In a landmark announcement, Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia declared the creation of the Esports World Cup, set to kick off in the summer of 2024 in Riyadh. The event promises to reshape the Esports landscape and enable the sport to usher in a new era of opportunity and competition for gamers worldwide.
The Esports World Cup will be replacing Gamers8, a renowned Esports festival held in Saudi Arabia. In this year’s edition of Gamers8, there were 20 different competitions across titles such as League of Legends, Fortnite, DOTA 2, FIFA 23, Rainbow Six Siege, PUBG Mobile and Starcraft II amongst others.
Furthermore, the event boasted an unprecedented prize pool of $45 million, marking the largest in the history of Esports tournaments. While the titles for the Esports World Cup are yet to be announced, the tournament will include the most popular games in the world across all genres and have the largest prize pool in Esports history, as per the official announcement.
The recently published “India Games Market Report 2023” by Niko Partners states that India is predominantly a mobile-first market, with 96.8% of total gamers playing on smartphones or tablets. With the opportunity to compete in such a high-profile tournament with substantial prize pools, Indian Esports athletes are expected to diversify into various gaming titles that are not that popular within the community, in order to secure a spot at the tournament. This, in turn, will contribute to the growth and diversity of the Esports industry in the country.
Lokesh Suji, Director of Esports Federation of India and VP of Asian Esports Federation, said: “The announcement of the Esports World Cup is indeed a historic moment for the global Esports community. This tournament will serve as a catalyst for change and growth, both on the global Esports map and in India. For a country with a predominantly mobile-focused gaming culture like ours, this event’s massive prize pool and diverse title offerings will undoubtedly motivate our Esports athletes and aspiring gamers to broaden their horizons and branch out to different titles. We see the Esports World Cup as an exciting platform that not only celebrates Esports but also unites the industry’s stakeholders on a global scale.”
According to data from Gamers8, the 2023 edition of the tournament recorded a cumulative viewership of 1.3 billion, with peak concurrent viewers reaching 1 million. The total views reached 2.09 million, and the impressions stood at 3.8 billion. The event also roped in prominent names such as Adidas, Pepsico, Aramco, Razer and many more global brands as official sponsors.
The Esports World Cup’s magnitude is expected to surpass these numbers, providing high visibility and prestige to Indian athletes participating in the tournament. This will undoubtedly lead to attracting more investments from sponsors, legacy brands, and venture capitalists, which will bolster Indian players and the community.
“Esports has always transcended borders and united passionate gamers from around the globe. With the announcement of the Esports World Cup in Saudi Arabia, the Indian Esports ecosystem is on the verge of a transformative journey. The tournament will not only serve as a platform for our incredibly talented players to showcase their skills on the world stage but also foster international collaboration, promote the growth of Esports in India, and inspire a new generation of gamers to chase their dreams. The Indian Esports community is ready to make its mark and this opportunity is the catalyst we’ve been waiting for. Let’s rise, break boundaries, and redefine what it means to be a part of the global Esports family,” said Animesh Agarwal aka 8Bit Thug, Co-founder of S8UL and Founder & CEO of 8Bit Creatives.
Esports in India has witnessed remarkable growth in recent years, with notable achievements in international competitions. In the Asian Games 2022, the nation fielded a historic 15-member contingent, competing in titles like DOTA 2, Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, League of Legends and EA Sports FC Online. Prior to that, Esports also made an appearance at the Commonwealth Esports Championships in Birmingham 2022 where India’s DOTA 2 team even clinched a remarkable bronze medal.
In the 141st session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) held in Mumbai recently, IOC President Thomas Bach announced their plans regarding the creation of the Olympic Esports Games. With Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the Esports World Cup, India’s Esports talents will have another global platform to showcase their skills.
Mayank Prajapati aka MiKeYROG, who represented India in Street Fighter V: Champion Edition at the recently concluded Asian Games 2022, said: “As an Esports athlete, I see this as a window of opportunity for every gamer across India to proudly represent the country and make a name for themselves on the global stage. Much like in traditional sports World Cups where previously lesser-known athletes rise to prominence and lead their nation to glory, this could be the moment for Esports athletes to shine. The Esports World Cup has the potential to motivate Indian players to push their limits in various titles, thus expanding the talent pool and propelling the entire sector to newer heights.”