If The Esports Advocate was given unfettered access to Savvy Games Group Chairman and HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and IESF President and Saudi Esports Federation Founder HRH Prince Faisal bin Bandar Al Saud, I would ask them a number of questions about their plans to grow esports and gaming in Saudi Arabia, their investments in the space, and reconciling controversial government policies and actions with serving as a host and a hub for international esports, gaming, and sporting competitions and festivals.
Sadly, we will never be able to have these frank one-on-one conversations, and if an interview with either of these gentlemen did ever occur, questions would have to be submitted and vetted prior to any actual conversations.
So instead, we publicly pose the following 11 important questions that we think the international esports community would like answers to. Here they are:
Why won’t the International Esports Federation, Saudi Esports Federation, ESL FACEIT Group, or the ruling family of Saudi Arabia make a public pledge and/or promise of safety to people attending events in the country regardless of race, creed, color, gender, or sexual classification? Example of what that statement would be like: “Attendees of our events will be safe in our country, no matter what.”
Did anyone from the Saudi Esports Federation—an organization founded and led by HRH Prince Faisal—or any other entity tied to the Saudi government or its public investment fund compensate the former IESF President Vlad Marinescu to step down so that HRH Prince Faisal could step in as acting president? And if not a direct payment, did any of the aforementioned entities invest in any company or project owned, operated, or led by him?
Is the Saudi Esports Federation (or the Saudi government through its owned esports operations or the public investment fund) quietly funding/plan to fund in the future the European Esports Federation? If yes, why hasn’t either organization disclosed this to the public?
Given that HRH Prince Faisal is a VP at Global Esports Federation and the acting president of the IESF, are there plans to merge the two organizations in the not-too-distant future? Further, would this merged entity move its headquarters to Riyadh?
Now that HRH Prince Faisal has a leadership role in IESF, GEF, and the SEF, and members of the royal family control Savvy Games Group, ESL FACEIT Group, Vindex and Esports Engine, does the Saudi government plan to run more Majors- and and Masters-level events that are tied to the international esports calendars of some of the biggest esports titles?
With the Saudi government having a controlling financial interest in esports companies and leadership roles at several global esports federations, will companies like ESL FACEIT Group be forced to work with these federations? Does HRH Prince Faisal’s connection legitimize these international federations? Is there an internal mandate of cooperation?
Is it fair, in your view, that the policies and actions of the Saudi government should be laid at the feet of companies owned by the government and the ruling family as the goals of these companies are to generate wealth to be used by the government to enforce its policies and principles domestically and internationally?
Because the Saudi government has direct access (if it so chooses) to private data through ESL FACEIT Group operations and tournament platforms such as FACEIT and VSPO (in China) as well as data collected through anti-cheat software (root/kernel level access to a user’s entire system in the case of FACEIT from what we understand), what assurance are being given that the government is not allowed to have access to collected personal data?
Now being the president at IESF, what steps will be taken to address the concerns about unsportman-like behavior at international events such as representatives of one country not being respectful of other countries? As an example, a formal complaint was filed by the Israel Association for Competitive Gaming to the IESF about unsportsmanlike behavior towards Israeli players by Jordanian and United Arab Emirates players during the IESF World Championship in Romania earlier this year. See this statement: https://iesa.org.il/news/3166.
Recently IESF members voted to reinstate Russia for 2024 at its general meeting held in Romania. Many international federation members condemned this move given Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine. As the leader of the Saudi Esports Federation, how did the organization vote? Further, to your knowledge, was an IESF board member (Constantine Surkont) from Russia convinced to step down in exchange for a positive overall vote reinstating Russia for IESF competitions in 2024?
As detailed in a Fox News interview (highlighted in this Reddit thread) and elsewhere, Savvy Games Group recorded $350M USD in revenue, and a $600M USD loss in 2023. What is your plan for profitability for the esports/gaming operations you have acquired? How many years will it take for the Saudi government to recoup its investment dollars and turn these operations profitable? Further, was Gamers8 a profitable event or did the costs of operations of the multi-day gaming festival cannibalize profits?