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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia showcased the strength and potential of its gaming industry at the two-day esports and gaming summit, Next World Forum, held on September 7-8, as the Kingdom is preparing to enter the world stage with 21 million players.

Held in Riyadh, the event brought together international experts and creators of the game as well as several eminent personalities, including Prince Faisal bin Bandar, President of the Saudi Electronic Sports Federation, and Mohammed Saud Al-Tamimi, Governor of the Saudi Commission communications and information technology, speaking about the growth and aspirations of the esports sector in the Kingdom.

Speaking at the summit, Prince Faisal bin Bandar said Saudi Arabia has had an incredible journey in the esports industry over the past five years and has a strong community within the Kingdom.

“In a population of 34 million Saudis, 63% or 21 million consider themselves to be gamers. It’s a community of young players,” Prince Faisal said.

Prince Faisal noted that Saudi Arabia will soon appear on the list of world powerhouses in the game, which includes the United States, Japan, South Korea and China.

On the sidelines of the event, Saudi Arabia’s National Development Fund approved a grant worth SR300 million ($79.8 million) to finance the gaming and esports sector in cooperation with the Saudi Electronic Sports Federation and the Ignite program.

Additionally, the forum saw the conclusion of a partnership agreement between the Korea Esports Association and the Saudi Esports Federation.

CITC Governor Al-Tamimi said that 89% of the Saudi population are gamers and added that the gambling market in the Kingdom is expected to grow by more than 250% over the next eight years.

He also added that the gaming sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product will increase 50 times by 2030.

Games and NEOM

On the opening day, NEOM CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr noted that the gaming industry is a grassroots economy in Saudi Arabia with huge potential for returns.

He revealed that the core of NEOM’s gaming interests will be housed in The Line, the smart linear city offered in NEOM that is designed to have no cars, streets or carbon emissions.

“In the middle of ‘The Line.’ This is where the heart of the game will be. When you walk through ‘The Line’, you will hear the sound of the game,” he added.

Al-Nasr revealed that NEOM has already launched a program to create joint venture partnerships with major international companies to elevate the gaming sector.

NEOM has already partnered with Saudi media conglomerate MBC to establish the first AAA game development studio.

During the event, Saudi Venture Capital Co. Nabeel Koshak revealed that the company has backed over 570 startups in the Kingdom since its inception.

On the second day of the event, several panel discussions were held with industry experts, including Ahmed Al-Bishri, COO of the Saudi Sports Federation; Faisal Binhomran, eSports Manager, Saudi eSports Federation; JMR Luna, CEO of OG Esports, and Carlos R Ocelote, Founding CEO of G2 Esports.

Most of the experts who attended the forum were excited about the future of the gambling industry in Saudi Arabia, with many suggesting that the Kingdom has established itself as a hub for the gambling industry not only in the region but worldwide.

The Next World Forum – Gaming & Esports Unleashed was organized by the Saudi Electronic Sports Federation. The forum brought together a host of speakers from all areas of gaming and esports, and it also featured a series of activations, bilateral meetings and investment opportunities.

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