In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Prince Faisal spoke about his new role at the Global Esports Federation, his continuing work with SEF and the future of esports in the Kingdom and the region.
Arab News: Many congratulations on your new role. Please tell us what you will be looking to achieve as the Vice President of the Global Esports Federation?
Prince Faisal: From the start, with both the Saudi federation and the Arab federation our goal was to grow the esports industry both regionally and globally. My new role at GEF is a continuation of that ambition.
We have always said that gaming and esports are the ultimate social activities. They are not bound by space or borders. At GEF, we truly embody this belief through our mantra of #worldconnected. Our goal is to cultivate competition along with developing communities and the connection between sport, esports and technology.
Arab News: As President of the Saudi Esports Federation (SEF) you have been promoting esports and gaming in the Kingdom for several years. What future plans are there that we can look forward to?
Prince Faisal: There are many exciting developments coming in the next year and the years following that. Over the past years we’ve learned that the potential for esports is much higher that we even could have imagined. As a result, we have shifted to a more holistic approach on a national level. I would ask you and the readers to stay tuned. We are working on locally and globally impactful initiatives in coordination with many governments and private sector entities over the years to come.
Arab News: Earlier this year, the Saudi Esports Federation organized Gamers Without Borders, the world’s biggest esports charity gaming, which looked to combat coronavirus worldwide by raising $10 million. Will this kind of event continue to be hosted by Saudi Arabia?
Prince Faisal: Yes, absolutely. At the federation our focus is to dedicate esports and gaming for the betterment of humanity. From humanitarian aid to education and more, we believe gaming and esports can be a force for good. Our ambition is to bring back GWB but with a new cause every year. We hope that the world will overcome the pandemic and we will be able to focus on betterment and development rather than fighting a global crisis.
Arab News: In October, Saudi Arabia took part in an esports match against Japan at the Tokyo Game Show, and there are plans for return match in the Kingdom next year. Are such high profile matches against other nations something that we will see more of in the coming years?
Prince Faisal: We have a long-term partnership with the Japan Esports Federation for the development of the esports community in both countries. This partnership comes as part of our countries’ shared Vision 2030. Our goal is to build these bilateral and multilateral relationships globally to truly bring communities together and to learn from each other and develop together.
Arab News: Mosaad Al-Dossary won the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final 2018 in London and FIFA in particular is a huge game in esports competitions. What do you think of the rising popularity of gaming among Saudis and the fact that they are beating the world’s best in games like FIFA and others?
Prince Faisal: We have some of the most talented indviduals and organizations. A few examples that make me proud include Falcon Esports, a Saudi-based team that just won the European Fortnite Grand Royale championship. Their prize was more than $600,000. That is a success not just on the individual level but also shows how we are now exporting globally leading esports organizations.
In the 2021 EA FIFA West Asia playoffs, 6 of the top 8 players were from Saudi. A few days ago on the FGS 22 Middle East qualifier 13 of the top 16 players were Saudi. Additionally, as early as 2017 Sary Al-Jefri took home the Tekken World Championship.
This goes to show that Saudi is home to some of the best talents globally. It is these talents that will inspire others and become role models for successful and responsible professionalism. And when we combine these talented players and organizations with the support we offer as a country, it’s easy to see why we are quickly growing to become one of the leaders of the industry globally.
Arab News: Will there be more international competitions — FIFA eWorld Cup — being held in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East in the coming years?
Prince Faisal: Our goal is to become a global hub. Part of that is further developing our relationships with publishers and showing how we excel in organizing tournaments and growing talents within esports. GWB is a great example of this. After the massive success in the first year, PUBG Mobile approached us to co-organize their first global charitable invitational tournament.
That shows how much trust they now have in SEF. As a result of that many more conversations have now sparked.