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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia showcased the strength and potential of its gaming industry during the two-day esports and gaming summit, the Next World Forum, held on Sept. 7 and 8, as the Kingdom prepares to enter the global stage with 21 million gamers.  

Held in Riyadh, the event saw international gaming experts and creators besides several eminent personalities including Prince Faisal bin Bandar, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, and Mohammed Saud Al-Tamimi, governor of Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission, talking about the growth and aspirations of the esports sector in the Kingdom. 

While speaking at the summit, Prince Faisal bin Bandar said that Saudi Arabia has undergone an amazing journey in the esport sector over the last five years and has a strong community within the Kingdom. 

“In a population of 34 million Saudis, 63 percent or 21 million consider themselves gamers. This is a community of young gamers,” said Prince Faisal.

Prince Faisal noted that Saudi Arabia will soon be among the list of gaming powerhouses in the world which includes the US, Japan, South Korea and China. 

On the sidelines of the event, Saudi Arabia’s National Development Fund approved a grant worth SR300 million ($79.8 million) to finance the gaming and esports sector in cooperation with the Saudi Esports Federation and the Ignite program. 

Also, the forum witnessed the conclusion of a partnership agreement between the Korea e-Sports Association and the Saudi Esports Federation.

CITC Governor Al-Tamimi said that 89 percent of the Saudi population are gamers and added that the gaming market in the Kingdom is expected to expand by more than 250 percent in the next eight years.

He also added that the gaming sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product will increase 50 times by 2030. 

Gaming and NEOM

During the opening day, NEOM CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr noted that the gaming business is a base economy in Saudi Arabia with huge potential for returns. 

He revealed that the heart of NEOM’s gaming interests will be housed in The Line, the proposed smart linear city in NEOM which is designed to have no cars, streets, or carbon emissions.

“In the middle of ‘The Line.’ That is where the heart of gaming will be. When you are walking in ‘The Line,’ you will hear the noise of gaming,” he added.

Al-Nasr revealed that NEOM has already started a program to create joint venture partnerships with major international firms to elevate the gaming sector.

NEOM has already partnered with Saudi Arabian media conglomerate MBC to establish the first AAA games development studio. 

During the event, Saudi Venture Capital Co. Nabeel Koshak revealed that the company has backed more than 570 startups in the Kingdom since its inception. 

The second day of the event had several panel discussions with industry experts including Ahmed Al-Bishri, chief operating officer of Saudi Sports Federation; Faisal Binhomran, head of esports, Saudi Esports Federation; JMR Luna, CEO of OG Esports, and Carlos R Ocelote, founding CEO of G2 Esports. 

Most of the experts who attended the forum were enthusiastic about the future of the gaming industry in Saudi Arabia, with many suggesting that the Kingdom has set itself up to be a hub for the gaming industry not only in the region but globally.

The Next World Forum – Gaming & Esports Unleashed was hosted by the Saudi Esports Federation. The forum brought together a host of speakers from across the gaming and esports industries, and it also featured a series of activations, bilateral meetings, and investment opportunities. 


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