Saudi Arabia to build gaming and e-sports district at Qiddiya City

The 500,000-square-metre centre aims to be the regional headquarters of video game companies and welcome 10 million visitors annually

An artist's impression of the planned gaming and esports district at Saudi Arabia's vast Qiddiya City entertainment project. Photo: Qiddiya
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Saudi Arabia will build a mixed-use gaming and e-sports district at its vast Qiddiya City entertainment project, as it seeks to further position itself as a global centre for the growing industry.

The 500,000-square-metre centre aims to host up to 25 e-sports teams at any time, as well as the regional headquarters of more than 30 video game companies, Qiddiya Investment Company said on Friday.

It also plans to welcome 10 million visitors annually by 2030. Qiddiya City, as a whole, aims to attract 48 million a year, it previously said.

The district, the plan for which was first floated earlier this month, intends to be home to four dedicated e-sports venues, one of which is being positioned as one of the biggest three in the world, Qiddiya said.

The venues will have a combined peak capacity of 73,000 and host a year-round calendar of some of the biggest e-sports tournaments, it said.

The "innovative gaming and esports district [is] set to offer a unique, engaging, gamified experience to both its visitors and residents”, said Abdullah Aldawood, managing director of the Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC).

Gaming has become big business globally, gaining traction since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, with new-age technology providing an opportunity to reach a wider audience and develop new titles to cater to consumer demand.

The planned district is a core pillar of Saudi Arabia's National Gaming and Esports strategy, which aims to develop 30 games and create about 40,000 jobs by 2030.

The programme, unveiled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in September 2022, outlines a comprehensive investment programme for the industry and has the ultimate goal of making the kingdom a global gaming centre by that year.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are at the forefront of the gaming industry in the Middle East, with their governments recognising the massive potential the growing market possesses, Boston Consulting Group said in a previous study.

Riyadh also created the Saudi Esports Federation to hasten the industry's development. Its president, Prince Faisal bin Bandar, was appointed as vice president of the Global Esports Federation in December. He is also the president of the Arab Esports Federation.

The gaming industry in the Arab world's biggest economy received a boost in the form of $488 million in funding from the Saudi Esports Federation, the National Development Fund and the Social Development Bank, it was announced at the Leap technology conference in Riyadh in February.

“Qiddiya will play a major role across several pillars of Saudi Arabia’s national gaming and e-sports strategy,” the QIC said.

The gaming district's unveiling comes after Qiddiya announced that work on the mega city was progressing, with contracts worth 10 billion Saudi riyals ($2.66 billion) awarded so far as the kingdom presses ahead with its Vision 2030 economic diversification agenda.

Located on the outskirts of Riyadh, the project will include 60,000 buildings covering an area of 360 square kilometres and is expected to eventually have more than 600,000 residents, Qiddiya said.

Qiddiya City is also expected to create more than 325,000 job opportunities, yielding a nominal gross domestic product of 135 billion riyals a year.

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Updated: December 15, 2023, 11:36 AM