Saudi Arabia set to become an esports hub, experts predict at Next World Forum

Saudi Arabia set to become an esports hub, experts predict at Next World Forum
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Prince Faisal bin Bandar, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, delivers a speech. (AN Photo)
Saudi Arabia set to become an esports hub, experts predict at Next World Forum
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Day one of the forum focused on a wide range of panel discussions that explored the latest trends. (AN Photo)
Saudi Arabia set to become an esports hub, experts predict at Next World Forum
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Day one of the forum focused on a wide range of panel discussions that explored the latest trends. (AN Photo)
Saudi Arabia set to become an esports hub, experts predict at Next World Forum
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Day one of the forum focused on a wide range of panel discussions that explored the latest trends. (AN Photo)
Saudi Arabia set to become an esports hub, experts predict at Next World Forum
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Day one of the forum focused on a wide range of panel discussions that explored the latest trends. (AN Photo)
Saudi Arabia set to become an esports hub, experts predict at Next World Forum
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Day one of the forum a wide range of panel discussions that explored the latest trends. (AN Photo
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Updated 19 October 2022

Saudi Arabia set to become an esports hub, experts predict at Next World Forum

Saudi Arabia set to become an esports hub, experts predict at Next World Forum
  • Prince Faisal: ‘Gaming and esports is a sector that lives at the crossroads of technology, telecommunications, storytelling and so much more’

RIYADH: Industry leaders, experts and creators from around the globe gathered in at the Next World Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday to discuss the future of the gaming and esports industry.

Day one of the newly established two-day forum, organized by the Saudi Esports Federation, included a wide range of panel discussions that explored the latest trends and key challenges in the industry, including investment, untapped economic opportunities, and the metaverse. It also explored the possibility that Saudi Arabia could be set to become the region’s first gaming hub.

“Gaming and esports is a sector that lives at the crossroads of technology, telecommunications, storytelling and so much more,” Prince Faisal bin Bandar, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, said during his opening remarks at the forum.

“It presents us with countless opportunities for innovation that are ready to be born when the great minds of specialization come together.

“The question should not be ‘Why Saudi?’ It should now be ‘Why not Saudi?’ The passionate gaming community is there, we have hosted global events, we have all the abilities to compete and our young community — men and women — have shown the world what they can do.

“What’s next? Saudi will become one of the global hubs for gaming and esports.”

The forum, hosted by journalists Georgia Tolley and Lucy Hedges, attracted more than 1,000 delegates, including international industry experts and specialists, including Chester King, CEO of British Esports, and Stephan Fox, president of United Through Sports.

Experts in the sector were enthusiastic about the future in the industry in Saudi Arabia, with many suggesting that the Kingdom has set itself up to be a hub for the gaming industry not only in the region but globally.

“I think Saudi Arabia will be the fastest-growing global games hub ever,” said Brian Ward, CEO of Savvy Gaming Group.

Mohammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi, governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission, said he expects a 250 percent increase in the Saudi gaming market by 2030.

Saudi megaprojects such as the NEOM smart city and Qiddiya entertainment project were also represented in the panel discussions, during which they showed how they are leading by example by creating communities with esports and gaming at the core of their visions.

“Our egaming district will host a number of esports and gaming venues, providing the infrastructure the industry needs for the gaming community to compete, engage and, most importantly, belong,” said Nadhmi Al-Nasr, the CEO of NEOM.

“Gaming lives in the middle of the 16 sectors that form NEOM’s future economy. Gaming is the name of the game.”

Najla Alajmi of the Saudi National Development Fund championed investment in the industry by announcing the launch of a new finance program that aims to develop the gaming and esports sector in the region, and funding of SR 300 million ($80 million) for it.

Saudi Esports Federation CEO Turki Alfawzan signed a memorandum of understanding with the Thailand Esports Federation, represented by its president, Santi Lothong, as a step toward enhanced collaboration in gaming and esports.

The Next World Forum takes place shortly after the extensive eight-week Gamers8 event, the largest gaming and esports festival globally to date, which was held at Riyadh Boulevard City from July 14 to Sept. 8 under the theme Your Portal to the Next World.

“The idea of Gamers8 is to bring all the people together,” Alfawzan told Arab News at the forum on Wednesday. “We hosted the best esports teams; more than 100 teams participated from more than 60 countries. … It’s a hub where we gather all the expertise, all the minds, all the brains, toward a better future for gaming as a sector.”


Jaguar TSC chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers

Jaguar TSC chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers
Updated 11 sec ago

Jaguar TSC chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers

Jaguar TSC chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers
  • Team Principal James Barclay talks exclusively to Arab News about the early stages of Season 9, strength of the championship and ‘formidable’ Diriyah track

For a “startup,” Formula E is not doing badly at all.

