RIYADH: With Gamers8: Land of Heroes taking place in Riyadh in just under a month, Saudi Esports Federation CEO Turki Al-Fawzan tells Arab News about the development of gaming across the Kingdom, support for female gamers and global collaborations.
The SEF’s role in evolution of gaming in the Kingdom
The esports industry in Saudi Arabia is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years by following Saudi Vision 2030, with more investment, infrastructure, and support from the government and private sectors.
Last year Saudi Arabia held Gamers8, the world’s largest gaming and esports festival and the destination for elite esports champions. The 2022 festival in Riyadh was visited by more than 1.4 million visitors and watched by more than 132 million people around the globe. A total of 391 professional players — of more than 61 nationalities — and 113 international teams took part in the world-class esports competitions.
All these numbers showcase immense popularity and potential. We aim to play a pivotal role in this evolution by creating a strong and sustainable ecosystem for esports in the country. We believe that by providing opportunities for players, teams, and organizations to compete and collaborate in the biggest esports tournaments in the world, we can foster a thriving esports industry that contributes to the overall development of the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia is nowadays hosting the biggest esports tournaments with the biggest prize pools in the world.
The federation’s promotion of esports in the region
The Saudi Esports Federation’s primary focus is to support and promote esports development in the region. We do this through a range of initiatives, including organizing tournaments — such as Gamers Without Borders, the world’s largest charitable esports event, and Gamers8, the biggest gaming and esports festival worldwide — sponsoring teams and players, providing training and education to aspiring gamers, and collaborating with local and international partners. Some of the initiatives currently underway include the establishment of esports academies, the creation of a national league and the construction of dedicated esports venues.
SEF’s support of female gamers
Last year Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology issued a figure showing 48 percent of the country’s gamers are female. That’s huge and indicative of how gaming and esports is a passion across every section of society. The Saudi Esports Federation is committed to supporting female gamers across the esports ecosystem and has instigated several initiatives in this regard. This year, for instance, we held the first-ever all-women “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” tournament at Gamers Without Borders, an event that played a significant role in furthering women’s involvement in esports and gaming.
Advice for aspiring gamers in Saudi Arabia
My advice is to stay focused, work hard and never stop learning. The esports industry is constantly evolving, and it requires a lot of dedication, passion and discipline to succeed. I would encourage them to participate in local tournaments, network with industry professionals, and seek out educational opportunities to improve their skills and knowledge. I would add that the gaming and esports industry has many facets — there are jobs in tournaments, technology, broadcasting, marketing, sales, software, and many, many more.
SEF’s collaboration with international esports organizations
The Saudi Esports Federation works closely with other esports organizations and industry players both domestically and internationally. We believe that collaboration is key to building a strong and sustainable esports ecosystem in the country. We have established partnerships with several international organizations, including the International Esports Federation, and we regularly participate in regional and global esports events.
Gamers8 starting July 6
Following the success of last year’s Gamers 8, this year we return with bigger and better goals — and a total $45 million prize pool, triple last year’s prize pool. Gamers8: Land of Heroes is the biggest gaming and esports festival worldwide. It’s eight weeks packed with elite esports, world-class live music from global, regional and local stars, and a multitude of attractions and activities. When we conceptualized Gamers8: Land of Heroes, our aim was to improve on last year’s inaugural success as much as we possibly could, and we are delighted at the range of gaming titles, and entertainment options, available.