RIYADH: Dazzling fireworks cascaded on Boulevard Riyadh City on Friday, signifying the official kickoff of Gamers8: The Land of Heroes, the second outing of the world’s largest esports and gaming festival.
Organized by the Saudi Esports Federation, or SEF, the coming eight weeks will see 15 tournaments from a list of top-12 video games at its purpose-built venue, in addition to global concert lineups every Friday and various entertainment zones and activations.
Omar Batterjee, director of corporate communications and public relations at SEF, told Arab News: “We keep saying we’re going to make this year’s event three times bigger and we mean it in every way. Looking back at how last year catapulted us to getting here, I think Saudi Arabia as a whole had a community of over 21 million gamers. However, I think the industry, the investors, did not realize the magnitude, did not realize how much buying power there is or the market appetite.”
The season has already sold out tickets for the first couple of days, including its education program seats, and expects to welcome upwards of 2.5 million visitors for more than 1,000 events and activations throughout the festival.
With a $45 million total prize pool, tripled from their inaugural event, the festival will host tournaments for Fortnite, Tekken 7 Nations Cup, PUBG Mobile World Invitational, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Dota 2, StarCraft II, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), Rocket League, PUBG Global Series 2, three FIFAe tournaments, and Street Fighter 6.
The theme, Land of Heroes, highlights its representation of Saudi Arabia as the ultimate destination for gamers across the globe, and also celebrates the event’s inclusivity.
The big date outlines the summer in Riyadh, allowing the venue to become a place of community engagement and immersion into the gaming industry, aligned with its six main pillars: compete, amuse, rhythm, challenge, meet, and learn.
Including access to elite competitions, Gamers8 offers a range of live concerts from star local, regional and international names, and community gaming opportunities, education platforms and programs, and family activities.
Last year’s Gamers8 saw 1.4 million visitors, 132 million people watching the elite competitions, 392 professional players representing 61 nationalities, 113 international professional teams, and eight nights of music throughout the summer that brought in a total of 74,670 ticket-holders attending performances from 19 global artists, 10 Arab artists, and 17 local Saudi artists.
Batterjee said: “What we hope to do is take this passion that a lot of people have and create career opportunities… The Saudi Sports Federation can’t do everything and the National Gaming and Esports strategy is where this all ties in. There are over 20 government entities, over 80 initiatives, 86 to be exact, all working together on different elements.
“We’re all going together to take this sector and hopefully reach a contribution to GDP of 50 billion riyals by 2030,” he said.
The event is a vital step to SEF and Saudi Arabia’s grand vision to become a global hub for gaming and esports investment. It also aligns with the National Gaming and Esports Strategy that boasts six main pillars: esports, gaming consumption, game development, education and talent attraction, funds and infrastructure, as well as technical and physical infrastructure.
Turki Alfawzan, CEO of SEF, told Arab News: “We’re very proud that we have a national strategy on a sector level to push the gaming sector to become one of the main (ones) within Saudi.
“Looking at the demographics of Saudi, with the youth of 70 percent, this is a reflection of the gaming industry. We have more than 20 million gamers in Saudi, so that’s why it’s really important for us to make and to create an opportunity for all these youth with a very exciting sector.”
Gamers8: The Land of Heroes will conclude alongside the Next World Forum, an esports and gaming worldwide forum, from Aug. 30-31.