A “boundary-pushing” esports festival is to take place in Saudi Arabia next summer.
The inaugural Esports World Cup was announced by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during The New Global Sport Conference on Monday.
“The Esports World Cup is 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 pushes the boundaries of the industry,” said Prince Mohammed.
“The competition will enhance our progress towards realising the Vision 2030 objectives of diversifying the economy, growing the tourism sector, creating jobs in various industries, and providing world-class entertainment for citizens, residents, and visitors alike.”
The event will be held annually in the kingdom and organisers claim to have the “largest prize pool in esports history” although details are yet to be released.
Investment in gaming and esports is a big part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy as it is estimated to increase the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP by more than 50 billion Riyals.
The Esports World Cup will also build on current gaming events in the country, such as the Gamers8 tournament which took place over the span of eight weeks in August and featured tournaments in various games with a total cash prize of $45 million.
Largest Esports tournaments and prize pools
In the past decade, esports tournaments have grown in popularity and competitiveness. Gamers can now become full-time esports athletes and compete in tournaments with a cash prize.
An eye-catching $40 million was awarded at the 2021 Dota 2 tournament known as The International in Bucharest. The winners of that tournament, Team Spirit from Russia, took home more than $18 million.
The largest individual tournament prize pool awarded was at the 2019 Fortnite World Cup Finals, in which more than $15 million was up for grabs. The winner, Kyle Bugha Giersdorf, who was 16 at the time, took home $3 million in the event held at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City.
Saudi Arabia’s Gamers8 is currently the largest collective esports tournament in the world, with the Fortnite tournament at the event ranking third overall for the size of its prize pool.
The winners at this year’s Fortnite tournament at Gamers8 won $280,000, split between two players from Poland.