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September 5, 2023 fsbsummit0

Saudi Esports Federation (SEF) and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) have announced a three-year partnership with a primary focus on propelling local esports talent onto the global stage, including a special emphasis on fostering women gamers.

This collaboration will introduce a series of events and challenge-based initiatives meticulously crafted to nurture emerging esports talent in Saudi Arabia. These initiatives will provide aspiring gamers with a direct route to SEF’s esports development programmes.

As part of this alliance, SEF and KFC will join forces to enhance the gaming landscape by delivering high-quality streamed content. This will be facilitated through SEF’s streaming programme, Voices of Saudi Esports. KFC’s participation will be instrumental in elevating the platform by offering gaming content. Audiences will be treated to branded streamed gameplay content featuring KFC discounts and promotions.

Speaking about the deal and initiative, Ahmed Albishri, Deputy CEO of Saudi Esports Federation, said: “By nurturing emerging talents, promoting gender equality in gaming, and providing engaging content, this collaboration marks a significant stride towards building a robust gaming ecosystem in the Kingdom. The Saudi Esports Federation and PLAY KFC are set to reshape the esports landscape in Saudi Arabia through this dynamic partnership.”

A highlight of this partnership is the launch of the ‘First Female Saudi E-League,’ a dedicated initiative aimed at championing and empowering female gamers in Saudi Arabia. The top-performing team in this league will gain entry into the KFC X SEF accelerator programme, offering them direct training from professional esports teams and trainers. This initiative is poised to elevate female gamers to the forefront of the gaming industry, granting them a coveted spot at Gamers8, the gaming and esports festival, in 2024.

The second edition of Gamers8, an eight-week-long extravaganza held at Boulevard Riyadh City, featuring elite esports tournaments, live music concerts, and a multitude of attractions, has recently concluded. In the upcoming period, KFC will document the journey of these pioneering female gamers through an engaging content series, celebrating their growth, determination, and achievements in the esports realm.

Ozge Zoralioglu, Chief Marketing Officer, KFC, Yum! Brands, added: “At KFC, we’ve always believed in the magic that esports brings to the table; hence we created PLAY KFC as the ultimate platform to unite communities, ignite passions, and unveil talents. But what truly sets PLAY KFC apart is the ‘First Female Saudi E-League,’ a realm that echoes our unwavering commitment to inclusivity and empowerment as we champion the growth of female gamers. Like our world-famous chicken, our partnership with the Saudi Esports Federation promises an experience that lingers, an impact that resonates, and a legacy that’s nothing short of extraordinary.”

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August 21, 2023 fsbsummit0

The Afro-Arab Esports League has been inaugurated in Riyadh, encompassing 25 member nations hailing from the African and Arab regions.

The league’s primary goal is to elevate the competitive landscape of esports across its member nations. It harnesses the vibrant essence of esports and the unifying potential of gaming to bridge people across borders, cultures, and backgrounds.

Initial tournaments of the Afro-Arab Esports League unfolded in Riyadh this weekend at the world-renowned Gamers8: The Land of Heroes, the global gaming and esports festival. Within Boulevard Riyadh City at Gamers8, the Challenge Zone will host tournaments in eFootball and Valorant, featuring distinct male and female competitions.

The league has been launched to enhance the competitive level of esports across member nations, while utilising esports’ dynamic spirit and the power of gaming to unite people across borders, cultures, and backgrounds.

The 25 nations that collectively constitute the Afro-Arab Esports League are Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, UAE, Tunisia, Senegal, Kenya, Ghana, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman, Cameroon, Mali, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Burkina Faso, Jordan, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, South Africa, Namibia, and Nigeria.

Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, Chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, and Chairman of the Arab Esports Federation, said: “The Afro-Arab Esports League is a testament to the growing importance of esports in both the African and Arab worlds and a key way to create space for cultural exchange and cooperation among the 25 participating countries. Together, we herald a future where unity knows no bounds, where the thrill of competition unites us, and where the passion for gaming brings nations together.”

Dr Ashraf Sobhi, Egyptian Minister of Youth and Sports, said: “We thank HRH Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan for his support in setting up the Afro-Arab Esports League and the inaugural tournaments here in Riyadh. The importance and development opportunities from gathering African and Arab youths together for competitions can’t be overstated.”

Future tournaments will be announced in due course.

Organised by the Saudi Esports Federation, eight-week long Gamers8: The Land of Heroes has a prize pool of $45m – triple that of Gamers8 last year. The gaming and esports festival worldwide features 16 elite esports tournaments from 13 top titles, as well as community gaming and educational platforms. These are complemented by live concerts from top global, regional, and local artists, as well as numerous fun-filled activities and attractions for the whole family.

