Saudi Arabia’s Neom mega-project has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Saudi Arabian Federation of Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS) that will pave the way for initiatives aimed at making Neom one of the world’s most prominent e-gaming hubs.
SAFEIS has the stated aim of nurturing the Saudi gaming community and helping give gamers access to global platforms.
According to Saudi officials, 21 percent of the kingdom’s young, tech-savvy population participate in online gaming every week.
“Neom has the potential to be a global leader in e-sports and the federation is committed to be its partner in this ambitious journey,” said Prince Faisal bin Bandar, the president of SAFEIS. “Neom is the land of the future and SAFEIS is the gateway to the generation and the sport of the future.”
Jan Paterson, Neom’s managing director of sports, said that Neom believes e-sports “reflects our ambition to become the leading destination for the youth, who are the majority of e-sports athletes.”
In a separate announcement, UAE-based e-sports organisation YaLLa Esports announced that it has qualified for three large-scale international tournaments.
YaLLa’s players – which are drawn from across the Middle East – will compete in the Hearthstone Masters Tour finals in 2019 in Bucharest with over $1,000,000 in prizemoney; Clash Royale League World Championships in Spain with US$100,000 in prizemoney, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in Shanghai with $100,000 in prizemoney for a total of over US$1.2 million in prize money.
“It’s a really exciting time for e-sports in our region as we are getting qualifiers and opportunities to compete on a global scale,” said YaLLA Esports founder Klaus Kajetski. “There’s a lot of talent in the MENA, millennials are driving this industry and the viewership is witnessing the fastest growing fan base of any world sport.”
According by e-sports analytics firm NewZoo, worldwide online gaming revenues will hit $1.1 billion this year. A separate report, from Goldman Sachs, projected annual revenue to grow to $2.96 billion by 2022.