Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Bin Sultan is setting sights on eSports in Saudi Arabia, targeting growth in an industry worth 50 billion riyals ($13 billion) to his nation’s economy.
The Saudi royal also revealed that the country wants to attract 250 companies to the nation by 2030, creating 40,000 jobs.
In 2017, Prince Faisal became president of the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS) and the Arab eSports Federation.
A growing game
Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia has big plans for Saudi eSports. The country recently hosted a successful Gamers8 in Boulevard Riyadh City with a massive prize pot of $45 million.
The event does not end the nation’s ambitions in the field. A $500 million ‘eSports City’ in Riyadh is also planned as the country intends to host more events, increasing its influence in the sector.
In an interview with CNN on Sept. 5, Prince Faisal outlined the opportunities that eSports offer.
“Our outlook by 2030 is to have a contribution to the Saudi economy which will roughly be around one percent of the GDP,” said Prince Faisal.
Prince Faisal went on to joke about the one percent figure: “I mean, I’m not a numbers guy, but when they first told me we’re looking to be one percent of the GDP, I kept saying, ‘Do we wanna say one percent? [that sounds like such a small number,’ and then they translated that into 50 billion riyals, and I was like, ‘Can we take that down a little bit, maybe point eight [of a percent]?”
Post oil economy
The Prince explained how important eSports is to the oil-rich nation as it plays the long game, planning for a post-oil economy by attracting new companies and creating jobs.
“It’s a growing industry worldwide, so to be an additive part of that, as Saudi, with our community and with our investments, not just here but globally, is something that is very important to us.
“Some of our overarching KPIs in the national strategy for gaming and eSports are not just the GDP contribution but 40,000 jobs created and 250 companies based in Saudi Arabia, both local and regional headquarters.”
CNN journalist Eleni Giokos asked Prince Faisal if he was worried that these lofty goals might not be met.
“No,” replied Prince Faisal, “because I know this community and the talent we have.”
Attracting the very best in eSports
Saudi Arabia has a strong pedigree in eSports. Its power and influence over the game will only become stronger as its investments pay off.
Johnny Yacoub at consulting firm Strategy& Middle East explained how Saudi Arabia intends to grow the game at home and further afield.
“Effectively, you’re bringing in the top talent, the top gaming developers, publishers, and players – putting them in state-of-the-art facilities and studios,” said Yacoub. “The Saudi government is really trying to propel this industry to new heights and not just be visible in this sector.”
Yacoub also pointed to the creation of the Savvy Gaming Group as another important part of the Saudi government’s plans.
“In 2022, we saw the creation of Savvy Gaming Group, which was given an approximately $38 billion war chest to invest in everything gaming and eSports-related.”