Saudi-backed Gamers8 announces largest esports prize pool in history

Image: Gamers8

Saudi Arabian esports tournament organiser Gamers8 has announced a prize pool of $45m (~£37.96m) for its 2023 event, dubbed ‘The Land of Heroes’.

The figure makes the prize pool the largest in history, beating Dota 2’s 2021 International figure of $40m (~£33.74m). The total amount will be split between a group of esports titles during the event.

The titles for this year’s event have not been officially announced, however, the 2022 competition featured tournaments in DOTA 2, Fortnite, Rocket League, Rainbow Six Siege and PUBG Mobile.

Gamers8 initially announced a prize pool of $30m (~£24.4m) when it launched its 2023 promotion campaign in late January. According to the organiser, this year’s edition of the event aims to be “bigger in every way” with more games in addition to the larger prize pool, which is now three times as big as last year’s $15m (~£12.63m.)

The eventual prize pool for the event may be extended further, as it was last year, with individual prizes for players at the event. Last year, Fortnite player Danila ‘Malibuca’ Yakovenko earned a bonus of $100,000 (~£89,210) for his MVP title.

Rising Saudi Arabian influence in esports has been a growing subject of concern for fans and stakeholders in the industry. The Saudi government has previously been accused of ‘esportswashing’, an attempt to use gaming to distract from the company’s human rights record, particularly on LGBTQ+ and women’s rights. 

Both BLAST and Riot Games faced backlash from fans when they announced partnerships with NEOM, a $500m (~£397m) Saudi government-backed development. Moreover, last year Moist Esports declined an invite to Gamers8 over the government’s LGBTQ+ rights.

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However, this has not deterred the Saudi government’s interest in esports. Saudi Arabian government-backed Savvy Gaming Group bought both ESL Gaming and FACEIT — two of the industry’s most important tournament organisers — for a combined $1.5bn (~£1.1bn).

Saudi Arabian interest in esports through Savvy Gaming Group has visibly increased over the last two years. According to a report by Mikhail Klimentov, Savvy Gaming Group CEO Brian Ward explained his plans to “roll up the sector” and build an esports and entertainment company “bigger than Tencent” in a recent pitch to employees of Vindex, an esports infrastructure company recently acquired by ESL FACEIT.

Saudi Esports Federation Chairman, Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan commented in a press release: “It is our great pleasure to once again welcome the elite of the esports world to Riyadh for Gamers8, the Land of Heroes, where the very best in esports shine and triumph. Our goal is to serve the global community of esports and gaming enthusiasts, and ultimately to develop the global ecosystem of esports.”

Patrick Walker
Patrick is a freelance writer for ESI based in London, reporting on esports marketing and partnerships trends. He's currently playing VALORANT and Overwatch but always looking for the next big thing in competitive gaming.