

In March, Saudi Arabia’s National Development Fund and the Social Development Bank announced the establishment of two venture capital funds with a combined value of $120 million to back new esports companies in the kingdom.

One gaming executive who was attracted to the region is Will Dalio, the son of billionaire hedge funder Ray Dalio, who opened an outpost of his family office in Abu Dhabi last year.

The young Dalio is using Abu Dhabi as a market to grow his educational game-making company, Endless Studios.

He told The National’s Business Extra podcast that Gulf residents are some of the most active gamers in the world but have little hand in video games’ creation.

“There’s no creation here. We believe that should be bridged,” Dalio said.

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