‘Get gaming,’ Saudi Arabia’s eSport federation boss says

Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, SAFEIS president, talking about eSports at the Future Investment Initiative 2019 in Riyadh. (Screenshot/FII)
Updated 01 November 2019

‘Get gaming,’ Saudi Arabia’s eSport federation boss says

  • Says industry behind electronic and intellectual sports is vast
  • Strong community of gamers in Saudi Arabia and support from government

RIYADH: The world of eSports is evolving in Saudi Arabia, and its youthful audience means it could become an industry leader, according to the president of the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronics and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS).

“We are a population of youth; 70 percent of the population is under the age of 30. Everybody hears these numbers, but that means 70 percent of our population is my target audience,” Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, SAFEIS president, told Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative (FII).

SAFEIS was founded in 2017, and in what is considered a young industry no one has yet taken a leadership role, he said. “We have the opportunity, we have the community and we have the skills. Both our young men and women, who are some of the best competitors, have the ability to take the bull by the horns.”

The industry behind electronic and intellectual sports is vast, covering not only competitions and video gaming, but coders and inventors, he said. “We can become the leader, not just in competitions and events, but in the actual technology and in the integration between male and female athletes, which we are well ahead in.”

How ahead? In most countries the world of eSports is male-dominated, with 70 percent of males participating, but the Kingdom is different. “In Saudi Arabia, when we’ve done our surveys and talked to our community, it’s about 52 percent male and 48 percent female.”

The first eSports cup, which was a government-sanctioned event, had both male and female participants, he said. “Which rarely happens internationally, let alone in Saudi. That was one of the first movers.”

Visitors at the GSA eSports Cup in Riyadh in 2018. (AFP)

However, it was not done with the idea that “we have to have women involved.” Every participant qualified on their own merits and in the lens of competition and that was what was “great” about it, he said. 

“There wasn’t any awkwardness, it was very natural, and everyone was there to have fun,” he said of the first mixed-gender competition.

There is a strong community of gamers in Saudi Arabia and support from the government, but the difficulties SAFEIS faces lie in convincing the private sector to invest in the sector.

“The only way this is sustainable is if the private sector gets involved. If we as a federation are growing and paying and doing everything for 10 years to come, nothing is going to happen. It’s not going to grow.”  

However, things are slowly changing with the private sector taking more of a lead in events and licensing.

“As people start to see that it makes money, they are going to do it at a business level.” This will bring in revenues and build a stronger community of eSports enthusiasts, he said.

With all the new technologies, including cloud gaming and 5G networks, being introduced into Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal added: “This is the time for people to start moving and get gaming.”

OPEC sees small 2020 oil deficit even before latest supply cut

Updated 12 December 2019

OPEC sees small 2020 oil deficit even before latest supply cut

  • OPEC keeps its 2020 economic and oil demand growth forecasts steady and is more upbeat about the outlook

LONDON: OPEC on Wednesday pointed to a small deficit in the oil market next year due to restraint by Saudi Arabia even before the latest supply pact with other producers takes effect, suggesting a tighter market than previously thought.

In a monthly report, OPEC said demand for its crude will average 29.58 million barrels per day (bpd) next year. OPEC pumped less oil in November than the average 2020 requirement, having in previous months supplied more.

The report retreats further from OPEC’s initial projection of a 2020 supply glut as output from rival producers such as US shale has grown more slowly than expected. This will give a tailwind to efforts by OPEC and partners led by Russia to support the market next year.

OPEC kept its 2020 economic and oil demand growth forecasts steady and was more upbeat about the outlook.

“On the positive side, the global trade slowdown has likely bottomed out, and now the negative trend in industrial production seen in 2019 is expected to reverse in 2020,” the report said.

Oil prices were steady after the report’s release, trading near $64 a barrel, below the level some OPEC officials have said
they favor.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers, a group known as OPEC+, have since Jan. 1 implemented a deal to cut output by 1.2 million bpd to support the market. At meetings last week, OPEC+ agreed to a further cut of 500,000 bpd from Jan. 1 2020.

The report showed OPEC production falling even before the new deal takes effect.

In November, OPEC output fell by 193,000 bpd to 29.55 million bpd, according to figures the group collects from secondary sources, as Saudi Arabia cut supply.

Saudi Arabia told OPEC it made an even bigger cut in supply of over 400,000 bpd last month. The Kingdom had boosted production in October after attacks on its oil facilities in September briefly more than halved output.

The November production rate suggests there would be a 2020 deficit of 30,000 bpd if OPEC kept pumping the same amount and other factors remained equal, less than the 70,000 bpd surplus implied in November’s report and an excess of over 500,000 bpd seen in July. OPEC and its partners have been limiting supply since 2017, helping to revive prices by clearing a glut that built up in 2014 to 2016. But higher prices have also boosted US shale and other rival supplies.

In the report, OPEC said non-OPEC supply will grow by 2.17 million bpd in 2020, unchanged from the previous forecast but 270,000 less than initially thought in July as shale has not grown as quickly as first thought.

“In 2020, non-OPEC supply is expected to see a continued slowdown in growth on the back of decreased investment and lower drilling activities in US tight oil,” OPEC said, using another term for shale.