Game On

Saudi Arabia prepares to host first Esports World Cup in Riyadh

With the Crown Prince as gamer-in-chief, the kingdom expects more than 2,500 players to compete for a $60 million prize pool from July 4 to Aug. 25

Saudi trainees attend a course at the Saudi Esport Academy in Riyadh. (Photo: Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia is offering 90-day e-visas to Esports World Cup ticket holders as it gears up to host the debut competition that aims to put the kingdom on the international gaming map.

Boulevard Riyadh City is the venue where more than 2,500 players will compete for a $60 million prize pool, the largest in esports history, from July 4 to Aug. 25.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, himself a “Call of Duty” fan, has earmarked $38 billion from the Public Investment Fund – with the aim of attracting 250 gaming companies and studios to set up shop in the country while creating 39,000 video game-related jobs.

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.