Future City of Esports: Riyadh

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In recent times, esports has seen a lot of diversity and changes. With players emerging from countries that were not in the known industry, it’s only appropriate for countries that were not known in the industry to emerge as well. It’s safe to say that Saudi Arabia has been in the headlines recently for its acceptance towards diversity. Up till the monarchy of King Abdullah, the country was not as diverse as it is now.

Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East and it is high time for it to align with the rest of the world. Recently we have seen KSA’s flexibility for many things such as women driving from 2018, Halloween celebrations, and more. With all this ongoing, it was only time until the Kingdom opens its doors to the e-sports and the gaming industry too.

Esports is a dynamic and fast-growing industry. With technology advancing so rapidly, the e-sports industry is a flourishing one. It was only appropriate for Saudi Arabia to cash in on such an opportunity too. Hence, Vision 2030 aligns with taking the e-sports industry to the next level. The Gamers8 festival was held in the country for the first time in 2022 as well as in 2023; it was bigger than ever. From next year onwards, the festival will be called the Esports World Cup held in the capital city, Riyadh.

The financial hub, Riyadh, has already been witnessed as one of the biggest hubs for gaming and e-sports. With the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, we can predict that the city’s desire to become the global hub for e-sports might become a reality. The 34 million population country consequents more than 50% of people as gamers. This establishes that the gaming community is huge there meaning Riyadh has lots of talent and potential to become the future city of e-sports.

President of E-Sports of the nation, HRH Prince Faisal Bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, has already stated to expect several diverse career opportunities in the gaming industry. The future aim is to create an inclusive gaming ecosystem benefitting not just the local industry but globally too. As per Vision 2030, the Kingdom aims for the e-sports and gaming industry to contribute to 1% of the GDP by creating new gaming companies, developing new games and creating jobs, resulting in Riyadh as a centre for e-sports and gaming.

The Vision of HRH Prince Faisal is quite meritorious but it comes with challenges. Seoul, LA, Tokyo, Berlin, Las Vegas, and Shanghai have established hubs in the e-sports world, and as the saying goes, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ is very relatable here. It took a good amount of time and effort for these gaming hubs to be where they are. Prince Faisal can put his money where his mouth is but what about the image building in front of the world? Definitely, events like Gamers8 were a good step to work towards the end goal but it will take more than a few events to be at the level of the established hubs like Seoul, Tokyo etc.

Considering the religious beliefs of the country, it will also be a challenge to be equal in terms of gender as well; a very basic requirement for any industry in the world to persevere. Although the female percentage is lesser than males, if one is considering the gaming industry with Riyadh as a city of e-sports in the future, this is a place where they can work in order to gain acceptability. Definitely, Riyadh has the potential to overcome and beat all challenges but acceptability is a gamble and cannot be predicted beforehand.

Abida Muqeem
Abida Muqeem
Abida may not be a gaming or tech guru, but always down for a nerdy convo! She's played games like FIFA, Mortal Combat, PUB-G and is a sucker for story-mode games. Currently dreaming of Hogwarts Legacy which she will finish right after she purchases a PS5 with the money from this writing gig.

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