Financial company Mastercard has announced a partnership with the Saudi Esports Federation (SEF).
As part of the deal, both parties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to help promote esports and gaming in the country.
The two entities will also collaborate on a range of projects, including metaverse and Augmented Reality (AR) activations, NFTs, and fan loyalty programmes. Mastercard is also set to launch a virtual card specifically for gaming.
As part of the MoU, a digital asset enablement project will be launched in the country, which sees Mastercard develop another AR activation, along with its very own metaverse.
Dimitrios Dosis, President (EEMEA) at Mastercard, commented: “We are delighted to partner with the Saudi Esports Federation (SEF). This historic agreement will help to showcase the new technologies that are playing important roles in transforming the Kingdom into a leading hub for gaming and esports, and more broadly for business, tourism, leisure, and innovation.
“Together with SEF, we hope to curate special offerings, events, and engagements, using our technology to make payments easier for gamers and creating more immersive experiences and truly priceless moments for the people of Saudi Arabia and avid gamers from all around the world to enjoy.”
Earlier this year, the SEF announced the Gamers8 Festival, an eight-week event taking place in Riyadh this summer, with a prize pool of $15m (~£12m).
Mastercard first entered the esports scene in 2018 by becoming the first-ever global sponsor of League of Legends. More recently, the financial company became the official financial services partner for FlyQuest’s LoL teams.
The Saudi government has been continuously scaling up its investment in esports and gaming, with government-backed Savvy Gaming Group buying both ESL Gaming and FACEIT. Moreover, the Saudi Arabian government’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) recently bought a 5% stake in Nintendo as well as stakes in other gaming companies.
Saudi Arabia’s involvement in esports is seen as controversial by some in the industry due to the country’s human rights record and political environment. Some industry commentators allege the country’s recent esports push amounts to ‘esportswashing’, an attempt to deflect from the country’s human rights record.
Both BLAST and Riot Games faced backlash from fans when they announced partnerships with NEOM, a controversial $500m (~£397m) Saudi government-backed development.