The festival concludes with the Next World Forum, a gaming and esports forum held at the Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre on August 30-31, which brings together sector leaders and experts from around the world.

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February 23, 2023 fsbsummit0

AD Gaming, the entity driving Abu Dhabi’s fast-growing gaming industry, has signed a partnership agreement with Sawa Group, a game publishing and esports company in the MENA region.

The partnership agreement will bring together two leaders of industry in the gaming world, helping to facilitate the international expansion of Chinese gaming and esports companies through Abu Dhabi and providing the local industry with access to reach new, content-hungry audiences. Simultaneously, Sawa Group will benefit from being part of the largest cluster of gaming companies in the region, with opportunities to work alongside the ever-growing AD Gaming community on new and exciting projects.

As part of the agreement, Sawa Group will relocate to Abu Dhabi to bring its experience to the area and foster regional prosperity.

Commenting on the partnership, Sultan Al Riyami, Head of Gaming & Esports at AD Gaming, said: “Demand for high-quality gaming content across the Arabic-speaking world has never been higher. The opportunity to tap into this market from Abu Dhabi is substantial, and Sawa’s expertise in the localisation of gaming esports content addresses this head-on. Since its inception, AD Gaming has succeeded in building an ecosystem that supports all segments of the gaming and esports sector. Bringing Sawa into the fold both diversifies and expands our community as we continue to advance Abu Dhabi’s gaming industry.”

Jing Wang, CEO of Sawa Group, added: “Aligned with AD Gaming, Sawa Group is dedicated to enhancing the gaming and esports ecosystem in the UAE, creating more opportunities for the country’s passionate gamers to experience global content in their native language. By supporting its thriving community, we are confident that Abu Dhabi will become a premier global destination for gaming and esports.”

She continued: “Through the collaboration and partnership with AD Gaming, Sawa Group hopes to balance game publishing and esports exposure to make Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE one of the world’s top centres for the gaming industry.”

Sawa Group recently published the deeply localised SLG game Infinity Kingdom, حرب الممالك in Arabic, which has been downloaded millions of times across the Huawei app gallery, Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Along with its own multi-channel network, Sawa Group also has partnerships with top-tier TV channels in the MENA region, including MBC Group, through which Sawa tries to build up deep connections between game developers globally, the core of Arabic culture, and all players and users of all ages in the MENA region.

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February 17, 2023 fsbsummit0

Saudi Arabia-based gaming and e-sports company Savvy Games Group has invested $265m in VSPO, a Chinese esports startup specialising in tournaments, venues and production.

The deal symbolises a “landmark commercial partnership” between China, the world’s biggest esports market, and Saudi Arabia as it implements Vision 2030 to become a leading global hub for gaming and esports.

Savvy, owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, will now become VSPO’s single largest equity holder.

In a statement, Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, Vice Chairman of Savvy Games Group, said: “This investment is one part of the ambitious plan that will enable and support the e-sports ecosystem in Saudi Arabia. Attracting international companies to Saudi Arabia through investments and partnerships will contribute to providing skills, knowledge transfer and building capabilities in the whole ecosystem.”

The transaction reportedly marks the biggest cash investment ever made in an e-sports organisation.

Brian Ward, CEO of Savvy Games Group, added: “This is a significant transaction for Savvy, and gives us a major foothold in the important Asia region. We are looking forward to diversifying our geographic footprint alongside VSPO. This historic investment will strengthen our ambitious global strategy, with a particular focus on Asia and the Middle East, where we will support Savvy’s vision to grow e-sports throughout this incredibly dynamic and young region.”

Dino Ying, CEO and founder of VSPO, said that working with Savvy would contribute worldwide to the sector’s growth, and VSPO will also use this funding to invest in pioneering new technology to further enhance the experience for game fans.

“This historic investment will strengthen our ambitious global strategy, focusing on Asia and the Middle East where we will support Savvy’s vision to grow esports throughout this incredibly dynamic and young region,” Ying added.

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January 11, 2023 fsbsummit0

Dubai production house Art Format Lab (AFL) has partnered with BIGG, a French media group specialising in video gaming and esports entertainment. According to the deal, AFL will help secure distribution and content localisation rights for the French channel across the MENA, Turkey, Italy, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. This includes AFL serving as the channel distributor, helping to produce local esports events across the MENA region and also enabling the localisation of international content for BIGG in the Arab world.

