The Next World Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where industry experts and developers from around the world gathered to discuss the evolving esports and gaming industry, has concluded after its proceedings that began on August 30 at the Kingdom Centre.
The two-day event featured multiple noteworthy panelists, including popular movie director Michael Bay, internet entrepreneur Gary Vee, and even Welsh footballer Gareth Bale, who discussed a slew of topics. These ranged from the implications of artificial intelligence in creative fields such as movie making and game development to how gaming could become a “future economy.”
Panel featuring Gareth Bale (right), Micheal Bay (center) and Gary Lee (left). Image: News18
In another panel, titled ‘The Big Fat Acquisition: The legalities of Companies Acquiring Game Studios,’ panelists H.E. Dr. Abdulaziz AlZoom (General Authority For Competition Saudi Arabia), Jens Hilgers ( BITKRAFT), David Higley (Lazard), Kun Gao (Crunchyroll), Kyu Lee (COM2US) explored whether significant gaming acquisitions, including Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, might affect the industry as a whole.
With the event now concluded, one message from the Saudi esports federation is clear: Saudi Arabia aims to be a key player in esports and gaming, and events like the Next World Forum will help the country double down on this quest.
Panelists Discussed The Future of AI, NFTs and How Big Is esports
During the panel titled ‘High Score: When the Celebrity Begins to Play in the Industry,’ which featured Gareth Bale, Michael Bay, and Gary Vee discussing various industry buzzwords like AI and the implications of celebrities entering the gaming industry, Michael Bay, known for directing big-budget Hollywood movies like Transformers and Armageddon, remarked that “AI has no soul” and is merely “mathematics.” He expressed concerns about AI making its users lazy and mentioned his worries about his “music artist friends.”
In contrast, Gary Vaynerchuk, also known as Gary Vee, had a completely different perspective. He stated that both AI and NFTs have the potential to change the world, comparing it to the early 2000s when the Internet was dismissed as a “bubble.” He further encouraged people to think of AI as a “thinking partner” that won’t take away jobs but instead serve as a “companion.”
Gareth Bale, the former Real Madrid star and co-owner of Ellevens esports, expressed that “esports is definitely catching up with real football,” which he viewed as a positive development. He also highlighted the opportunities that gaming provides for children, stating, “The scope is so big. It gives kids a lot more opportunities to do what they want. Even my kids now, they’re growing up enjoying their consoles and have the opportunity to interact with their friends in another country.”
Growing Prize Pools and Saudi Leadership Being ‘Bullish’ on Gaming
The first day of the Next World Forum also featured the presentation of the new Gamers8 Club Awards. During the awards ceremony, the Saudi Arabian team Twisted Minds secured the top spot and received a prize of $1.5 million. In total, ‘Gamers8: The Land of Heroes’ had an overall prize pool of $45 million, claimed to be the largest esports prize pool in the history of esports.
Gamers8 at the Boulevard, Riyadh City. (Image: News18)
The event also included a speech by His Royal Highness Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Al Saud, Chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, who discussed the goal of creating the ‘Gold Standard of the Competitive Gaming Scene.’ He emphasized that “Saudi Arabia’s aim is to become a global hub for gaming and esports, and hosting events like the Next World Forum is a key part of the journey to fulfilling that quest.”
Second Day: ‘Gaming Taboos’ Addressed
The second day of the Next World Forum addressed some of the ‘controversial’ aspects of esports and gaming, including leadership in the gaming sector. Segments on Day 2 included ‘The Players Deserve Better: The Future of Gaming and Esports Facilities,’ ‘Power Play Chat: A Conversation between Changemakers,’ ‘Virtual Realities, Real World Consequences: The Impact of Politics in Gaming,’ ‘Breaking the Code: The Challenges for Women in Gaming Leadership,’ ‘The Next Level: A New Chapter for the Saudi Esports Federation,’ and ‘AI-pocalypse Now—Where Do We Draw the Line?’
The conclusion of the Next World Forum also marked the end of the annual Gamers8, which began on July 6 at Boulevard, Riyadh. This eight-week event featured 16 tournaments based on 13 esports titles, more than 30 live concert performances by global, regional, and local stars, and plethora of activities.