A newly announced Esports World Cup tournament ‘is an exciting milestone for the industry’, says the CEO of UK esports org Guild Esports.
The Esports World Cup, premiering in summer 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was announced today at the Global Sport Conference, co-hosted by the Saudi Esports Federation and Saudi Arabia Ministry of Sport.
Ralf Reichert, co-founder of ESL (part of ESL Faceit Group, owned by the Saudi Arabian government’s Savvy Games Group), was appointed as the CEO of the new Esports World Cup Foundation.
The conference attendees were the first to witness the unveiling of the Esports World Cup trophy on stage.
The Esports World Cup will replace the Gamers8 tournament series in Saudi Arabia.
The conference was attended by HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, as well as HRH Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, Minister of Sport.
One source close to the situation told Esports News UK this will not affect the Global Esports Federation’s or the IESF’s existing global tournaments, as the new world cup is only for pro teams. Prince Faisal is president/VP of the IESF and the Global Esports Federation respectively.
The conference also featured sports and video game heavyweights including footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Sony Executive VP Toshimoto Mitomo and Moonton Games CEO Justin Yuan.
Speakers ‘discussed the convergence of esports and sports, the growing global gaming audience and identifying ways to unlock the potential of the sector’.
The announcement was criticised by some, as it appears several esports personalities have been paid to promote the Esports World Cup on social media platform X (aka Twitter) with #ad posts. Pimp later said he was paid three figures for publishing this post on X.
What will the Esports World Cup look like?
His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, has announced the launch of the Esports World Cup, which will be held annually in Riyadh starting summer 2024.
While specific games have not yet been announced, it’s billed as ‘the largest global event of its kind, with the competition providing a platform that supports the gaming and esports sector and enhances the Kingdom’s position as a hub for international esports and sports competitions’.
HRH the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also announced the establishment of the Esports World Cup Foundation, a non-profit organisation ‘that aims to drive a new era of collaboration between esports stakeholders and to enhance the sector’s sustainability’. It was also revealed that the Esports World Cup Foundation had merged with the ESWC (Electonic Sports World Cup).
The press release continued: “The launch of the Esports World Cup reflects the Kingdom’s continuous efforts to sustain and grow the esports sector, as well as its ambitions to expand the entertainment and sports industries at home and abroad. The tournament also builds on the gaming passion seen in Saudi’s youth-majority population, and on homegrown esports successes such as the first and second editions of Gamers8. The tournament will help accelerate the realization of the National Gaming and Esports Strategy. The strategy aims to increase the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP by more than SAR 50 billion by 2030 and create 39,000 new job opportunities.
“The Esports World Cup will provide an enabling environment for the growth and sustainability of players, clubs, and the sector overall. The tournament will include the most popular games in the world across all genres and have the largest prize pool in esports history. The tournament will feature a unique cross game competition format that will reward and incentivize clubs that take on the challenge to become the ultimate Esports World Cup Champion and support the growth and sustainability of all esports clubs.
“The tournament will be complemented with a diversified set of activities and events that will draw visitors and tourists to the capital transforming it into a gaming capital. In fact, the indoor tournament is also planned as a key attraction to help bolster Saudi tourism during the summer. This opportunity is significant since Saudi experiences an average 16% drop-in hotel occupancy rates, an 18% decrease in tourism spending, a 13% drop in restaurant & cafe spending, and a 9% drop in consumer purchasing power during the summer.”
The Esports World Cup Foundation will reveal addition details about the event early in the coming year.
‘Esports players now have a clear pinnacle of the sport to aspire to’ – Guild and others on the Esports World Cup
Jasmine Skee, CEO of Guild Esports, commented: “The Esports World Cup is an exciting milestone for the esports industry because it is all about supporting teams, which is an important factor for Guild Esports.
“What is just as important is that both the current crop of pro players and the budding esports talent of this generation now have a clear pinnacle of the sport to aspire to. To finally have that within esports is incredibly meaningful.”
Esports News UK heard a rumour from a source saying it may be the Saudi Esports Federation funding Guild for this. We’ve reached out to Guild and the Saudi Esports Federation for clarification and comment on this, around competitive integrity, but did not receive on-record comment.
The Esports Advocate received the following statement from a Guild spokesperson: “As Guild is listed on the London Stock Exchange and a public company, we’re not able to disclose any further information than has been announced to the market. We can confirm that there are no Saudi government ties in relation to this deal and that further updates to the market will be made in due course.”
HRH the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated: “The Esports World Cup is the natural next step in Saudi Arabia’s journey to become the premier global hub for gaming and esports, offering an unmatched esports experience that pushes the boundaries of the industry. The competition will enhance our progress towards realizing the Vision 2030 objectives of diversifying the economy, growing the tourism sector, creating new jobs in various industries, and providing world-class entertainment for citizens, residents, and visitors alike.”
Speaking at the event, Ralf Reichert, newly appointed CEO of the Esports World Cup Foundation, said: “My purpose was always to build something for the players, so it becomes an industry. And although I think esports is in good shape, it still misses a global stage for all players across games and for those superstars. The Esports World Cup is the next logical evolution, this is the real deal, this is what can bring the industry together and forward.”
Danny Tang Co-founder of VSPO commented on the announcement: “It’s a momentous announcement and a huge moment for our industry, not only for participants like us but also for fans worldwide. An investment of this scale and commitment of this kind, provides multiple opportunities and opens up new experiences for the players and fans. For everyone that works in esports, it is a strong reminder of why we are here – to build something that connects people across the world.”
Dom is an award-winning writer and finalist of the Esports Journalist of the Year 2023 award. He graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Federation up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and offer esports consultancy and freelance services. Note: Dom still produces the British Esports newsletter on a freelance basis, so our coverage of British Esports is always kept simple – usually just covering the occasional press release – because of this conflict of interest.