The International Esports Federation (IESF) has declared that the World Esports Championship, a contest based on nations, will be held in Saudi Arabia in 2024.
The specifics of the host city are yet to be unveiled. IESF remained silent when approached for comments.
The news about the host location for next year’s tournament was initially revealed at the closing event of the World Esports Championship 2023. This event occurred in Isai, Romania, spanning from August 26th to September 3rd.
Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, a Saudi royal family member and the Chairperson of the Saudi Esports Federation, took on the role of Statutory Vice President of the International Esports Federation back in June. Additionally, he serves as the Vice President of the Global Esports Federation.
The World Esports Championship has been an ongoing global esports event since 2009. It brings together national teams, as determined by the member national esports federations affiliated with IESF, all vying to claim the title of national champions.
This decision to host the championship in Saudi Arabia aligns with the country’s accelerating government-backed advancements and investments in esports. The Saudi ruling family’s sovereign wealth fund is the owner of ESL FACEIT Group, Vindex, and holds substantial stakes in numerous game development companies. A year ago, the nation unveiled an ambitious national esports strategy, and the recent Gamers8 festival, organized by the Saudi Esports Federation, boasted a substantial $45 million prize pool.
World Esports Championship: Issues and Controversies
However, it is important to note that this choice may stir controversy due to concerns surrounding Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, particularly in regards to LGBTQ+ and women’s rights. Some commentators have even characterized Saudi Arabia’s involvement in esports as ‘esportswashing’.
The WEC 2023 edition included a variety of competitions in CS:GO (including Open and Women’s divisions), Dota 2, eFootball, and other games. While the event received a lot of attention from games like CS:GO (highest viewing reached 13,600 for the Open and 15,300 for Women’s competitions) and Dota 2 (top viewership reached 21,800), Mobile Legends: Bang Bang had a stunning 700,000 peak viewers.
Numerous claims of dubious behavior between the regional Isai sports organization and the IESF were made in June, according to local Romanian media. There were allegations that the licensing price for the World Esports Championship 2023 was paid to a recently founded North Macedonian company rather than the IESF headquarters. When questioned by news organizations, an IESF representative fiercely denied any wrongdoing.
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