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Saudi Arabia hosts the max number of esports players in the region. Now, the Kingdom wants to take matters to the next level. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Ever connect with a Saudi gamer? If you are into esports, chances are if it’s someone from within the Gulf, the gamer would be from the Kingdom.

Because with 23.5 million gamers in the Kingdom – of a population of 35 million – someone or the other would be enjoying a game in almost every home across the country. Whether that’s Fortnite, Dota2, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege or any other trending esports fave. In each of those homes, on each of those devices, sits a gamer with a passion to explore, compete, and win.

The ambitions have now grown. There is a significant drive – spurred by the Saudi Esports Federation, the authority nurturing elite gamers and developing the nation’s gaming community and industry – to be a global leader in esports and gaming. There is ample proof of that across the Saudi Arabian gaming scene.

At the beginning of the year the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Saudi wealth fund, announced the launch of Savvy Gaming Group. Chaired by Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of PIF, Savvy was founded with the aim to be a leading gaming and esports group, locally and internationally.

A merger play

Savvy then purchased esports entity ESL Gaming for $1 billion-plus, as well as tournament organizer FACEIT for $500 million, and then merging the two to form ‘ESL FACEIT Group’. Gaming consumption in Saudi Arabia is projected to surge to $6.8 billion by 2030 and expected to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 22 per cent through 2030 from $959 million in 2020, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

Some 69 per cent of online adult females in the Kingdom are into digital gaming, a report by the consultancy Redseer showed, 1 per cent more than their male counterparts.

Continued growth of the market will be fueled by increased spending from existing gamers, more time spent by users, and a surge in related advertising revenue. Non-gamers will also begin gaming in ways they potentially haven’t even thought about – think virtual avatars, virtual events, digital concerts, play-to-earn games, and the gamification of commerce, for instance.

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The metaverse will significantly further this aspect of the industry. But more than that, gaming will increasingly become an ‘experience’, akin to going to a football match, a concert or the cinema.

Organized by the Saudi Esports Federation, Gamers8, the biggest esports and gaming event anywhere, which will be held from July 14 in Riyadh, as a prime example of the ‘blurring of the lines’ between what’s physical and what’s virtual.

Let the gaming action begin

Hosted under the theme of ‘Gamers8 – Your Portal to the Next World’, teams will line up at Boulevard Riyadh City over eight weeks to compete across five titles. A total $15 million prize pool is to be won.

The addition of big-name concerts, festivals and shows to the entertainment agenda is part of a larger strategy by the Saudi Esports Federation to tap into the enormous potential that gaming and esports has in the Kingdom. Why stay within digital screens when a live domain for both fans and performers can greatly amplify the overall experience?

Developing the entire gaming and esports value chain ignites investors and members of the public to the opportunities in the Saudi market. This includes career opportunities in many directly linked industries. That means more career pathways and jobs in sectors allied to creativity, entrepreneurship, and talent development – ideal for Saudi Arabia’s young, digitally-savvy population.

By expanding esports in Saudi, the sector is also expanding the diversification of the Kingdom. Doing so not only furthers Saudi Arabia’s position as the regional leader in esports, but places it to emerge as a leading global media hub.