Saudi Arabia is preparing to host the inaugural Esports World Cup in the summer of 2024. It should be an interesting preparation ahead of the 2034 FIFA World Cup, which Saudi Arabia will be hosting. Australia backed out of a bid to host the competition, making Saudi Arabia the only candidate to host the competition.

There are few details on what an Esports World Cup may look like. It will not focus on one specific video game, but rather several. Teams will compete across games from different genres to determine one world champion. Additionally, the organizing board suggested a record payout to the eventual winner.

Saudi Arabia adding an Esports World Cup is part of the country’s national gaming and Esports strategy. The Middle Eastern nation hopes to use competitive video games as a means to contribute to the country’s GDP. Saudi Arabia wants to create over 39,000 jobs by 2030. In doing so, it sees economic gains exceeding $13.3 billion, according to Sports Pro Media.

“The Esports World Cup is the natural next step in Saudi Arabia’s journey to become the premier global hub for gaming and esports, offering an unmatched esports experience that pushes the boundaries of the industry,” said Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

An Esports World Cup in 2024 before the FIFA World Cup

While there is no connection between the two, the Esports World Cup can help lay the groundwork for the FIFA World Cup. On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia was the only country to submit a bid to host the 2034 World Cup. Consequently, it will host the most popular sporting event in the world. It is just 12 years after the first World Cup to reach the Middle East in Qatar.

By many accounts, that World Cup was a success. The on-the-pitch play was strong, and many talking points emerged. The social and economic concerns of the World Cup were a talking point throughout the competition, as they were before and after the monthlong event. Now, Saudi Arabia is trying to bring that energy back to the Middle East.

The Esports World Cup in Saudi Arabia will be an opportunity to bring global representatives to one event for sporting purposes. It helps that Esports continue to grow in popularity. The selection of games will be paramount, too, as will the organization and formatting. Asia dominates the Esports scene, but there are players from throughout the world.

Another instance of sportswashing?

In Qatar, one of the biggest criticisms of the World Cup was that it was the nation’s attempt at sportswashing. Adding the Esports, which has a very strong young audience that plays and watches, could be another instance of that. Saudi Arabia will benefit from an Esports World Cup strictly based on tourism. Yet, it may not be very much.

The Dubai Esports and Games Festival in 2023 pulled in 23,000 viewers. While not a small number, that is fewer than most soccer stadiums can hold. Perhaps the Esports World Cup can grow an audience that will follow it more regularly.

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