Qiddiya reportedly planning incentives to attract esports organisations to city

qiddiya to provide financial incentives to lure esports teams into the city
Image Credit: Populous

Saudi Arabian entertainment and tourist megaproject Qiddiya has reportedly been designing a financial incentive programme to attract esports organisations and gaming companies to the city.

According to a report by The Esports Advocate, Qiddiya is looking to form partnerships with over 10 tournament organisers, 30 esports organisations, 25 game studios and publishers and 30 consumer brands. Moreover, a Qiddiya Club programme will seemingly be created to help organisations set up offices in Riyadh and gain financial support.

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According to the outlet’s report, the first ‘wave’ of teams in the programme will include at least 15 teams from Southeast Asia, South Korea, China, Japan, Africa, the Middle East, North America, South America and Europe.

To take part in the new Club Program, however, esports teams would need to meet several requirements, including establishing a legal entity in Saudi Arabia, generating revenue domestically, contributing to the esports academy offerings, employing administrative staff, hosting professional teams and creating content in Arabic.

The Qiddiya Program Management team will reportedly oversee the programme, with the selection process finalised by Q3 2024.

Esports Insider has reached out to Qiddiya for a comment on the report and will update the article if additional information is provided.

Funded by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the goal of Qiddiya City is to establish itself as an international hub and become a tourist destination. The city is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a governmental programme to increase its diversification economically by generating new, non-oil-dependent revenues.

The PIF also funds and owns investment group Savvy Games Group, which bought ESL Gaming and FACEIT to form ESL FACEIT Group, and invested $265M (~£206.65m) into Chinese tournament organiser VSPO.

According to The Esports Advocate’s report, Qiddiya has a budget of $350bn (~£272.56bn) to develop resorts and hotels, attractions, residential locations, branded theme parks, sports facilities, rides, and its previously announced esports and gaming district called Qiddiya Gaming. This includes a stadium which with over 5,000 seats.

The new club incentive will be similar to that of the Esports World Cup Club Support Program, created to promote better financial sustainability for organisations through the so-called ‘esports winter’.

The organisers behind the EWC, the Esports World Cup Foundation, stated that EWC Club Support Program participants would be eligible for ‘six-figure’ financing rounds annually and would be eligible for more financial rewards if the organisations ‘drive viewership and fan engagement to the EWC’. While the support program was supposed to have 28 teams, 22 of which were invited, the number was increased to 30 due to the large amount of applications.

Despite the potential upside from a financial perspective for esports teams, the Saudi Arabian government has been criticised for what has been described by some as ‘esportswashing‘. The Saudi Arabian government has also been criticised for its policies regarding human rights, particularly towards LBGTQ+ communities and women’s rights.

Davide Xu

Disclaimer: Qiddiya was a sponsor of ESI London 2023.