Esports World Cup in Saudi Arabia with a $60 mln prize: All you need to know

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Saudi Arabia is gearing up to host its debut Esports World Cup (EWC) in Riyadh with prize pool of over $60 million in July.

The prize pool is the largest ever in the industry, to be divided into four categories – game championships ($33 million), player bounties ($1 million), qualifiers ($7 million), and a cross-game competitive format club championship ($20 million).

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The cross-game event will provide clubs a unique opportunity to try their hand at various games, gather points and divide the total sum based on ranking.

The annual event will be held from July 3 to August 25 at the Riyadh Boulevard City.

The organizers dubbed the event an “elite multi-genre esports competition” which is expected to see over 1500 players with 30 esports clubs across 21 gaming titles.

The initiative was launched by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in October 2023.

“The competition will enhance our progress towards realizing the Vision 2030 objectives of diversifying the economy, growing the tourism sector, creating new jobs in various industries, and providing world-class entertainment for citizens, residents, and visitors alike,” MBS was quoted as saying at the time.

EWC aims to increase the gaming sector’s contribution to Saudi Arabia’s GDP by more than $ 13.3 billion (SAR50 billion) and create 39,000 new jobs by 2030.

The competition is being held during peak summer months in an effort to boost tourism during hot months.

Saudi Arabia, which is rapidly opening up to tourism, experiences an average 16 percent drop in hotel occupancy rates, an 18 percent decrease in tourism spending and a 13 percent decline in restaurant and cafe spending, according to an estimate reported earlier by the Saudi Press Agency.

Some of the games that will be a part of the event are Apex Legends, Call of Duty, Counter Strike II, FC24, PUBG Battlegrounds, Rocket League, Starcraft II, Tekken 8, Street Fighter 6, Rainbow Six Siege, and more.

The schedule is as follows:

A schedule of the Esports World Cup in Saudi Arabia. (File photo)
A schedule of the Esports World Cup in Saudi Arabia. (File photo)

Visitors can engage with gaming activations, community tournaments, pop culture celebrations, and other international experiences, the organizers said.

KitKat, Adidas, and Sony are some of the partners of the EWC.

Saudi Arabia is greatly investing in sports as a way to wean its economy off oil-dependency. It hopes to host the 2034 FIFA football World Cup and the Olympic Games.

It is set to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games, has invested in an international golfing tournament, and is rapidly building a vibrant football community including acquiring global players like Christiano Ronaldo for its national clubs.

National investment vehicles are also heavily investing in online gaming as the global esports market breaks records year after year.

The latest reforms fall under the country’s Vision 2030 goals. Saudi Arabia’s eSports federation was created in 2017, and the number of eSports teams in the Kingdom has since grown from two to more than 100.

Survey findings from 2022 indicate that at least 21 million people -– nearly two-thirds the national population –- consider themselves gamers.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia also hosted another esports festival called Gamers8, with games similar to the EWC, and a prize pool of $45 million.

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