Saudi Arabia is becoming a mecca for e-sports. Major sporting events are held again and again in order to increase the reputation in the media and among the global population: the tactic is known under the name of sportswashing.
Saudi Arabia is now using a new tactic: They are investing billions in e-sports and are practically buying up the industry. They want to influence future generations of gamers. A Saudi company bought two of the largest e-sports leagues this year.
The price: one billion US dollars. The Savvy Gaming Group, as the investment company is called, was financed with government money. The Electronic Sports League, the largest e-sports league in the world, and Faceit, a league that is particularly popular with "counter-strike" players, were bought.
With this investment, Saudi Arabia is immediately one of the big players in e-sports. At a time when developers are increasingly founding their own leagues and thus want to keep the players in their own ecosystem, independent leagues are becoming less and less interesting.
The ESL in particular has lost its importance in recent years and only shone with its big finals in Poland.
Own development studios and e-sports arena
Why only invest when you can also develop games yourself. That's what the government of Saudi Arabia thought and founded the first major game studio in February.
The games are to be developed in Neom. A high-tech city that is being built right now and is scheduled to open in 2023. It will be the first game studio of many and Neom will become the new Silicon Valley. But Saudi Arabia's plans go even further.
They want to build e-sports lounges and entire arenas across the country in order to further promote e-sports in their own country. A large arena is also to be built in the planned city of Neom. Saudi Arabia should become the Mecca for every gamer and with so much investment, it is only a matter of time before the first top e-sportsmen and women come from the desert state.