BIGG TV offers more than 1,500 hours of diversified content each year, including video gaming and esports content, live events covering popular games such as FIFA, CS: GO, DOTA 2, Starcraft, Hearthstone and Fortnite, as well as top past tournaments and universal franchises including Pokemon, Mario and premium documentaries. The channel aims to cover more than 150 major international championships and events. This will include live coverage of the 2023 Africa eSports Championship, the FIFA 23 eChampionships and the 2023 Champions Chess Tour.

Khulud Abu Homos, CEO of AFL also announced that this collaboration will see the two companies partner to produce season two of the popular Live the Challenge show, the production house’s original video gaming championship. Season two will take place in Cairo in October 2023 with participation from the top 16 e-sports teams from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Kuwait.

“We are very excited about this partnership with BIGG as the future of the video game industry looks set to grow in leaps and bounds. Consumer demand is growing, technology is advancing quickly, and new monetisation models are taking off with a global revenue that is expected to grow by more than 50% over the next five years,” commented Abu Homos.

“The MENA region is a fast-growing market with a high revenue stream that has reached $4.4bn in 2022,” added Jeff Padovani, BIGG’s CEO. “It’s also a high potential market with a young population that spends more time watching gaming than the average. We are delighted to join forces with Art Format Lab to bring esports to mainstream media and offer a whole new experience to the fans.”

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October 12, 2022 fsbsummit0

Pixoul Gaming, the virtual reality (VR) and Esports hub, will open on October 28 at Al Qana in Abu Dhabi.

Pixoul Gaming is an integrated, immersive entertainment destination through its elaborate Virtual Reality Gaming Zone. It will also have an esports academy and will host global gaming tournaments in its 800-seat capacity arena. The academy also includes an Esports bar, a gaming community twist on a typical sports bar.

Casual gamers will be able to use consoles, while more serious players will be able to enroll in the certified Esports Academy, a first in the region.

The hub at Al Qana, a 2.4-kilometre waterfront destination, aims to attract gamers to the capital by offering something for everyone.

With its array of VR, retro, console, mobile, and Esports games, Pixoul Gaming will also cater to the entire gaming ecosystem – from game development and education to immersive experiences, from professional solo, multi-player and team gaming to hosting global gaming festivals. The space will also have big screens, bean bags and a choice of consoles to play.

Pixoul Planet VR will offer 10 virtual and augmented reality games, in partnership with Robocom VR, that range from first-person shooters to roller coasters, paragliding and escape rooms. They will last between six and 10 minutes and feature the region’s first fully wireless headsets in an open-world cross-platform metaverse.

As the flagship experience, the Pixoul Planet VR houses 10 different virtual and augmented reality games, including everything from shooters, and virtual roller coasters, to guided spaceship tours of the new intergalactic planet, Pixoul.

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September 14, 2022 fsbsummit0

Games for Change (G4C) and AD Gaming have announced that the first-ever Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Games for Change summit will be held in Abu Dhabi on October 11-12, 2022.

The event will bring together global gaming experts to explore best practices and build business relationships with UAE-based gaming companies. The G4C summit will be held in partnership with the US Mission to the UAE and twofour54.

The two-day summit will connect 300 leaders across Abu Dhabi’s gaming industry with international expertise and the latest ideas and innovations in gaming. Keynote speakers include Asi Burak, Chief Business Officer at Tilting Point; Leo Olebe, Managing Director at Google Play; Chelsea Blasko, Co-CEO at Iron Galaxy.

Through talks, panels, workshops, networking events, and an interactive arcade, attendees will explore the economics and business trends driving the gaming industry, hear first-hand experiences of independent game developers and entrepreneurs from across the globe, and learn from case studies on using games for impact on social issues like education, healthcare, and climate change.

James Hartt, Director of Strategic Partnerships at AD Gaming, said: “Through Abu Dhabi’s world-class gaming industry support programme, AD Gaming, the Emirate is now home to the largest community of game developers in the region. With world-leading industry names such as Ubisoft and Unity, along with so many innovative independent game developers based in the Emirate, there is an impressive amount of high-quality games being produced in Abu Dhabi. We’re proud to work with Games for Change to bring this important event to the UAE capital and, in turn, empower game developers in their continuous quest to build great games with a real-world impact.”

Susanna Pollack, President of Games for Change, added: “The Games for Change Summit in Abu Dhabi is an opportunity to reimagine the gaming sector’s role in global development and international collaboration. For nearly 20 years, the Games for Change community has shown us how the games industry is more than an engine for economic development — it’s a vehicle for social impact. Games for Change is thrilled to work with gaming leaders in Abu Dhabi to build an ecosystem focused on innovation, education, and real-world impact.”

