From the highlights of this year’s Gamers8 festival to its future potential, Turki Alfawzan, CEO, Saudi Esports Federation, shares his in-depth perspective on what it took to make the world’s largest esports festival a reality.
How has Gamers8 evolved since its inception, and what inspired the theme "The Land of Heroes" for this year's festival?
Gamers8 has officially concluded its second edition. However, for a few years now, we've been conceptualizing a mega-event that places world-class esports competitions at the heart of an immersive gaming utopia.
The first edition was slated for 2020. Yet, faced with the pandemic, we recognized that organizing it would be unfeasible. It was then that our team conceived the idea of "Gamers Without Borders." In essence, the two editions of GWB served as a preliminary run, allowing us to learn how to integrate multiple events under a single banner, ultimately paving the way for our success in 2022.
The “Land of Heroes” slogan was crafted in-house by the team. We delved into research to identify the most popular games and to understand the features of games that resonate with the community. We discovered that while competitive games topped the popularity charts, many gamers have a special affinity for storytelling video games.
This insight, combined with the allure of hosting a prominent tournament in a locale perceived as a "distant land," naturally led us to our chosen slogan: The Land of Heroes. It symbolizes a realm brimming with adventure, where one can wander in the worlds of their favourite gaming characters and where the elite compete.
As far as global competitions go, the Gamers8 festival has permanently cemented itself in the yearly calendar but how does Gamers8 aim to uplift and give a platform to local teams amidst global competition?
With Gamers8 being recognized as an annual apex of esports in the region, it’s without a doubt that it will return in 2024 and we have a trove of surprises in store for the community.
We refuse to rest on our laurels. Our ambition is to pioneer innovative ways of celebrating esports and to address perceived deficiencies in our sport.
For instance, the introduction of the Gamers8 Club Awards stemmed from our team's examination of how club profitability was impacted by the tumultuous 2020 calendar year. As SEF, we have consistently elevated our events and now aim to offer similar growth opportunities to the diverse stakeholders that constitute various facets of the industry.
Historically, the primary beneficiaries of tournaments have been the players, sponsors, and organizers. However, we recognized the need to incorporate clubs, which serve as overarching entities, into this mix. Consequently, we introduced an additional competitive tier, enabling clubs to compete with multiple teams across various titles.
With so many different elements, from music to cultural experiences, what is the vision behind turning Gamers8 into a holistic festival, beyond just an esports competition?
Hundreds of millions of esports fans span the globe. Many yearn for more events to socialize around and have international friends they'd relish the opportunity to meet in person.
However, traditional esports events often don't offer enough incentive to justify the investment in long-distance travel. Gamers8 addresses this gap.
During a week-long visit to Gamers8, the competition is just a fraction of the entire experience. Of course, attendees can cheer on their favourite teams live, but once the match concludes, they can immerse themselves in a vibrant festival environment. This festival boasts a myriad of attractions, ranging from gaming-themed experiences and music concerts to educational programs, food & beverage options, and so much more.
How do events like Gamers8 contribute to the Kingdom's transformation, considering the fast-growing gaming sector in Saudi Arabia?
Gamers8 serves to showcase Saudi Arabia's immense talent and potential to the world.
Although our foray into this sector is less than 7 years old, the successes we've achieved underscore the wealth of talent we possess. This vibrant community truly deserves platforms like Gamers8, where they can express themselves in a profession, they're deeply passionate about.
Furthermore, we hope Gamers8 offers a unique opportunity for many who have never visited Saudi Arabia to experience our rich culture and heritage first-hand.Considering the influx of international attendees and participants, how do we ensure that the local Saudi gaming culture is highlighted and celebrated?
In 2023, we took immense pride in the remarkable performance of Saudi players and teams. Several of these teams, initially perceived as underdogs, went on to clinch victories in various tournaments. For instance, the Saudi-based team, Twisted Minds, consistently outperformed expectations in numerous tournaments, culminating in their triumph in the cross-game competition.
Beyond the competitive arena of esports, our commitment is to champion Saudi talent in various forms. From activities and concepts birthed locally to our local DJs and content creators, many found a sanctuary and a platform at Gamers8.