Friday and Saturday will see the second and third rounds of Season 9 at the Diriyah E-Prix night-time double-header, and James Barclay, team principal of Jaguar TCS Racing, believes few other sports can match the pace, metaphorical and literal, the sport has set since its inception.

“I think the first thing to say is Formula E is only 8 years old,” he said. “That’s the amazing thing. It’s still a startup by definition, which is exciting to think about. We’ve come a long way in eight years. It’s one of the fastest forms of motorsport in terms of growth in the world, which is incredibly exciting to see. We have an incredible lineup of teams and manufacturers, which in single-seater racing is unrivaled.”

The first race of the season in Mexico City saw the launch of Formula E’s Gen3 car — the all-electric series’ fastest and most efficient vehicle yet.

“I think the first race has been something we’ve been anticipating for a while, so it’s nice to have done it,” Barclays said.

“It’s fine when you’re developing and testing, but there’s nothing like competition to really start to see where things are at. We’ve had mixed fortunes but also a lot of positives to take out of it. Other than one other manufacturer, Porsche, we had more cars in the top 10,” he added, attributing the achievement to Jaguar’s efficiency.

This season, the Jaguar line-up is made up of Mitch Evans from New Zealand and Sam Bird of Britain. The team performed solidly in Mexico City and are now sixth in the standing with four points.

Barclay says that whether it’s getting to grips with new tires or other emerging factors, teams will need some time to adjust in the coming weeks.

“I think what we’ll see in the first four or five races this year is potentially a real swing of performance and form,” he said. “There are some very competitive teams and drivers, which are out of position, us included. Those teams who got it right last week, do they know the reasons why they got it right? And will they get it right this week?

“We need to let that play out over the first four or five races.”

Teams, including Barclay’s own Jaguar, are keeping their cards close to their chests in the early rounds of the season.

“Because it’s a brand-new car, people are still getting used to overtaking with it,” he said. “You didn’t want to take too many risks in the first race of the season because you want to get a full race under your belt; you want to get the mileage. So, you saw people being a little bit cautious and maybe not having the big moves that we’ve seen in Formula E in the past. That will come.”

Friday night will see the first of the two Diriyah races taking place under the floodlights, and the Jaguar boss is happy to be back in Riyadh.

“It’s fantastic to be back here,” Barclay said. “What we love about this race is, firstly, the location in the historic part of Diriyah. It’s a really challenging circuit. It’s a formidable track. The drivers enjoy it, which is always a positive sign.

“Sector one and sector two are incredibly technical and fast. You have to be very accurate. A small mistake has a big penalty. It’s like threading the eye of the needle, basically. There’s no room for error. And it’s been a roller coaster down that first section.

“Add to that the fact that this is the night race, our only night race to Canada. And I think that adds something really special to it.”

Barclay says the relevance of Formula E continues to rise as the world shifts toward electrical mobility.

“Regulation is driving that,” he said. “If you look at the majority of car manufacturers, they make clear statements, so for us, we made a statement that from 2025, Jaguar would become an all-electric model luxury car company.”

Daimler and Volkswagen have also made similar announcements.

“In summary, most manufacturers here made a clear statement toward becoming all-electric car companies at different points in time. In our case, this will happen very soon, but all within the next 10 years, which is incredibly exciting,” Barclay said.

Barclay calls Formula One “the pinnacle” of internal combustion engine racing and says Formula E plays a similar role in electric racing.

“What starts to happen in the future, beyond 2030, when in many markets, you can’t sell ICE engines, no one knows,” he said. “But the reality is, I think Formula E is incredibly well placed if you look at the main automotive market, and the shift toward electric mobility, or the uptake of electric cars. So we see Formula E being a positive space going forward in terms of what’s at the core of a championship.”

Beyond the environmental aspects, Formula E currently has a structure that other motorsports cannot match.

“We don’t have any driver that brings budget to racing Formula E. Everyone has a full professional employed by the team,” Barclay said. “I can’t think of any other category where that happens. It doesn’t happen in Formula One. It doesn’t happen in IndyCar. It doesn’t happen in NASCAR. Basically, I think it’s the most perfect professional driver lineup in the world and one that has so much strength in depth.”

Add to that an expanding calendar that last year saw a new race in Jakarta and this year has added Sao Paolo, Cape Town and Hyderabad, and the popularity of Formula E could be about to rise even further.

“I come back to that point: We’re a startup sport,” said Barclay. “I think what is incredible is if you look at the short space of time, we just came back from Mexico City where we had just under 60,000 people. The stadium was absolutely full, sold out, all tickets in the grandstand, in hospitality sold. In Jakarta, we had 60,000 people last year.

