JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud unveiled the National Gaming and Esports Strategy on Thursday.
The strategy marks the beginning of a new era towards leading the sector and making the country a global hub for the gaming industry by 2030, according to state news agency SPA.
It also serves the Saudi Vision 2030 objectives, which aim to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy, create new job opportunities in different industries and ‘provide world-class entertainment’ to residents and visitors.
“The National Gaming and Esports Strategy is driven by the creativity and energy of our citizens and gamers, who are at the heart of the strategy,” said the Crown Prince.
Raising the quality of life by improving players’ experience, providing new entertainment opportunities, and achieving an economic impact by contributing to the GDP by about 50 billion riyals are the strategy’s three main objectives.
SPA’s report also suggests that this will lead to the creation of 39,000 new job opportunities by 2030.
Saudi Arabia aims to produce more than 30 competitive games in the Kingdom’s studios and become one of the top three countries containing the highest number of professional esports players.
At the recently concluded The Next World Forum in Riyadh, Ahmed AlBishri, COO of the Saudi Esports Federation (SEF) said: “In 2018, we only had two teams. Today, we have over 100 teams signed under the Federation, with over 500 professional players signed under official contracts. Even on the level of creating opportunities and jobs, we’re dealing with bigger and bigger numbers that we’re seeing, and we’re expecting that these numbers will multiply greatly in upcoming years”
The country intends to implement the strategy through 86 initiatives covering the entire value chain, which was launched and managed by more than 20 government and private entities.
These initiatives are divided into eight focus areas, which include technology and hardware development, game production, e-sports, additional services, and other aspects such as infrastructure, regulations, education and talent acquisition.
The gaming and esports sector is considered the fastest growing among all media sectors, and is expected to reach $200 billion by 2023. It also confirms the kingdom’s position as a geographical link between the East and West.
The Crown Prince’s announcement comes in the wake of the 10-week Gamers8 festival, which closed with The Next World Forum, and which saw Saudi and international gamers take part in the biggest event of its kind globally.
Prince Faisal bin Bandar, President of SEF said: “We’re very proud of what [our players] have done, but it’s not where we want to end it. We want to keep pushing and start doing more regular tournaments, participating in more international tournaments, we brought some here. There’s plenty going on before the end of the year that we want our young Saudi men and women to participate in and give them a pathway to qualify and earn their place on those global stages.”
“There’s our work with the international federations. At the end of this year, the global Esports games for the Global Esports Federation in Turkey, which we are hosting next year, so we’ll start preparation for that. We have our world championships with the International Esports Federation, IESF, also at the end of this year.
“When I say concrete steps, this goes across the board. We want to make sure they have the opportunities to qualify, that our partners are all aligned with us and moving in the same pathway, and that we’re doing the best for not just the local community, but the international community," he added.
Meanwhile Omar Batterjee, Head of Marketing, Communications, and Partnerships at SEF, highlighted just how big the esports industry has become.
“Gaming and esports I think is one of the most interesting [industries] because everyone looks at it as if they’re merely the video games that their children play, they don’t understand that there’s an entire industry behind it.
“Just in Saudi last year in 2021, expenditure in gaming and esports reached one billion dollars, 3.75 billion riyals, and we're a population of about 21 million gamers, so you can understand the magnitude of that industry in Saudi and it’s important that we try to convey that message.”