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Gamers8 is an eight-week long esports mega festival that takes place in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh. During the event, a special Street Fighter 6 invitational went down featuring some of the top talent fresh out of EVO. After a weekend of group play and knockouts, it was Japan’s Kakeru that stood above everyone else. However, what made this bracket so special is that the Japanese JP took home a grand prize of $400k USD. The astronomical prize pool is second to only Capcom’s own $1 million grand prize at Capcom Cup for the ‘23/’24 year. The purse also resurfaces discussions about Saudi Arabia’s multi-billion dollar forays into sports and entertainment.

As of 2023, the Saudi Public Investment Fund or PIF already invested nearly $40 billion in gaming through the likes of stock in EA and Tencent. However, this latest move with Gamers 8 is a look into what the future of the FGC could mean should KSA continue to fund major esports events. Not unlike their approach to some of world football's top talent, the FGC’s best and brightest were also enticed by an amount of money that hasn’t been seen before in the mostly-grassroots space. 

In fact, getting 8th place at Gamers8 this year would net you $10k more than what you’d receive for winning EVO. At the top end of Gamers8, Runner-up, Angry Bird, walked away with $200k and third-place finisher, Punk, secured a six-figure payday as well with $100k.

Beyond the money, the influence ran even deeper as the casters and some of the desk staff were dressed in traditional thobes and keffiyehs for the final day, before matches casters screamed “yala habibi! (roughly “lets go!”),and the set/graphics packages were some of the most expensive in the FGC. Also, there were no women in the broadcast or hosting team and some of the major sponsors included the Saudi Investment Bank and Saudi Aramco (the state owned oil company). 

Discussions around so-called “sportswashing” by the Saudi government have been ongoing across both sports and esports. In the end, it will have to be viewers and competitors that determine if this tactic is a line in the sand for them. But as it stands, Saudi Arabia and the PIF will continue to break records and offer massive paydays for esports.