Riyadh As The Esports City of the Future: A Realistic Vision?

Riyadh's goal to establish itself as a gaming and Esports hub as part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 is very ambitious. But is it realistic? What does it need to become a hub for gaming?

Gamers8 drove shots 2
Riyadh as the esports city of the future? | © Gamers8

In recent years, Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, has let the world know about its aspirations to become a global hub for gaming and esports. Spearheaded by HRH Prince Faisal Bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud and aligned with the nation's Vision 2030 initiative, Saudi Arabia aims to diversify its economy and harness the immense potential of the gaming industry.

The question is: Can Riyadh truly establish itself as the esports city of the future, or is this ambition too far-reaching? Now that the Gamers8 festival has been held for the second time and grew even bigger than it was last year, it is time to look at how viable Saudi Arabia's plans really are.

Could Riyadh Become The Esports City Of The Future?

Gamers8 drove shots 1
The Gamers8 festival 2023 grew even bigger than last year | © Gamers8

Prince Faisal Bin Bandar's quote, “We’ve created the national gaming and esports strategy to create a gaming and esports hub in Saudi,” serves as the foundation of this grand vision. With a population of around 34 million, where approximately 68% (roughly 21 million) identify as gamers, Saudi Arabia indeed boasts a significant gaming community.

The prince also emphasizes the diverse career opportunities within the gaming industry, ranging from media and production to players, events, law, finance, and more. This broad approach aims to use skills from various domains and establish a diverse gaming ecosystem that will be quite beneficial to the Saudi population.

The national goal is to contribute about 1% of the GDP, approximately 50 billion USD, through gaming and esports by 2030. Additionally, the plan includes to establish 250-plus gaming companies, create 39,000 jobs, and develop a AAA game designed by Saudis on Saudi soil. A rather high goal, however, it also shows the willpower to truly become a hub for gaming.

While the enthusiasm and dedication behind Riyadh's esports vision are commendable, there are still some challenges to consider. The esports industry is highly competitive on a global scale, with established hubs like Seoul, Los Angeles, Berlin, and Shanghai. To get to that level, it requires more than numbers; it demands an environment conducive to innovation, investment, and talent development. Creating a balance between fostering local talents and attracting international attention will be critical.

Furthermore, transforming Riyadh into an esports destination demands infrastructure, regulation, and a cultural shift. The idea of Gamers8, a comprehensive gaming experience featuring education, entertainment, and community feeling is a step in the right direction, however, building an engaging space is just one facet of success. Maintaining a thriving virtual presence and global relevance is equally crucial.

Furthermore, even an event this big still has issues to work on, such as the lack of female professional players. This might be a general problem within the industry, since only 5% of pro gamers are female. But if Saudi Arabia wants to become a hub for esports, they need to reach out to the female esports community and strengthen it even more.

HRH Prince Faisal:

“We are hoping to equalize those numbers sooner rather than later. It's something that's very important to me, and we've been working to get everything behind the scenes ready so that we can do it right.”

In conclusion, Riyadh's wish to become the esport city of the future is a commendable and forward-thinking vision. Prince Faisal Bin Bandar's dedication to expanding the economy through gaming is clear. Yet, achieving this vision demands careful local empowerment, global cooperation, and an environment that resonates with the rest of the world. Riyadh's journey towards esports success will showcase its flexibility, creativity, and ability to adapt to the global gaming community.