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Riot confirms it's 'in conversations' about Saudi-backed Esports World Cup

Riot confirms it's 'in conversations' about Saudi-backed Esports World Cup
Images via Saudi Press Agency | GAMERS8

Written by 

Jack Marsh

Last updated 

3rd Jan 2024 14:19

After back-to-back years of GAMERS8, the Saudi government announced its plans to pivot to an Esports World Cup tournament, to be hosted in Riyadh and feature esports titles from all corners of the industry in a battle of nations.

Announced back in October, this Esports World Cup will succeed GAMERS8 as the summer festival of professional gaming held in Saudi Arabia, taking place in July and holding up a collective prize pool which will be "the largest in esports history", insinuating inflation from the previous $45million shared out in 2023.

Now, it looks like the Esports World Cup has won over a major esports developer, as reports suggest that Riot Games' League of Legends will be joining the event.

Update: Riot Games has issued GGRecon a statement matching that of The Jacob Wolf Report:

"We’ve been evaluating our approach to third-party events. Done right, third-party tournaments could provide teams and pro players additional, optional competitive opportunities as well as new revenue streams. We also know fans have been asking for more international and cross-regional tournaments, and while these events wouldn’t be operated by Riot, we think they could be part of delivering on that request, in addition to the competitions we produce.

Last year’s Asian Games was one great example of the positive impact third-party events can have on our esports, and we think there’s room for more if planned thoughtfully. We’ve been in conversations with various tournament organizers — including the Esports World Cup — about unlocking teams’ participation in such events. We’re in active exploration of these opportunities, including if and when they can fit within the 2024 calendar, but nothing has been confirmed at this time."

League of Legends reported for Esports World Cup 2024 entry in Riyadh

Click to enlarge

In previous years, Saudi State-backed esports events and partnerships have faced a lot of backlash, including notions of sports washing and pushback from the LGBTQ+ community, whose human rights are put at risk in Saudi Arabia.

However, GAMERS8 enjoyed quite a successful 2023 tenure, and now Saudi Arabia is continuing to push forward with esports and massive prize pools, even attracting League of Legends.

As per The Jacob Wolf Report, League of Legends will be featured as the staple title in the inaugural Saudi-back Esports World Cup, as Wolf cites a leaked internal email.

This would be League of Legends' first third-party international tournament since 2017, and will reportedly work around the annual calendar by slipping in behind MSI (allegedly set for China in May), and before Worlds 2024. 

A spokesperson from Riot Games confirmed to Wolf that they were working on creating third-party international tournaments again, including discussions with the Esports World Cup, but didn't confirm its involvement.

League of Legends will reportedly join the cast which has previously boasted CS:GO, Rocket League, Rainbow Six: Siege and more.

How will the League of Legends Esports World Cup work?

Click to enlarge

According to the report, the date for the League of Legends Esports World Cup 2024 is being pencilled in for the first week of July, when Riot staff break up for the July 4 holidays.

This will apparently see a halt to the regional Summer Split fixtures, given the previous 2023 schedule saw the second half of the season be played out through June and July.

The initial format, outlined in the obtained email, will allegedly see two teams compete from each of League of Legends' regional leagues (LCS, LEC, LCK, LPL, and more), and these will likely be invited by the tournament organisers. 

The current format is yet to be confirmed though, and the lineup of rosters has not been decided.

Esports teams have previously refused to participate in Saudi-backed events, such as Rocket League's Moist Esports, who opted out of the first GAMERS8 event off the back of their RLCS Winter Split Major win, but did join the lineup of teams in the following year.

As for League of Legends, their previous partnership with NEOM faced major backlash from the community, mainly from the diverse broadcast talent.

Jack is an Esports Journalist at GGRecon. Graduating from the University of Chester, with a BA Honours degree in Journalism, Jack is an avid esports enthusiast and specialises in Rocket League, Call of Duty, VALORANT, and trending gaming news.

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