Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan in Asharq Al-Awsat: Saudi Arabia’s Electronic Game Revenue Surpasses $ 576 Million
The President of the Saudi Electronic Sports Federation (SAFEIS), Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, revealed that the revenues of the electronic games market in the Kingdom amounted to $ 576 million per year.
In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, he said the figure spurred the industry to become more productive and create more ideas to further increase income. Globally, gaming revenue reached $ 1.1 billion in 2019, an increase of 27% from 2018.
Prince Faisal revealed that SAFEIS statistics indicate that some 6 million amateur players are present in the Kingdom. In other words, these players do not have a contractual agreement with a sports club registered with the federation. The federation has 35 clubs. Globally, 1.2 billion players were confirmed in 2020, as eSports viewers are on the rise. Nearly half a billion people have logged in to watch esports this year, up from 335 million in 2017.
Additionally, Prince Faisal revealed that talks are underway with the Education Department to develop eSports related programs and scholarships. Studies are underway on how to harness the interest of young people in eSports and develop a teaching mechanism and healthy best practices related to this sector.
Talks are also underway with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to improve the quality of internet services in parts of the Kingdom and to motivate game developers to enter the Saudi market. The goal is to eventually attract developers so that the Kingdom can turn into a hub for the Middle East.
In the three years since its inception, said Prince Faisal, the federation has developed the esports sector in the Kingdom, starting with nurturing the environment of professional and social competition to motivate investors to promote the sector growth.
The federation hosted Gamers Without Borders, the world’s largest charity esports festival in 2020. The prizes totaled $ 10 million and were donated by the winners to 12 charities dedicated to the fight against COVID-19, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Over 460,000 players from 141 countries participated in the tournament and over 14 million viewers connected. The earnings went to UNICEF, Direct Relief, GAVI and International Medical Corps and others.
The federation hosted the Fortnite Middle East and North Africa tournament launched by the International Esports Federation (IESF). Saudi Arabia won first and second place at the event, he added.
These victories demonstrate the talent and potential the Saudis pride themselves on in the esports industry, he noted. âIt motivates us to offer more support to nurture these talents. We have a clear plan to turn Saudi Arabia into a global eSports pioneer. “
Since children and young people are very interested in eSports, the federation wanted to forge a special relationship with the Ministry of Health, continued Prince Faisal. It has offered several successful initiatives and programs, including the League of Universities which was organized in cooperation with the League of Saudi Universities. Plans are in place to host the second edition of the event in 2022. Discussions are also underway to develop eSports related programs and scholarships.
Commenting on the Saudi eSports League, Prince Faisal said the second edition of the event has taken place and has seen remarkable development since its launch. The channels began to broadcast the competition in its entirety and in a professional manner. âPlans are definitely in place to expand to host world championships and we aim to grow the fan base for this. The goal is to reach a professional and competitive level at international eSports events.
Returning to Gamers Without Borders, Prince Faisal said that the 2021 edition of the event will be held under the slogan âOne World, One Bodyâ. It aims to help countries in need access COVID-19 vaccines by donating the prize money to the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief). The center will in turn offer it to global parties who will send the vaccines to countries in need. In addition, the event will feature an educational platform, organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which will offer free courses that will help those interested in building their professional careers around eSports.
Prince Faisal highlighted the importance of events such as Gamers Without Borders which bring together gamers from all over the world, regardless of race, culture and religion, all with the same charitable purpose.
Given Saudi interest in eSports, the federation is looking to build a comprehensive sector that allows players to compete at a professional level, Prince Faisal continued. This in turn will reap economic benefits and increase the level of competitiveness that will transform the Kingdom into a regional and international eSports hub.
âThe opportunities are endless,â he stressed, confirming the federation’s objective of developing the sector in accordance with Vision 2030 which aims to achieve real and global development that supports the national economy.
When it comes to stats, Saudi Arabia ranks number one in the FIFA eWorld Cup in the world, winning the title in 2015, 2018 and 2019. Eight of the ten players in West Asia are Saudi, he added. . The Kingdom has more than 300 professional players, who have a contract with an official club. The Saudi eSports League also includes non-Saudi residents.
Overall, Prince Faisal said, the Kingdom’s senior leadership has shown great interest in various forms of sports. The Minister of Sports and President of the Saudi Olympic Committee, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal, also ensures constant monitoring of the sector.
“This in turn motivates us to achieve our country’s esports goals and aspirations,” said Prince Faisal.