Saudi Arabia is the region’s leading gaming industry and the 19th biggest gaming market in the world, projected to exceed $2.6 billion by 2027, an annual growth rate of 7.5%.
Largely driven by its high population of gamers, with around 21 million gamers (about 58% of the total population), the country is currently experiencing an enormous 41.1% year-on-year growth.
The Saudi government supports its gaming industry through its National Gaming and Esports Strategy, focused on developing local talent, creating 39,000 new jobs, attracting foreign investment, and boosting the sector’s contribution to GDP by more than $13.3 billion by 2030.
The kingdom’s latest effort is launching the Esports World Cup, an annual tournament in Riyadh from 2024 onwards.
The new tournament will take place in the summer months, according to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Prime Minister.
He also explained that the government had established the Esports World Cup Foundation, a non-profit organization, to drive the sector’s sustainability and to be the “natural next step” in Saudi Arabia’s journey to becoming a global center for gaming and esports.
An additional range of activities and events will also be held during the quieter summer months to attract more tourists to the capital city when temperatures soar.
The tourism sector in Saudi Arabia is heavily reliant on summer holidays, but hotel occupancy rates drop by an average of 16% during this time, tourism spending falls by 18%, and restaurant and cafe spending declines by 13%.
The Esports World Cup is expected to generate significant economic benefits for Saudi Arabia in terms of tourism revenue and job creation.
In February, Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) acquired a $265 million stake in Chinese esports outfit VSPO, becoming the company’s single largest equity holder.
In the same month, it raised its stake in gaming giant Nintendo to 8.26% and invested in Swedish video game company Embracer Group.
The PIF’s investments come as the wider Middle East and North Africa region emerges as the fastest-growing gaming market in the world.
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