Op-ed: Turki Alfawzan, CEO, Saudi Esports Federation

Turki Alfawzan

When I take to the podium at the Next World Forum in Riyadh at the end of August, it will be to deliver a presentation which will help shape the future of gaming and esports in Saudi Arabia.

‘The Next Level: A New Chapter for the Saudi Esports Federation’, will take place at 1.15pm on Thursday August 31, the second and final day of this year’s Next World Forum. For the following 45 minutes, delegates attending the Next World Forum will hear the next steps for our organization, the regulating body in charge of nurturing elite gaming athletes and developing the gaming community and industry in Saudi Arabia. They will hear how, in this new chapter, our organization truly flourishes.

Without revealing too much, they will hear how the Saudi Esports Federation flourishes through a strategy helping ensure every aspect of the esports ecosystem in Saudi Arabia – and one that connects with global gaming – is fully captured.

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Since its establishment towards the end of 2017, the Saudi Esports Federation has organized multiple world-class national and international tournaments and events, attracted investment in Saudi Arabia, and worked with international developers on opportunities in the Kingdom’s growing market.

But overcoming the challenges along the way has enabled us to grow strong enough to now progress to the next level. I smile when I think of the team we had for our first event – a FIFA community competition called the GSA Esports Cup in March 2018. The team was so small compared to the size of the Saudi Esports Federation one that now puts together Gamers8, the biggest gaming and esports festival worldwide.

After our encouraging gains of 2018 and 2019, of course, 2020 came – and our big plans for Gamers8 well and truly went. But in a small meeting we sat and thought ‘imagine if we could do it virtually…’ and that’s how Gamers Without Borders, the largest charitable esports event worldwide, was born.

That year was also an important strategic change of direction – we realized that one-time large events didn’t have the impact wanted, and so shifted to a model of sustainable, recurring leagues. This model has become one of our pillars. It stands as a promise to our communities that we will invest in them so that they can invest in themselves – and not just for one, glitzy, glamorous week but for years and years down the line.

Last summer, Gamers8 finally came to fruition. Many around the globe warned us it was not possible – but not only was it possible but it caught the imagination and earned the respect of the global gaming community. This summer, we have taken six tournaments under one brand over eight weeks from last year’s phenomenally successful inaugural Gamers8 – and doubled it. And tripled the prize pool to $45 million.

Now comes the next level.

The Next World Forum, organized by our organization and in its second edition, is the ideal setting to reveal our new chapter. Hosted at the Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Center, the Next World Forum gathers global leaders from gaming and esports and its associated sectors to converse, collaborate, ask tough questions, and think big.

Saudi Arabia’s National Gaming and Esports Strategy was launched last year by HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It aims to increase the quality of life for gamers by improving players’ experience and providing new entertainment opportunities, as well as contribute around $13 billion to the Kingdom’s GDP by 2030. In addition, the strategy is expected to lead to the creation of 39,000 new job opportunities by 2030.

What, however, about the Saudi Esports Federation strategy? How do we play our part? Because by playing our part, we not only take ourselves into a new chapter and to the next level, but Saudi Arabia and its ambitions of becoming a global hub for gaming and esports as well. And that’s a future all of us at the Saudi Esports Federation want to be a part of.

More information on the Next World Forum can be found at https://www.nextwrld.sa/en.