Esports World Cup CEO: Saudi Arabia the perfect place for our first global event

The biggest event in esports is set to take place in Riyadh in July

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Fifa president Gianni Infantino during the announcement for the Esports World Cup in October 2023. SPA
Powered by automated translation

Saudi Arabia is set to host the biggest esports tournament to date this summer.

The event is a large part of the kingdom’s push to cement itself as a global hub for gaming. Bolstered by the Vision 2030 initiative, the tournament shows Saudi Arabia's dedication to becoming a global powerhouse in the realms of gaming and sports.

The Esports World Cup, set to take place in Riyadh, will feature a diverse line-up of games, including Street Fighter, Overwatch and League of Legends. With a prize pool of $60 million, it is expected to attract top talent from across the globe. The event will also feature a festival of gaming and esports activities, alongside conferences and side tournaments.

Speaking to The National, Ralf Reichert, chief executive of the Esports World Cup Foundation, offered insights into what this event means for Saudi Arabia and the expansive gaming community at large. “It's intended to be the ultimate competition across the different games and bring them all together at a scale that the gaming industry hasn't seen yet.”

Reichert's influence on the esports world spans decades, most significantly as the chief executive and co-founder of ESL (Electronic Sports League), a pioneering force in the esports domain. Since its inception in 2000, ESL has emerged as a front-runner in organising and broadcasting tournaments for popular games such as Counter Strike, Dota 2 and League of Legends. Now in his current role, he is spearheading efforts to establish the Esports World Cup as a premier event on the gaming calendar.

Reichert says the Esports World Cup is more than a competition, as it is also an opportunity to bring gaming communities together and push the industry into the future. He says: "There will be a time when everyone is a gamer and for Saudi Arabia to make esports and games a national strategy is just so much ahead of the curve of anywhere else.”

He adds that the kingdom’s location allows it to “connect the two most important markets, the US and China”.

“We have in Saudi Arabia the unique position that we get along with both and therefore can have both countries represented well.”

With a diverse array of games set to take centre stage, including Counter-Strike and the popular football game EAFC, the event promises to be a gaming spectacle unlike any to date.

Reichert says the appeal of a game like Counter-Strike is universal and can be enjoyed by anyone whether they are into gaming or not. "It's very easy to understand. It's super intense. It has a lot of the ingredients for being the most successful viewership sport in the world."

He also expects the EAFC tournament to be popular among viewers.

The tournaments are set to start on July 3 and run for eight weeks until August 25. At the moment, not all the prize pools for the various games have been revealed but the one with the biggest prize is Dota 2, offering players the chance to win $5 million.

For Reichert, the goal of hosting such a prestigious global tournament is clear. “The intent of the Esports World Cup is to accelerate the growth of the Esports industry specifically, it clearly has the ambition to become one of the largest sports events in the world,” he says.

On whether the Esports World Cup could become nation representing rather than team representing in the future, Reichert says we’ve seen sporting events such as the Olympics take steps towards such an event. “The Esports World Cup is club-based. I believe in a future where all these things work well together and continue to all grow the industry. While saying that, that the club approach is the more historic one, the nations’ one still needs a little bit of work and positioning.”

When asked which of the tournaments in the Esports World Cup he’s most looking forward to, Reichert says “there has to be multiple answers and personally, I love all my children the same. There's plenty of games, there's Honour of Kings, which is having a massive competition for the first time outside of China. There's also Overwatch, which is big in the region and globally.”

Updated: June 02, 2024, 3:00 AM