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Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz

President, Saudi Esports Federation


Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud is the president of SEF and the Arab Esports Federation since their establishment in 2017. He is also vice president of the Global Esports Federation and the vice chairman of Savvy Gaming Group. Under his leadership, the federation quickly grew the range of its activities to become the leading Saudi entity in charge of growing the Saudi esports industry. He moved the federation from its original model of one-time large events to a sustainable and long-lasting model of creating IPs that will grow with time and provide a stable career path in the many disciplines that surround professional competitive gaming.

"We are focused on building an industry so young people have a career path within gaming."
Saudi Esports Federation plays an important role in helping to develop career paths within gaming, providing support for gamers, and advancing the reputation of the Saudi esports industry.
What is the mission of the Esports Federation?

Our focus is on esports and esports athletes in the community. The initial focus was on the athletes themselves and how to get them ready for international tournaments and have regular leagues here so they can play on a regular basis. We focus also providing them the infrastructure to put a team together and get private-sector support. We started in 2018 with one professional team based in SA. We now have 43 official teams, with more in the pipeline, so we hope to have many more by the end of the year. In our second year, we widened our focus to work with professional athletes. We will continue to work with them, but we wanted to look at the other two ends of the spectrum. One was education and working with the Ministry of Education and Schools to teach children what a professional athlete is and that esports athletes are professional athletes, and not just gamers. There is a big focus on mental and social health, which we advocate for all gamers, but it is necessary for any sports professional. We want to teach them what it means to be an esports professional and earn a career and salary. The other end of the spectrum is the retirement age for most esports athletes, which is around 25 in most games. We are exploring what we can set up for them at the end of their careers to help them on their way. One initiative was to showcase the skills learned as a professional athlete and esports player that can help them break into other industries and learning opportunities.

What initiatives are taking place to professionalize the e-gaming industry?

We are focused on building an industry so young people have a career path within gaming. There was a great deal of work between the federation and the Ministry of Communications and Ministry of Sport and Ministry of Investment, among others, to start to grow the surrounding industry so that you have a career path as an esports commentator or coach or in production, stage setup, or within the gaming industry where we are launching initiatives like game development academies. We work with the private sector and other ministries to facilitate these young people going into this career path. We did a study in 2018 of 10,000 people with the Ministry of Sports, and roughly 53-54% of the population considered themselves gamers. At our tournaments, we surveyed what they want to do with their lives, and well over 65% wanted more events, places to gather together, and play. They did not just want to do things online. There is a career path for anything you have a passion for within gaming—it is just about giving them the tools to follow that career path.

How do you envision the future and evolution of the esports industry in the Kingdom in five years’ time?

We are trying to look at things holistically; we do not want to focus on one thing. Currently the best players in the world are in South Korea; they dominate the industry. Regarding events, the best are clearly in Europe, ESL being one of the best in the world. Each region has a focus it is strong in, and we are catching up in everything. We start from a green field where we are developing everything from scratch. It is a new federation, a new industry, and many young people, ambitious and passionate, so we are trying to look at the industry holistically and explore how to grow things. We want to move this forward and make SA a global hub for gaming and esports within the next five to 10 years. Nowadays, there is a series of global hubs on the map. Our ambition is that when talking about gaming and esports, Saudi Arabia is mentioned the same way you would mention North America, South Korea, or Europe.



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