Robin Solomon, Counselor for Public Affairs at the US Mission to the UAE, stated: “The US Mission to the UAE is proud to partner with Games for Change (G4C), Abu Dhabi Gaming, and twofour54 to strengthen US-UAE collaboration in the gaming industry and to support the growth of the UAE’s creative economy. This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the unique US-UAE bond by connecting American and Emirati experts and innovators in the UAE’s exciting and growing gaming sector.”

Under the AD Gaming initiative, Abu Dhabi has emerged as the capital of the region’s video gaming industry and is fast becoming a global gaming hub. The UAE’s gaming industry is expected to reach $288m in revenues in 2022. This figure continues to increase, driven by a growing youth sector, which currently comprises 34% of the Emirati population. With its gaming population, emerging talent, and rich traditions of storytelling, the UAE is primed to revolutionise the expanding global industry.

The Games for Change Summit in Abu Dhabi is the latest development in an ongoing partnership between Games for Change, the United States, and the UAE. This past year, G4C teamed up with Aldar Education and AD Gaming in the UAE to launch Game Exchange, a virtual exchange programme connecting youth in the United States, the Middle East, and North Africa. Students in the United States and the UAE are working together to design games that address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals under three overarching themes: Human Rights, Sustainable Societies, and a Healthy Planet. Impact games developed by UAE-based students in the Game Exchange programme will be exhibited during the Games for Change Summit.

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September 7, 2022 fsbsummit0

Spanish soccer’s LaLiga has announced a new long-term joint venture (JV) with Dubai-headquartered esports and gaming organisation Galaxy Racer (GXR).

The intent of forming a 15-year joint venture (JV) is to transform the organisation’s presence in the Middle East and North Africa region and Indian subcontinent.

The JV positions GXR as LaLiga’s local partner in the MENA market and Indian subcontinent, setting up what the two parties claim will be a historic first for sports rights in the territories with projected revenue in excess of $2.98bn over the course of the relationship.

The two parties have signed a letter of intent and entered into an exclusive period to conclude contract details and the establishment of the JV. LaLiga and GXR will each hold a 50% stake in the new entity.

In addition, the joint venture will act as the media rights agency for the broadcast and media rights for the MENA and Indian subcontinent.

The deal provides LaLiga with an innovative pathway to share its intellectual property (IP) through a local partner already offering considerable market reach – GXR has over 500m followers worldwide – and a platform for growth that leverages expertise in six key verticals: licensing, content creation, esports, influencer/talent management, merchandising and music.

Oscar Mayo, Executive Director at LaLiga, said: “With the market set to enter a new era of growth, this is the right moment to take our business in the region to the next level and attract the next generation of younger sport fans to our competition.

“This historic partnership is set to boost the popularity of LaLiga and football in MENA and the Indian subcontinent. With Galaxy Racer’s extensive experience in the region as one of the world’s largest transmedia powerhouses, we believe they are the ideal partner to help us reach a fresh new audience and unlock the true potential of LaLiga in the region.”

GXR’s Chief Executive Paul Roy added: “The LaLiga brand is powerful, but its potential remains untapped amongst millennials and GenZ in the MENA region and Indian subcontinent. Our opportunity is to connect with a younger audience in a way that resonates with them. Galaxy Racer has a market reach that will help unlock that potential and elevate LaLiga to an aspirational brand for target audiences in the region.”

A key aspect of the agreement will be the creation of a production studio for the JV.

Based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the JV will feature a team of around 20 people dedicated to developing the brand and securing new business opportunities, with a five-person board of directors including chief executive Maite Ventura.

Luis Cardenas, commercial director for LaLiga MENA, will be the chief commercial officer.

The JV will work in coordination with the league’s delegates based in Morocco, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel, India, and the UAE.

LaLiga already has international offices in Dubai and New Delhi.

GXR will also curate creator activities to showcase the LaLiga brand throughout the year and will launch a roster of LaLiga-focused creators.

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August 31, 2022 fsbsummit0

Pixoul Gaming, the virtual reality (VR) and Esports hub, will open later this year at Al Qana in Abu Dhabi. It is expected to open in the next few months, but an exact date has not yet been announced.

Pixoul Gaming will be launching the esports academy in the Middle East and will host global gaming tournaments in its 800-seat capacity arena. The academy also includes an Esports bar, a gaming community twist on a typical sports bar.

Pixoul Gaming is an integrated, immersive entertainment destination through its elaborate Virtual Reality Gaming Zone. While the Esports Academy provides a focused training facility for serious gaming athletes.

