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Qiddiya attracting esports investors – reports

Saudi Arabian entertainment and tourist megaproject Qiddiya is reportedly designing a financial incentive program to attract esports organizations and... Paolo | 10. July 2024

Saudi Arabian entertainment and tourist megaproject Qiddiya is reportedly designing a financial incentive program to attract esports organizations and gaming companies to the city.

Partnership ambitions

According to a report from The Esports Advocate, Qiddiya aims to form partnerships with over 10 tournament organizers, 30 esports organizations, 25 game studios and publishers, and 30 consumer brands. Additionally, a Qiddiya Club program is expected to be created to help organizations set up offices in Riyadh and gain financial support.

The first wave of teams in the program will reportedly include at least 15 teams from regions such as Southeast Asia, South Korea, China, Japan, Africa, the Middle East, North America, South America, and Europe.

Program Requirements and the end goal

To participate in the Club Program, esports teams will need to meet several criteria, including:

  • Establishing a legal entity in Saudi Arabia
  • Generating domestic revenue
  • Contributing to esports academy offerings
  • Employing administrative staff
  • Hosting professional teams
  • Creating content in Arabic
  • The Qiddiya Program Management team will oversee the program, with the selection process finalizing by Q3 2024.

Qiddiya, funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), aims to establish itself as an international hub and tourist destination. Part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative, the city seeks to diversify economically by generating non-oil-dependent revenues.

Broader Investments and Plans

The PIF also funds the Savvy Games Group, which acquired ESL Gaming and FACEIT to form the ESL FACEIT Group, and invested $265 million (£206.65 million) into Chinese tournament organizer VSPO. Qiddiya has a reported budget of $350 billion (£272.56 billion) to develop resorts, hotels, attractions, residential areas, theme parks, sports facilities, rides, and its esports and gaming district, Qiddiya Gaming, including a stadium with over 5,000 seats.

The new club incentive will mirror the Esports World Cup Club Support Program, designed to promote financial sustainability for organizations. Participants in the EWC Club Support Program are eligible for ‘six-figure’ financing rounds annually, with additional rewards for driving viewership and fan engagement. Initially set to support 28 teams, the program expanded to 30 due to high application volumes.

Criticisms

Despite the ongoing partnerships, many have criticized the Esports World Cup for being promoting “esportswashing,” or trying to shield the country’s controversial human rights record through esports. 

However, the program has also sponsored 30 teams for the Esports World Cup Club Support Program. This gives teams a one-time six-figure stipend if an organization is willing to enter new esports as well as additional funding each year if they drive viewership and fan engagement to the Esports World Cup. 

Saudi Arabia’s increasing investments in esports has sparked intense online criticism over the country’s stance on women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and censorship. Some industry voices have described Saudi Arabia’s involvement in competitive gaming as “esportswashing,” suggesting it is an effort to divert attention from its human rights record, as well as its brutal treatment of journalists following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

However, the multitude of esports viewership and revenue is expected to make a mark, with the outcome of the event potentially influencing the esports calendar and visibility of brands in the esports scene.