Saudi Arabia hosts Esport World Cup 2024 with record prizes and ambition to become a gaming superpower

7. 07. 2024 | Natalie Bezděková

Esport World Cup 2024, the most important gaming event of the year, begins in Saudi Arabia. Over eight weeks, players will compete for a record $60 million.

Saudi Arabia is striving to become a gaming superpower and diversify its economy away from the oil industry, as evidenced by the announcement of prize money at EWC 2024 that breaks all previous esport records. Successful players will split three times more money than at any golf tournament on last year’s PGA Tour, a total of $60 million.

“The amount for the category winners is a testament to our investment in the future of global esports, a commitment to our fans and an expansion of opportunities for players to achieve life-changing wins,” said tournament director Ralf Reichert.

The top 30 teams in the world will compete in Riyadh over eight weeks in 19 popular games such as Counter-Strike, Call of Duty and DOTA 2. The top prize, five million dollars, will be awarded in the DOTA 2 title. The tournament starts on Thursday and culminates on August 24, with the winning team of the overall ranking taking home $7.5 million, or more than 175 million crowns.

Saudi Arabia’s new economic direction

The EWC will be held in Saudi Arabia’s capital on a 59,922 square metre site where up to 2.5 million spectators and 1,500 players are expected. However, it is not the only gaming tournament hosted in Riyadh. Last year, Gamers8 was held here, where over $45 million was distributed among the winners.

Saudi Arabia has also launched its gaming strategy, The National Gaming and Esports Strategy. The plan is designed to help the Middle Eastern kingdom become a major player in the gaming industry by building more than 250 gaming companies and developing its own games. It is expected to add $13 billion a year to GDP by the beginning of the next decade and redirect the country’s economic focus, which is now based largely on the oil industry.

“The tournament is another step towards making Saudi Arabia the world’s leading gaming and esports hub, offering an unrivalled experience that pushes the boundaries of the industry,” said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is an avid Call of Duty player.

The young population and the gaming industry

With more than 40% of Saudi Arabia’s population made up of young people under the age of 25, the gaming industry is aimed at them. A further 50% of the population is aged between 25 and 50. According to a report by the US-Saudi Business Council, 58% of the local population plays video games and therefore 40 000 new jobs are planned to be created in the gaming sector.

Controversy and criticism

Saudi Arabia believes in the return on high investment in sport. As well as esports, it has invested in football, where world stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Karim Benzema play. However, critics say the country is buying a good name despite criticism for its treatment of minorities and women. Activists, such as gaming journalist Stella Chang, refuse to participate in the tournament because of discrimination against the LGBTQ community and see the boycott as a way to support their community.

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Author of this article

Natalie Bezděková

I am a student of Master's degree in Political Science. I am interested in marketing, especially copywriting and social media. I also focus on political and social events at home and abroad and technological innovations. My free time is filled with sports, reading and a passion for travel.


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