Saudi Arabian real estate megaproject Qiddiya has appointed former Team Liquid Chief Operating Officer (COO) Mike Milanov to help run its esports and gaming developments.
As the new Chairman of Qiddiya City’s Gaming and Esports Advisory Board, Milanov will aim to grow the city’s gaming district into a prime destination for esports fans.
Milanov announced the news in a LinkedIn post together with the reveal of Qiddiya Gaming, a new gaming and esports district that is part of the city’s vision to become a capital of entertainment, sports and culture. The district is set to harbour four gaming arenas as well as gaming-themed hotels, esports clubs and video game company headquarters.
Qiddiya’s central esports arena was designed by Populous, a global architecture and design practice. According to the company, the stadium will include over 5,000 seats and zones dedicated to arcade, food, retail and immersive entertainment. In the past, Populous has led the design of the Esports Stadium Arlington, Fortress Melbourne and the NBA 2K League Broadcast Arena.
Milanov began his career as a professional gamer in World of Warcraft before transitioning into esports business operations as an Esports Manager at esports broadcast network Azubu. In 2015, Milanov became Director of Operations at Team Liquid and has worked in various roles for the organisation over the last seven years.
Saudi Arabia’s expansion efforts in esports through megacities has been the subject of criticism in the past. In 2020, BLAST and the LCS cancelled its partnerships with Saudi Arabian megacity NEOM, amidst community backlash due to the country’s human rights record. This was particularly focused on the country’s LGBTQ+ and women’s rights.
Qiddiya City is a real estate project supported by the Saudi Public Investment Fund as part of the country’s Saudi Vision 2030 plan. Located around 40km from Riyadh’s centre, the city will host a variety of tourism and entertainment offerings, including theme parks, water parks and sports events.
Qiddiya Gaming is one of the many esports and gaming initiatives that Saudi Arabia has developed throughout 2023. In October, the International Esports Federation (IESF) announced that the World Esports Championship 2024 will take place in Saudi Arabia. Shortly after, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal was appointed IESF’s Active President.
Qiddiya itself was a partner of the Gamers8 esports tournament series held in Riyadh in August this year. The series featured competitions in Fortnite, Dota 2 and Rocket League, among others, as well as a total prize pool of $45m (~£35.2m).
Disclaimer: Qiddiya was the Presenting Partner of ESI London 2023, Esports Insider’s esports and games industry festival.