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The Esports World Cup is coming, but is it actually legit?

esports world cup

Saudi Arabian Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is expanding his country’s presence in esports with a new Esports World Cup, the latest in what has been labeled a sportswashing campaign by the country.

The oil-rich country of Saudi Arabia has been making aggressive moves to diversify the country’s economy for a world after fossil fuels. This campaign, dubbed Saudi Vision 2030, has seen the country become a major player in both sports and gaming. These efforts have been overshadowed by condemnations from human rights watchdogs, being directly linked with the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, alleged blackmail attempts of Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, and more.

Despite this, Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed a growing influence over the world of esports through acquisitions of tournament organizers like ESL and gaming publishers like SNK Corporation. The next step of that is a broadening of its presence across esports with a major tournament initiative.

Is there an Esports World Cup?

The Saudi Arabian government is attempting to create an Esports World Cup alongside figures from major esports organizations. The Esports World Cup Foundation will be helmed by ESL co-CEO Ralf Reichert.

This new initiative does not have any ties to established international sporting organizations. Despite the name, it has no affiliation with either FIFA or the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC and other major international have been dabbling with esports competitions in their events. The Asian Games has featured esports since 2022, with the latest event featuring major names including T1 star Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok taking home gold. The Olympics has hosted its own non-medal esports competitions, though the organization has received criticism for predominantly featuring largely unknown games.

As part of this initiative, the Electronic Sports World Cup has been acquired by the Saudi front organization for this effort. The Electronic Sports World Cup was founded in 2003 but hasn’t run an event since 2018.

It is unknown whether this event will feature a format or have nation-based teams similar to what is seen in the actual World Cup. Other tournament organizers like WESG have used the nation-based teams in the past, though this format wasn’t well-received by fans. The first installment of the Esports World Cup is set to take place in Summer 2024 and will take place annually from there.

What games are in the Esports World Cup?

It is unknown what games will be a part of the Esports World Cup. However, recent Riyadh Masters and Gamers8 events likely provide an early look at what will be on offer.

In 2023, the Saudi government organized a series of esports tournaments across a variety of major esports titles including Dota 2, Counter-Strike, Rainbow Six, Rocket League, and more. Games such as League of Legends and Valorant have restrictions that would prevent tournaments from being held without approval from Riot Games.

Odds are that at least some of these games will return. Plans may change depending on what other partners enter into the event.

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Written by Steven Rondina

Steven Rondina has been playing video games since he was a toddler and appreciates every genre out there. He has earned the platinum trophy in every Soulsborne game, is regularly Master Ball-ranked on the competitive Pokemon ladder, and has spent thousands of hours missing shots on Dust 2.

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