At The New Global Sport Conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Esports Federation and Saudi Ministry of Sport announced major plans for esports initiatives and events aimed at bringing a global audience and international competitions into the region.
Prior to the announcement, Prince Faisal bin Bandar (HRH Prince Faisal – president of the Saudi Esports Federation, International Esports Federation and VP of the Global Esports Federation) set the stage by saying that “Esports embodies a future that recognizes no boundaries of geography, age, or gender.”
Last week The Esports Advocate revealed that a number of executives from would be attending the event on Monday including Moonton Games, G2 Esports, ESL FACEIT Group, Take-Two Interactive, APEX, MMO maker NCSOFT, Savvy Games Group, Sega of America, Sony, Team Vitality, 100 Thieves, Guild Esports, Krafton India, BITKRAFT Ventures, Ubisoft, LGD Gaming, VSPO, Team Falcons, Formula E, Huya, and Ninjas in Pyjamas.
The leader of Saudi Arabia, HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (commonly referred to as HRH Crown Prince MBS, or just MBS) took the stage at the event Monday to announce the Esports World Cup to be hosted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at a date to be determined sometime in 2024. This will be a multi-title competition held on an annual basis, but precise details on which publishers and game makers will be involved, and what game titles will be played have not yet been announced. The event will replace its other big event, Gamers8, and appears to be a club-based competition. Gamers8 featured an overall prize pool of more than $45M USD this year.
MBS said that the “Esports World Cup us the natural next step in Saudi Arabia’s journey to become the premier global hub for gaming and esports, offering an unmatched esports experience that pushed the boundaries of the industry. The competition will enhance our progress towards realizing 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 also announced the Esports World Cup Foundation, described as “a non-profit organization” that hopes to drive a collaboration between esports stakeholders and to generally help with the sustainability of the global esports ecosystem. Details on that are forthcoming, we assume. Sources tell TEA that ESL FACEIT Chairman Ralf Reichert will leave the Saudi-owned tournament organizer to help spearhead this new “not-for-profit,” reporting directly to HRH Prince Faisal.
Also announced today, the Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) has been acquired by the Esports World Cup Foundation, which is being led by Ralf Reichert. This news is according to an announcement made by the former CEO of Ligarena and founder of the Electronic Sports World Cup, Matthieu Dallon. In case you are unfamiliar with it, the ESWC is an international professional gaming championship originally founded in 2003 by French company Ligarena. Over the years it hosted multiple international competitions for Trackmania, Warcraft, League of Legends, FIFA, Call of Duty, TEKKEN, and many other titles. The organization has mostly been inactive since its last competition, the ESWC Africa 2018.
In addition, an additional source (independent of our other sources) said that team leaders in attendance have committed to participating in this annual competition, but at least one executive from an organization (who asked not to be identified) said that this is not accurate and that they have not made any commitments to Esports World Cup in 2024. Guild Esports did not respond to a request for comment on Monday but did publicly acknowledge its participation in the Esports World Cup via a social media post.
And while Qiddiya—a Public Investment Fund-backed entertainment megaproject in Riyadh, which began construction in 2019—was not mentioned (at least, as of this writing), it is not much of a leap to believe that it will be tied to the Esports World Cup. After all, it was named an official partner of Gamers8 in June and we have no reason to believe that relationship won’t continue, as both are backed by the PIF. Qiddiya made headlines last week when it was revealed that it was a presenting sponsor of Esports Insider’s business event, ESI London.
TEA has also learned more details on the panels being hosted Monday, and the panelists involved.
Esports host and interviewer James Bank is moderating the panel, “How esports clubs can find their path in a constantly changing landscape. Panelists include G2 Esports cEO Alban Dechelotte, 100 Thieves President & COO John Robinson, Guild Esports CEO Jasmine Skee, Team Falcons Founder & CEO Musad Aldossary, Team Vitality CEO & Co-Founder Nicolas Maurer, and NIP Group Founder & Co-CEO Hicham Chahine.
Broadcaster and Entrepreneur Tumi Makgabo is moderating the panel, “Sports at the crossroads in the 21st century.” Panelists include football star Cristiano Ronaldo, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Formula E Founder and Chairman Alejandro Agag, and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Minister of Sport HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turkial Saud.
Broadcaster OJ Borg is moderating the panel, “How can esports unlock its full potential in the new world?” Panelists include Huya SVP Prince Chen, LGD Esports Club CEO Pan Jie, YouTube Director and Global Head of Gaming Publishers Kendra Johnson, ESL FACEIT Group Co-CEO Craig Levine, Krafton India CEO Sean Hyunil sohn, VSPO CEO & Founder Dino Ying, and Moonton CEO Justin Yaun.
OJ Borg will also moderate a fireside chat featuring HRH Prince Faisal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Minister of Sport HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turkial Saud, ESL FACEIT Group Chairman Ralf Reichart and Governor of the Public Investment Fund Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyman.
F1 (freelance) Presenter Claire Cottingham is moderating the panel, “What is the future of live entertainment and how do (e)sports fit into it?” Panelists include Qiddya Investment Company Managing Director Abdullah Aldawood, Epyllion CEO Matthew Ball, BITKRAFT Ventures Founding General Partner Jens Hilgers, Apex Chairman Luis Vicente, and Savvy Games Group CEO Brian Ward.
Gizmodo Editor in Chief Dan Ackerman is moderating the panel, “New pathways to grow the global gaming audience.” Panelists include Ubisoft Mobile Games Chief Mobile Officer Jean-Michel Detoc, Tencent SVP Steven Ma, Sony Group Executive Deputy President & CSO Toshimoto Mitomo, Sega Co-COO & President of Consumer Game and Transmedia Shuji Utsumi, Take-Two Interactive Chief Strategy Officer Michael Worosz, and NCSOFT President & CSO Dr. Songyee Yoon.
Sources also tell TEA that there could be some announcements related to the International Olympic Committee (IOC- it recently announced plans to create an Olympic Esports Games program) and the International Esports Federation, but we could not independently verify these claims, as of this writing.
This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the day as more information becomes available…
Editor’s note: An earlier iteration of this article listed team names that, according to sources, had committed to participating in the inaugural Esports World Cup in 2024, but this has not been confirmed by individual teams. In the interest of fairness and clarity, we have removed those team names, as participation in the conference does not automatically equate to a commitment to future events.