As businesses and investors look to capitalize on the growth of eSports, many are asking – is this a phenomenon limited to North America and Europe, or should we be watching the MENA region? So far, the Middle East has been a relative latecomer to the eSports scene; however, there are signs that this is starting to change. In fact, the MENA region is witnessing a rapid growth of eSports, with new tournaments and leagues being announced every other day.
This phenomenon is attracting the interest of players and investors alike, who see potential in sponsoring or partnering with eSports teams and players. eSports organizations are sprouting up all over the place, and sponsors are starting to take notice. What lies at the heart of this burgeoning industry? And why is it growing so rapidly in the MENA region?
We will be highlighting the growing trend of eSports in the MENA region, particularly Saudi Arabia, and also include helpful comments from Tariq Al-Badr, our expert friend at Arabic-Casinos.
History of eSports in the World
Although modern technology has only recently enabled the world to collaborate in large-scale International eSports events, the term has been around since 1982, when a Space Invaders Championship tournament was held for approximately 10,000 players from different European countries.
In the years that followed, eSports continued to rise in popularity until 2003, when the first international eSports tournament was announced. The tournament marked the first time in history when international players were prepared and trained to play against each other in large halls filled with thousands of fans and eSports lovers.
eSports Enters the Middle East
Similarly, eSports also gained traction in other parts of the world like the Middle East. Dubai organized the first eSports event in the region in collaboration with Galaxy Racer. The company is headquartered in the city and boasts a global presence in the MENA region, North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia.
Consequently, eSports in the Middle East has shown incredible promise, and many countries have welcomed the field as an excellent source of income to promote further development in the region. Even North African countries such as Egypt have begun encouraging eSports and training players to participate in international events. In fact, the country is a prominent regional competitor and generated $172 million in revenue last year!
eSports in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has also made efforts to promote eSports in the region. The governor of the Saudi city of Riyadh, Faisal bin Bandar, announced the establishment of the RUSH Festival 2021 as part of the popular Riyadh Season 2021. This was the first large-scale eSports event in the country and boasted a prize pool of SAR 1,000,000, featuring games from several genres.
Even though Saudi Arabia is a newcomer in the industry, its excellent spending power has helped the country become the center of eSports in the MENA region. It has also managed to generate higher revenues compared to other Arab countries. Arabic-Casinos expert Tariq Al-Badr commented on the situation, highlighting that gaming revenue and profit in the region reached $1.76 billion primarily because of Saudi Arabia. He referenced a report in one of his articles that mentioned an annual growth rate of 13.8% in the region.
FACEIT Acquisition by Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has devoted a great deal of time, money, and resources to establish itself as one of the leading countries in the eSports industry. The Saudi Public Investment Fund is dedicated to further increasing the country’s global presence in gaming.
As a result, the wealth fund has established its own eSports and gaming company, Savvy Gaming, to lead Saudi Arabia on an expansion path. The country is home to promising young individuals who show an affinity for the industry, highlighting Saudia’s untapped potential.
Earlier this month, Savvy Gaming became the second-largest owner in the Embracer Group AB. They did this by buying nearly 100 million shares in the Swedish company. The company has been making efforts to build more stakes in eSports.
FACEIT is another worthy contender in eSports that Saudi Arabia managed to acquire with the help of the Savvy Gaming Group. FACEIT was created as an eSports platform in early 2012 and has supervised countless games, including Counter-Strike. The deal was struck for approximately $500 million.
In addition to FACEIT, Saudi Arabia has also acquired ESL, arguably the world’s leading eSports tournament organizing company. It has successfully arranged, organized, and hosted massive international tournaments for Counter-Strike and DOTA2, with the prize pools going into millions!
The Savvy Gaming Group is hopeful the recent acquisitions and investments will help Saudi Arabia build a stronghold over eSports in the MENA region. ESL will greatly benefit the country in this regard, allowing eSports to thrive in the region.
eSports has become a popular sports category, with millions of followers. Saudi Arabia has shown great potential for gaming, with many Arab players under the age of 25 actively participating in several popular games, such as Counter-Strike, DOTA 2, League of Legends, and FIFA.
It will be exciting to see how the sport evolves in the region in the coming years. The rapid growth of eSports in the region will also open the doors for new and exciting sports betting opportunities for avid gamblers in Saudi Arabia!