Inaugural Esports World Cup in Saudi Arabia, worth more than $60M, hopes to send ‘positive message’ to struggling industry

Boasting the largest prize pool in esports history, this year’s inaugural 2024 Esports World Cup (EWC) could prove to be a pivotal moment for the industry.

Organized by the Esports World Cup Foundation – and with the latest details announced on Tuesday – the EWC will bring together gamers, publishers and fans from across the world under one roof for an eight-week competitive gaming bonanza in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The tournament will include top global clubs competing against each other across 19 esports titles, including Apex Legends, Counter-Strike 2, Dota 2, EA Sports FC 24, Fortnite, League of Legends, Rocket League, StarCraft II, Street Fighter 6 and TEKKEN 8.

Clubs will be able to choose which games they participate in before the best performing team across the various championships will be crowned the ultimate Esports World Cup champion for the very first time.

While other esports prize purses have shrunk due to well-reported financial struggles felt across the industry, the EWC boasts over $60 million in prize money, which will be broken down into different categories such as player bounties ($50,000 MVP awards per individual competition) and prizes for overall performance (over $33 million allocated for the game competitions).

It also comes after a difficult period in which the industry saw large-scale layoffs, which included game developer and publisher Riot Games letting 11% of its workforce go at the start of the year.

According to the New York Times, esports leagues are struggling to make money, while sponsors have slashed their advertising budgets and many teams are now operating at a loss.

Ralf Reichert, CEO of the Esports World Cup Foundation, hopes this new competition in Saudi Arabia can be a game changer.

“Setting the record for largest esports prize pool is a remarkable achievement, but what I’m most proud of is the positive message this sends to the wider esports and gaming community,” Reichert said in a statement.

“More than $60 million is a testament to our investment in the future of global esports, a commitment to esports fans who deserve exceptional events and an extension of our mission to create meaningful competitive opportunities with life-changing prize pools for esports players everywhere.”

The debut event will held later this year in Saudi Arabia – a nation looking to invest heavily in the esports industry.

The event will have over 645,000 sq. ft. of venue space and features four separate esport arenas. Organizers say they expect to welcome 2.9 million fans through its doors, with the event to include two music concerts, as well as six drone and firework shows.

The EWC continues Saudi Arabia’s large foray into esports – following last year’s Gamers8 event, which boasted a $45 million prize purse.

The nation has invested huge sums of money into more traditional sports in recent years, such as tennis, golf, boxing and soccer.

The kingdom has previously pushed back on allegations of “sportswashing,” which involves nations using high-profile sporting events to project a favorable image of their country around the world, often to draw attention away from alleged wrongdoing.

Organizers say the EWC will not be funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) but instead be made up of a combination of the host nation’s funding and sponsorship deals.

In 2023, Saudi launched ‘The National Gaming and Esports Strategy’ (NGES) which hopes to make the country the center of the competitive gaming world by 2030.

Announcing the event in October of last year, Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said at the New Global Sport Conference: “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.”

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