Future of gaming industry in the spotlight as key forum set to begin in Riyadh

Future of gaming industry in the spotlight as key forum set to begin in Riyadh
Future of gaming industry in the spotlight as key forum set to begin in Riyadh

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Key players of the fast-growing esports and gaming industry will converge on Riyadh for the second Next World Forum scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

The Saudi Esports Federation has organized the two-day event to coincide with the end of the summer season of Gamers8 currently underway at Boulevard Riyadh City. The event is scheduled to symbolize both a culmination of a significant industry milestone and the ushering of an innovative future.

The pivotal congress of industry leaders is set to reshape the dynamics of the rapidly evolving business. The forum’s primary objective is to foster dialogue and collaboration among global stakeholders.

On the agenda are critical discussions on the expansion of esports and the gaming industry, its economic implications, and the emerging opportunities therein.  

In an interview with Arab News, Turki Al-Fawzan, CEO of the Saudi Esports Federation, said the Kingdom’s gaming sector is deeply intertwined with the country’s larger goals. 

“As seen through Vision 2030 and economic diversification plans, the gaming and esports sector holds immense potential for youth empowerment and economic growth, and the Kingdom is strategically positioned to capitalize on the global growth of esports,” he said. 

“The National Gaming and Esports strategy aims to harness the enthusiasm of approximately 23.5 million gaming enthusiasts by creating viable career pathways. Through ambitious goals such as establishing gaming companies, developing game titles, nurturing esports talent, and hosting major events, the Kingdom envisions not only fostering a thriving industry but also enhancing its global stature,” he added. 

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The Saudi Esports Federation has organized the two-day event to coincide with the end of the summer season of Gamers8 currently underway at Boulevard Riyadh City.

The forum’s primary objective is to foster dialogue and collaboration among global stakeholders.

Saudi Arabia aims to establish 250 gaming companies to foster a thriving esports ecosystem. 

The Kingdom seeks to develop over 30 game titles that rank among the top 300 globally by 2031.

Building on Al-Fawzan’s point, Prince Faisal bin Bandar, chairman of the SEF and the Arab Esports Federation, told Arab News that the sector’s growth highlights the Kingdom’s efforts to develop its youth. 

“By fostering a growing esports industry, Saudi Arabia is not only creating job opportunities for the youth but also cultivating an innovative ecosystem,” Prince Faisal said. 

The SEF official said: “The National Gaming and Esports Strategy, with its comprehensive goals to establish gaming companies, create globally recognized game titles, develop esports athletes, and host major events, (and) resonates with Vision 2030’s essence.” 

He said the success of the Kingdom’s esports strategy is measured with four overarching metrics. The first is to establish 250 gaming companies in the Kingdom to foster a thriving esports ecosystem. 

“Secondly, the strategy seeks to develop over 30 game titles in the Kingdom that rank among the top 300 globally by 2031, showcasing the country’s creative prowess,” he stated. 

“Thirdly, Saudi Arabia aims to be among the top three countries worldwide in esports athletes per capita, emphasizing talent development,” Prince Faisal said. 

“Lastly, the strategy aims to host the largest and most viewed esports events in the world, enhancing Saudi Arabia’s status on the global stage.” 

He said these goals are set to not only promote the growth of the gaming and esports sector but also align with the Kingdom’s broader objectives, including economic diversification, job creation, and providing world-class entertainment to citizens, residents, and visitors. 

“By investing in this thriving industry, Saudi Arabia is taking steps toward a more vibrant and diverse economy, enriching the lives of its people and establishing itself as a significant player in the global esports and gaming landscape,” he stated. 

This year’s event will build on 2022’s success with high-profile guests leading discussions and deep analysis of a sector worth $170 billion, more than Hollywood and the music industry combined. 

The participants’ list for the event reads like a who’s who of the e-sports and gaming world. It boasts a diverse range of attendees, from ministers of sports of different countries to game developers, tech providers, investors, and startups.  

Notable speakers aside from SEF officials Prince Faisal bin Bandar and Turki Al-Fawzan include David Stelzer, senior director at Epic Games, Min-Liang Tan, CEO of Razer, Francois Deniele, VP at Ubisoft, Tim Scott, director at Roblox, and Kevin Lin, co-founder of Twitch. 

In addition to that public sector representatives, brands, advertisers, broadcasters, publishers, and representatives from international federations and leagues will also be present and enrich the discourse with their varied perspectives. 

Integral to the forum’s structure is a series of activations aimed at enhancing bilateral relations and facilitating potential partnerships.  

Participants will have a unique opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogues, explore collaborative ventures, and gain insights into investment avenues. 

Panel discussions scheduled for the first day include “The big fat acquisition: The legalities of companies acquiring game studios,” “Gaming is the future economy,” “The esports slump: Is the game over?” “The sky is the limit: the future of cloud gaming in the Middle East.”

The first day will conclude with a Middle East and North Africa report that will highlight the current trends in the sector as well as a discussion around how global companies are leveraging in-game currencies as payment gateways in the panel “Rewarding payments with points.” 

Day two will witness a networking session for venture capitalists and startups to meet and leverage investment opportunities in the sector. 

The second day will also include the plenary discussion “Building the blockchain: How web3 gaming pays the players?” “Bytes & bylines: Navigating gaming and esports journalism in the new digital era,” “The challenges for women in gaming leadership,” and “The next level: a new chapter for the Saudi Esports Federation.” 

Other sessions revolve around mental health in the sector with the panel “Press the pause button: analyzing esports players’ mental and physical health,” as well as the conjunction point of the virtual and real world in the session “Virtual realities, real-world consequences: the impact of politics in gaming.” 

The event will conclude with a powerful discussion around the role of game studios in localization in the panel “Gaming localization: speaking to gamers in their language.” 

The forum aims to become a beacon for the future of esports and gaming.

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