Return of $1 million esports tournament shines light on growth of Abu Dhabi gaming

Defending champions delighted to be back as best of the best battle it out in two-day Blast Premier World Final

Elite esports athletes ready to compete in Abu Dhabi

Elite esports athletes ready to compete in Abu Dhabi
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With a prize pool of $1 million, it is one of the largest esports tournaments in the world. The Blast Premier World Final returns to Abu Dhabi this weekend, underlining the “incredible” growth and future potential of gaming in the capital.

The two-day event involves the best eight teams from around the world competing in a Counter-Strike shoot-out at Etihad Arena. Visitors can watch the main action and even participate themselves in mini pop-up tournaments which offer cash prizes.

“We're really privileged and excited to be back in Abu Dhabi,” Blast Premier programme director Andrew Haworth told The National.

He believes there is already a strong partnership between Blast Premier and AD Gaming, boosting the capital’s capacity to grow and develop the gaming industry.

“The work they're doing to bring game developers, publishers, events like ours and grow the grassroots community across Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates is incredible,” he said.

Last year, G2 Esports took home the top prize after beating Team Liquid in the final and they have returned to defend their title.

Team leader Rasmus 'HooXi' Nielsen of Denmark explained that good communication between teammates is essential for success. “It's alpha and omega, it’s everything, especially the way I play,” he said.

The G2 team leader started playing at a young age, which he believes gave him an edge on fellow competitors. “It's definitely an advantage,” he confirmed. Hard work plays a part too. Nielsen trains with his team for four to five hours a day, six days a week.

Teammate Nikola 'Niko' Kovac, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, wants to stay at the top for as long as possible. He said: “I want to keep winning trophies, keep working hard and pushing myself to improve. Maybe once I’m finished as a player, I'm going to try to become a coach.”

Nielsen and Kovac are happy to be back in Abu Dhabi. “The best thing about this event is that it's very sunny and warm outside,” added Kovac with a smile.

AD Gaming director James Hartt believes the Blast Premier World Final event is good opportunity not only for Abu Dhabi gamers but others across the UAE.

Hartt spoke highly of the newly-established partnership between AD Gaming and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, calling their collaboration a “societal good” for the capital.

He also believes there will be another world champion from Abu Dhabi one day, following the success of Amjad 'Angrybird' Al Shalabi, who won the international e-sports tournament Evo 2023 in August. He hopes hosting the Blast Premier World Final again this year will inspire other future gamers in Abu Dhabi.

“It stems from the desire to have the world's best in the emirate,” he explained. “If you saw last year's tournament, it blew people away.”

The 2023 Blast Premier World Final takes place at Etihad Arena on Yas Island on Saturday and Sunday. More information at

Updated: December 15, 2023, 3:26 PM