Plans unveiled for $1 billion esports island in Abu Dhabi

It will house training facilities, a tournament venue, content creation spaces and hotels

Esports lounge operator True Gamers wants to build an island dedicated to competitive gaming in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Blast
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A $1 billion island could soon take Abu Dhabi esports to the next level.

Gaming lounge operator True Gamers has unveiled plans to build the city's first area dedicated to the industry, with sections for competition, training and athlete accommodation. The development would also be the first of its kind globally.

One possible location for the "esports Island" project is between Al Bandar and Al Dana developments in Al Raha Beach, True Gamers co-founder Vlad Belyanin told The National.

It could cost an estimated $1 billion, Belyanin says, with True Gamers committing between $280 million and $300 million.

The company is in talks with “high-profile investors”, company representatives have confirmed, to raise the full funds needed to acquire the island and build the facilities.

The proposed spot is at the heart of one of the city's quickly growing neighbourhoods, facing Yas Island on one side and Raha Beach’s housing developments on the other.

If built, the island’s sections would include one area called The Digital Tower, a hub with spaces for meetings, start-up accelerators and animation studios. TG Arena would feature spaces for esports tournaments as well as a computer club with around 100 PCs, a simulation racing section and a space for console gaming.

There would also be a bootcamp section that is “akin to American collegiate fraternities”, the company says, with accommodation built with input from esports team managers from around the world.

A hotel is also planned for the island, called GG Resort, with 200 rooms, each equipped with gaming PCs. A “parachute jump check-in” inspired by popular battle royale game PUBG is also planned.

Anton Vasilenko, chief executive and co-founder of True Gamers, says: “True Gamers conducted a comprehensive market analysis of the Mena region’s esports landscape and the global esports industry’s growth trajectory before esports Island development.

“This in-depth analysis gives us the confidence that the proposed business model will be instrumental in bringing esports Island to life.”

Plans for the island were designed by a team of architects including Abdullah Bin Baz and Haitham Khojali. However, Bin Baz wrote on LinkedIn that the designs were shared publicly without an official agreement between him and True Gamers. The National has contacted Bin Baz for comment.

No exact timeline has been specified for the project, but True Gamers representatives say more announcements will be made soon.

True Gamers operates 14 gaming lounges in Dubai, with more than 100 in Eastern Europe. The company announced in January that it secured $45 million in funding to build 150 branches in Saudi Arabia.

Belyanin said at the time: "The expansion into Saudi Arabia will elevate True Gamers' global presence and play a pivotal role in propelling the growth of the kingdom's esports industry.

"We at True Gamers value cybersport enthusiasts, and we are honoured to bring new opportunities for such people in the kingdom and develop the gaming culture to the next level."

In October, a report from Boston Consulting Group estimated there are three billion gamers worldwide, with 500 million esports enthusiasts, highlighting the Middle East as an "emerging force" in that space.

Alexander Schudey, managing director of the company, said: "With its large population of gamers and a thriving esports ecosystem, the Middle East is set to shape the future of live entertainment.

"The ambitious initiatives undertaken by countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE demonstrate their commitment to positioning the Middle East as a global hub for esports. These forward-thinking moves will not only attract global audiences but also pave the way for local talent to flourish in the world of competitive gaming."

Updated: March 22, 2024, 4:40 PM