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Saudi-backed group buys 2 largest e-sports companies for $1.5bn

January 26, 2022 at 12:52 pm

The FACEIT ECS Season 6 championship medals on 25 November 2018 [Cooper Neill/Getty Images]

Savvy Gaming Group (SGG) which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has acquired two of the largest e-sports brands for a combined $1.5 billion. ESL, a gaming event organiser, and tournament platform FACEIT will merge to form ESL FACEIT Group, according to a report first published by German site Handelsblatt.

An official press release states that “The new company will create the ultimate platform for competitive gaming with an unmatched proposition for players, fans, teams, publishers, developers, and partners, no matter where they are on their competitive gaming journey.”

ESL CEO Craig Levine said: “Our mission remains unchanged: to create a world where everybody can be somebody. Our merger with FACEIT, along with the backing of SGG, will give us more know-how, capabilities, and resources than ever before to deliver on this vision.”

While FACEIT CEO Niccolo Maisto explained: “By uniting these complementary capabilities, and with the backing of SGG, we are taking a long-term approach to develop a more robust platform to better support the future of the whole competitive gaming ecosystem and generate more value for all its stakeholders in a sustainable way.”

ESL is one of the oldest e-sports companies founded in Germany in 2000, while FACEIT was founded in Britain in 2011 and is a leading competitive gaming platform for popular online multiplayer games. The lucrative e-sports industry is growing in the Middle East and overall gaming consumption in Saudi Arabia is expected to reach $6.8 billion by 2030 according to Gulf Business, citing a report by Boston Consulting Group, which revealed that the kingdom is home to 23.5 million gamers, representing 67 per cent of the population, with 90 per cent of this demographic already playing e-sports on a semi-professional or amateur basis and 100 professional e-sports players pursuing full time careers. Neighbouring Bahrain is also a pioneering country for the region’s e-sports market with its “strong pro-gaming policies” with the competitive gaming sector fast becoming one of the tiny kingdom’s “biggest assets”.

The Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund is said to control around $500 billion of the kingdom’s wealth and plays an important role in realising Vision 2030, an initiative started by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to steer the kingdom’s economy away from reliance on oil and to improve the country’s image abroad. The fund has been previously accused of “sportswashing”, particularly over its controversial purchase of British football team Newcastle United and it’s recent bid to take over Italian club Inter Milan.

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