“So genuinely, wherever we are, we’re sold out.”


WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown

WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown
Updated 48 min 21 sec ago

WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown

WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA: This weekend sees colossal battles inside the WWE ring as Royal Rumble makes its entrance for 2023 with championships on the line and more than 60 WWE superstars set to face off on Sunday, Jan 28 January.

In the main event encounters, this year’s Royal Rumble will raise the stakes higher than ever, with the winner of both the male and female headline matches guaranteed a World Championship match at WrestleMania 39 in Hollywood in April.

In the 30-man Royal Rumble contest, superstars from across eras, including Drew McIntyre, Cody Rhodes, Rey Mysterio, Sheamus, and current United States champion Austin Theory, will battle it out for the ultimate spot as the last wrestler standing.

(WWE)

Meanwhile, the 30-woman Royal Rumble match will see superstars, including Liv Morgan and Rhea Ripley, enter the ring for a chance to earn a title matchup on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

In the championship matches, undisputed WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns will face off with Kevin Owens following their high-profile bouts to start off the year, with Reigns aiming to maintain his ongoing dominance over the WWE universe.

Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair will also have her eyes set on retaining her title, as she stands toe-to-toe with Alexa Bliss in the title showdown on Saturday evening.

WWE fans in the Middle East can catch the encounters at Royal Rumble from 4 a.m. KSA on Sunday, live on Shahid.


Newcastle’s Howe on January transfers

Newcastle’s Howe on January transfers
Updated 27 January 2023

Newcastle’s Howe on January transfers

Newcastle’s Howe on January transfers
  • United have suffered just one defeat all season under Howe and remain in contention in all three domestic competitions

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe admits improving his Newcastle United starting XI could prove difficult to do in the January transfer window.
Although, that does not mean he will not try to at least steady up his Magpies squad, with the club set to be fighting it out on three fronts heading into 2023.
The last two transfer windows have proved transformative for Newcastle and Howe: From the likes of Bruno Guimaraes dragging the Magpies away from the relegation zone 12 months ago, to the summer rebuild which has seen a shift into the Champions League places.
United have suffered just one defeat all season under Howe and remain in contention in all three domestic competitions, making them one of the country’s form teams. And adjusting and adding to the side with the right level of quality does come with its own pitfalls, of which Howe is only too aware.
“I’m always watching players with the view to signing them,” admitted the head coach ahead of Sunday’s return to league action at Leicester City.
“I’d like to think I’m an honest guy, but I don’t know whether we can get the right player. Improving our starting XI is very difficult without spending vast sums of money that we don’t have. Improving the squad is maybe a different thing, but do we want to improve the squad or do we want to improve the team.
“There are lots of different things, for example, injuries change things, and we always need to be careful with what we can do within Financial Fair Play regulations.”
More than $200 million has been spent by the Magpies’ majority owners, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, in the last two transfer windows. Howe does not expect next month to see anywhere near that level of expenditure.
He said: “We’re in a very different position to where we were last year.
“We knew we needed to act (last January) and we knew we needed some good numbers through the door to try and lift the group. Now, we’re in a different position. And also, we are in a different position with Financial Fair Play than we were last year where we didn’t have a legacy of transfer fees, so we had a gap there we could attack.
“Not avoiding your question, but we’re not sure what we want the window to look like because we’re not sure what is going to happen.”
One player heavily linked with a move to United next year is France international Marcus Thuram, fresh from his defeat in the World Cup final.
The player is a close friend of Newcastle star Allan Saint-Maximin, with the French winger admitting recently that he’d spoken to Thuram about a possible switch.
The Borussia Monchengladbach man is out of contract in the summer and is thought to be available for a knockdown fee in January. Bayern Munich are said to be interested, however.
Recently, Saint-Maximin said: “Yeah, I will be honest, I have chatted with him. For me, he’s a great player. I’ve known this guy a long time. I played football with him when I was very young. I know all his family. He has great parents. He’s an incredible guy.”
And when asked about his player’s words, Howe joked: “Well done, Maxi! He’s a top player. But yeah, no more than that. He’s one that I watched in the World Cup, for sure, but no more than that.”


Knicks edge Celtics in overtime thriller, Doncic hurt in Mavs win

Knicks edge Celtics in overtime thriller, Doncic hurt in Mavs win
Updated 27 January 2023

Knicks edge Celtics in overtime thriller, Doncic hurt in Mavs win

Knicks edge Celtics in overtime thriller, Doncic hurt in Mavs win
  • Detroit Pistons, owners of the worst record in the Eastern Conference, sprung a surprise in Brooklyn, where Kyrie Irving’s 40 points weren’t enough for the Nets in a 130-122 defeat

LOS ANGELES: Julius Randle scored 37 points to lead the New York Knicks to a 120-117 overtime victory over the NBA-leading Boston Celtics on Thursday as the Dallas Mavericks held off Phoenix despite an injury to star guard Luka Doncic.

