RIYADH: Gamers8, billed as the world’s biggest esports and gaming event, gets underway in Riyadh on Thursday. The eight-week festival, which continues until Sep. 8, includes a series of gaming tournaments and esports programs, in addition to an entertainment lineup featuring international and local artists.
The event — which will take place at the NXT LVL Arena, a custom-built, state-of-the-art venue in Riyadh Boulevard City and is organized by the creators of charity tournament Gamers Without Borders — aims to blur the lines between the real and virtual worlds.
Some of the biggest Esports teams will compete for a prize pool of $15 million in a series of tournaments that includes games such as Rocket League, Fortnite and Rainbow Six. These will be complemented by webinars, interactive workshops and exhibitions led by international experts and specialists, free gaming sessions and other programs covering gaming-related areas such as game design, development, and startup fundamentals.
“Today, we are on the verge of launching a historical season, not just in the Kingdom but globally, that is the biggest event for gaming and esports in the world in size, value and diversity,” said Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, chairperson of the Saudi Esports Federation, during the Gamers8 opening ceremony on Wednesday.
The organizers of Gamers8 said their aim is to create an inclusive environment that brings an element of professionalism to the video gaming community and increases its value to the economy. Saudi Arabia is home to an estimated 23.5 million gamers, representing about 76 percent of the population.
“Video games form an essential part of our lives,” Prince Faisal said. “Gaming and esports are (fans’) passion and their form of social media and self-expression. It is their career path, their aspiration and their future.
“Today, gaming and esports, because of Saudi Vision 2030 and its ambitions, (represent a) promising sector that provides endless opportunities and contributes to the growth of our economy and gross domestic product.”
Turki Alfawzan, the CEO of SEF, said: “There will be a focus on four main themes (during Gamers8): Professional esports competitions, entertainment shows, music performances, and the Future Summit that brings together gaming and esports leaders and experts from all over the world.”
Other attractions include The Japamura Zone, presented by Saudia and inspired by Japanese culture, which gives visitors a chance to sample a variety of teas and matcha drinks, dress up in traditional Japanese clothing, sing karaoke, and play video games in a PlayStation zone.
The event’s opening concert, on July 14, will feature a diverse lineup of international artists including “Prince of Reggaeton” J. Balvin, Swedish DJ Sebastian Ingrosso, Egyptian singer Amr Diab, Bosnian-Swedish DJ Salvatore Ganacci, and Saudi DJ Elfuego.
Other gigs will feature performances by American DJ Marshmello, Swedish DJ Axwell, American rappers Russ and Lil Pump, Dutch DJ R3hab, Norwegian DJ Alan Walker, and a closing performance by the Black Eyed Peas and DJ Snake.