JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is expanding its use of technology in all fields — from education, medicine and computer science to entertainment and electronic sports.
Last year, the Kingdom hosted “Gamers without Borders,” a $10 million charity prize fund to help combat the pandemic.
The world’s biggest gaming event was launched by ESL Gaming, the global e-sports giant responsible for numerous online and offline competitions.
Over the course of seven weeks, elite gamers came together to take part in one-off tournaments, with the winners donating part of the $10 million prize purse to international charities fighting coronavirus.
The Kingdom’s ability to host such large-scale events could make the country a beacon for e-sports competitions, according to industry insiders.
Arab News spoke to David Neichel, SVP international growth and adviser to the CEO at ESL Gaming, who voiced his optimism that Riyadh will be the region’s e-sporting hub.
“Our mission is to make e-sports one of the biggest sporting streams in the world, and this is exactly within the framework that we have now to develop big plans in the Middle East and North African region. That’s why we established a regional hub in Riyadh to serve the region,” he said.
ESL Gaming organizes online and offline e-sports competitions, as well as lifestyle gaming festivals, around the world.
“This is what we are very happy to bring here to the whole region and the Kingdom,” Neichel said.
The company’s competitions include the ESL1 and IEM, and one of the biggest examples they want to create in the Kingdom, IEM Katowice.
“Katowice, in Poland, is our regional hub for Europe, so this is where we produce content and also these mega-events. What we are actually trying to do here is establish a regional hub exactly the same way as we have one in Burbank, California, for the US, Katowice for Europe, and Malaysia for Asia Pacific.”
Neichel highlighted the similarities between the e-sports giant and the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 in terms of skilled job opportunities for the youth and growth ambitions.
“I think there is a good match between Vision 2030 and our vision. It seems like things really fit together, so for ESL this is really about establishing a full portfolio of products in the whole region.
“We’ll be bringing with us highly skilled jobs for the youth, which is very important. We’ll also offer the possibility for teams and athletes — from Saudi Arabia and all the Arab world — to climb the ladder and shine on the world stage. We will bring mega-events here so that people from all over world will come to watch them,” he added.
Some competitions will be owned and labeled like traditional ESL branded events, while others will be produced for publishers.
Riyadh will produce e-sports competitions. “What we want is to also be a service center to produce competitions for publishers in the region. The other thing is that it means we will be their infrastructure. Our ambition is to have a state-of-the-art studio; we want to have the most advanced studio in the world to produce e-sports content.
“You have to think about what happens in TV production and such things but, basically, a lot of that will be produced out of Riyadh.”
Neichel added: “Of course, establishing a strong team here in Riyadh will help organize every kind of event, from community events for older, very active gamers up to regional level — what we call challenger level — and mega-events out of the region.”
ESL currently has been contracted to operate a major gaming event that will be announced on June 1st.