Randle added nine rebounds and Jalen Brunson scored 29 points with four rebounds, seven assists and a crucial block as time expired as the Knicks thwarted Boston’s comeback bid.

They handed the Celtics a third straight defeat on the heels of their nine-game winning streak.

Boston’s Jayson Tatum celebrated his selection as an All-Star starter with 35 points and 14 rebounds. Jaylen Brown scored 22 points with nine rebounds.

But Boston’s star duo also combined for six key turnovers, and Brown missed two free throws with 7.6 seconds remaining to hurt Boston’s cause.

“I’m a better basketball player than I played today,” a dejected Brown said. “Those two missed free throws kind of embodied the whole game for me — didn’t get it going, didn’t give my team enough energy to win.”

Randle, meanwhile, drained a pair of clutch free throws with 21.2 seconds left and RJ Barrett added another two foul shots before Brunson swatted away a potential game-tying three-pointer by Malcolm Brogdon as time ticked off in overtime.

“We’ve been in these games before,” Randle told broadcaster TNT after the Knicks squandered a late 12-point lead but managed to hang on.

“All year we’ve been in up and down games. We’ve lost those games at the end, we’ve won them at the end, so there’s a sense of being comfortable in those positions and knowing how to execute whether you’re up or down.”

Tatum scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, but he missed a potential game-winner and when teammate Robert Williams grabbed the rebound Boston’s Jericho Sims blocked his put-back attempt.

In Phoenix, Doncic — who came into the night leading the league in scoring — limped out with a sprained left ankle less than four minutes into the contest.

X-rays were negative, but he didn’t return, with Spencer Dinwiddie stepping up to fill the void with 36 points and nine assists.

The Mavs led the entire second half, but two driving layups from Chris Paul pulled the Suns within 96-95 with 19.7 seconds remaining.

Dwight Powell came up with a key rebound off teammate Reggie Bullock’s missed free throw and then made two free throws of his own as the Mavs put it away.

“No one ever panicked and we found a way to win a game,” said Mavs coach Jason Kidd, who did not have an immediate update on the severity of Doncic’s injury after the game.

The Detroit Pistons, owners of the worst record in the Eastern Conference, sprung a surprise in Brooklyn, where Kyrie Irving’s 40 points weren’t enough for the Nets in a 130-122 defeat.

Saddiq Bey scored 25 points to lead eight Pistons players in double figures — despite the absence of star guard Cade Cunningham, backup point guard Cory Joseph and center Marvin Bagley.

Alec Burks scored 20 points for the Pistons, who ended a four-game losing streak as they rebounded from an embarrassing loss to Milwaukee on Monday in which they gave up 150 points.

“We just knew we had to start off better than that and just play better throughout the four quarters,” Bey said. “I think we were very eager just to nip that one in the bud and just keep going.”

The Pistons capitalized on their size advantage against the short-handed Nets, who were again without star Kevin Durant and saw Ben Simmons depart early with a sore left knee.

In Charlotte, the Hornets celebrated LaMelo Ball’s return from a three-game injury absence with a 111-96 come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Bulls.

In Los Angeles, Paul George scored 35 points and Kawhi Leonard added 27 for the Clippers in a 138-100 wire-to-wire rout of the San Antonio Spurs.


Brazilian pair win Australian Open mixed doubles title

Brazilian pair win Australian Open mixed doubles title
Updated 27 January 2023

Brazilian pair win Australian Open mixed doubles title

Brazilian pair win Australian Open mixed doubles title
  • Stefani and Matos are undefeated as a team, having won all seven matches together at the United Cup and at Melbourne Park

MELBOURNE: The Brazilian pair of Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos beat India’s Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna 7-6 (2), 6-2 on Friday to win the Australian Open mixed doubles title in Mirza’s last match at a Grand Slam tournament before she retires.

Mirza, who has won six Grand Slam doubles championships — three in mixed, including the 2009 Australian Open — will retire next month after a tournament in Dubai.

The Brazilian pair took a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker and Mirza and Bopanna fought back to 3-2, but that was to be the last points the Indian duo took. They missed two overheads in a row, including Mirza’s shot into the net on set point.

Stefani and Matos broke Mirza’s serve in the fourth game of the second set to go up 3-1, with the break point coming after a lengthy exchange between the teams.

Stefani and Matos are undefeated as a team, having won all seven matches together at the United Cup and at Melbourne Park.