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BLAST Global Final takes place amid esports surge in Middle East

The BLAST Premier Global Finals, which will take place from December 14-18, will be held in Abu Dhabi – and will take place against the backdrop of huge growth in esports in the region.

BLAST will bring the Global Finals to Abu Dhabi for the first time, in partnership with AD Gaming (Abu Dhabi Gaming), an initiative that aims to build an autonomous gaming and esports ecosystem in the country, as well as attract the most wide the gaming industry in the UAE.

AD Gaming is a government-led initiative, powered by a collaboration between the Abu Dhabi-based government and commercial organizations, showcasing the level of investment Middle Eastern countries are making in the industry.

In 2020, AD Gaming worked with media production company twofour54, in conjunction with Unity, to set up a dedicated Yas Creative Hub. The Hub, the first of its kind in the country, was designed to attract companies from all sectors to set up shop in Abu Dhabi. The hub offers 0% income tax, 100% business ownership, and fully waived licensing and registration fees for the first two years.

It’s a serious investment, lending credence to AD Gaming Head of Games and Esports Sultan Al Riyami’s remarks that they view gaming and esports as the “next frontier”, as ‘they seek to develop the $288 million gambling industry in the UAE.

“Abu Dhabi has been prolific and successful in film and television,” said Al Riyami. “We see gaming and esports as the next frontier. That’s where we’re headed next.

And with Newzoo predicting that esports will generate approximately $1.4 billion in revenue worldwide and $1.9 billion by 2025, it’s no surprise that much of that investment was focused on esports.

It is for this reason that Nigma Galaxy (then Team Nigma), one of the most successful DOTA 2 teams in the world, moved to Abu Dhabi in 2020. The team, which later became the first team to be sponsored by a major airline (Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi), signed a five-year contract to settle on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi – where they have their own dedicated training centre.

It’s a trend seen elsewhere in the Middle East as well – Saudi Arabia is also making big strides in esports, as part of the country’s national gaming and esports strategy, as reported. unveiled Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.

“The national gaming and esports strategy is driven by the creativity and energy of our citizens and gamers, who are at the heart of the strategy,” the crown prince said.

The strategy has three main objectives: to provide new entertainment opportunities, to improve the player experience and to contribute an estimated 50 billion riyals to the country’s GDP. Additionally, Saudi Arabia aims to be in the top three countries with the most professional esports players in the world.

And they are at least on track to achieve the latter goal, as Saudi Electronic Sports Federation (SEF) chief operating officer Ahmed AlBishri said at this year’s upcoming global forum in Riyadh. .

“In 2018, we only had two teams,” AlBishri said. “Today we have more than 100 teams under contract with the Federation, with more than 500 professional players under official contract. Even at the level of creating opportunities and jobs, we are dealing with growing numbers. bigger than we see, and we expect those numbers to multiply significantly in the years to come.”

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More than just building their esports teams, SEF Chairman Prince Faisal bin Bandar has expressed a desire to both hold more regular tournaments and attend a wider range of international events. ports.

As a result, Saudi Arabia is set to invest $38 billion in esports by 2030, seeking to capitalize on statistics that suggest the country is home to 23.5 million gamers, roughly 67% of the country’s population. . That investment has already begun, with Savvy Gaming Group (owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund) acquiring esports organizations ESL Gaming earlier this year – in a deal that valued the company at 1.05 billion dollars.

This level of investment has seen a number of esports tournaments take place in Saudi Arabia, with Gamers8 Rocket League, Gamers8 Fortnite, Gamers8 Rainbow Six Siege and perhaps most notably, Dota 2 Riyadh Masters 2022 all taking place. of recent memory.

And not content with hosting the World Cup this year, Qatar is also getting into the esports action. The Qatar Esports Federation (QESF) was founded earlier this year, with the primary mission of developing the country’s esports capabilities. This is a milestone in the country’s esports scene, with previous events in the country having been independently organized by the local gaming community.

Although, just like the World Cup, these investments have their share of controversies and speed bumps. Neom, which is owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, has entered into a partnership with the LEC and BLAST Premier.

However, these partnerships were short-lived, with the LEC and BLAST Premier pulling out in the face of growing backlash from the CS:GO and League of Legends communities.

Yet such incidents are likely to pose minor obstacles to the growth of esports – as well as the growing involvement of Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia in particular is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and is expected to continue investing in esports companies and teams for years to come.

Although there is still time before the BLAST Premier World Finals, the Fall Finals are fast approaching, starting November 23rd. Here’s everything you need to know about this week’s tournament.

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