With its array of VR, retro, console, mobile, and Esports games, Pixoul Gaming will also cater to the entire gaming ecosystem – from game development and education to immersive experiences, from professional solo, multi-player and team gaming to hosting global gaming festivals. Esports is one of the fastest-growing industries in the Mena region. The UAE’s digital gaming sector is estimated to reach $930m by 2025, and Pixoul Gaming will highlight Abu Dhabi as the global leader in Esports, broadcasting to millions of fans.

Paul Hamilton, General Manager at Pixoul Gaming, said” “As an integrated, immersive entertainment destination with the region’s first Esports Academy, Pixoul Gaming has the potential to redefine the modern gaming experience. We believe that everyone should be a gamer today as Esports fosters creativity, encourages problem-solving, and builds leadership skills. So, we designed Pixoul Gaming to offer a new world of digital amusement and showcase Abu Dhabi as a global leader in Esports and digital entertainment.”

Hamilton added: “The goal is to bring serious gaming into the Middle East, to train professionals at our Academy to compete on a global level while also hosting the international tournaments in our elite coliseum of gaming where the biggest, best gamers on the planet will perform to a live audience of 800+, watched by millions across the world.

“The venue is almost complete, and we’ll be ready to welcome gamers by Q4 of 2022. We are working with the leading international experts and technology partners such as Robocom VR to offer our guests the latest and the best experience.”

Pixoul Planet VR will offer 10 virtual and augmented reality games, in partnership with Robocom VR, that range from first-person shooters to roller coasters, paragliding and escape rooms. They will last between six and 10 minutes and feature the region’s first fully wireless headsets in an open-world cross-platform metaverse.

Karim Ibrahim, Co-founder of Pixoul Gaming and CEO of Robocom VR, commented: “As technology partners and creators of this custom-built VR mission, we are excited to take gamers on an unprecedented adventure across cinematic and interactive experiences. At Robocom VR, our mission is to innovate the static gaming experience, inviting users to a portal into new dimensions of gaming and take control over their destiny while fully immersed in Virtual Reality Entertainment.

“At Pixoul Gaming, we have introduced the region’s first fully wireless headsets in an open-world cross-platform metaverse. With no unnecessary cables or heavy backpacks, the HTC Focus 3 headsets are fully synced with 4D and motion platform simulators to blur virtual reality’s boundaries ultimately. Across these ten integrated experiences, each lasting six to10 minutes, there is a never before seen journey of flight & racing simulators, escape rooms, shooting games, paragliding, and rollercoasters – promising to push the boundaries of human imagination and set new standards of interactive and immersive entertainment.”

As the flagship experience, the Pixoul Planet VR houses 10 different virtual and augmented reality games, including everything from shooters, and virtual roller coasters, to guided spaceship tours of the new intergalactic planet, Pixoul.

At the first Esports Academy in the Middle East, coaches will be able to train individual gamers and teams, offering tips on how to improve their skills. It will also invite champion professional gamers to hold one-on-one training sessions with students.

The Dean of the Academy will oversee the teaching schedule and certifications and ensure that consumers are empowered with the tools and knowledge to play responsibly.

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August 26, 2022 fsbsummit0

Zain KSA and Zain Group have partnered with global gaming platform Playhera to launch its new regional esports platform Playhera MENA to target the Middle East’s markets.

Headquartered in Saudi Arabia, Playhera MENA aims to create a suitable environment for innovators, content creators and esports amateurs, besides fostering the capabilities of professional gamers.

Targeting the region’s lucrative market of an estimated 100m gamers, Playhera MENA will incorporate new gaming services such as cloud games backed by Zain KSA’s 5G infrastructure to attract digital entertainment stakeholders.

Commenting on the partnership, Eng. Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Deghaither, CEO of Zain KSA, said: “We are proud that Saudi Arabia is home to Playhera MENA esports hub as it enhances the Kingdom’s capacity to incorporate fast-growing and lucrative digital services and boost the Saudi economy in line with Saudi Vision 2030.  We are committed to promoting the growth of an ecosystem that supports the development of gaming platforms hence unlocking the countless opportunities that will arise for all stakeholders in this field. We look forward to driving growth in the gaming market in the region and at the same time, we are certain that Playhera MENA will raise the level of the services in this sector that caters to a large segment of users and businesses. The same goes for the Kingdom’s expanding gaming market which currently hosts over 19.8m gamers and posts a significant annual growth of up to 22% and a market value of SAR 2.6bn ($692m).”

Naif Mulaeb, CEO of Playhera, added: “We are proud to be a Saudi-born brand that has gone global with a fast-growing partner like Zain KSA who share our same passion and enthusiasm toward digital entertainment.”

The launch of Playhera MENA will be celebrated by a regional PUBG mobile tournament later this year, expected to attract around 7,000 participants.

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