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Qiddiya Gaming and Esports District to offer ‘new era of play’

Qiddiya City Esports Arena

Images: Populous

Qiddiya, one of Saudi Arabia’s ‘giga-projects’ under its Vision 2030 masterplan, has unveiled plans for what it claims will be a pioneering new gaming and esports district.

Qiddiya City will be home to the world’s first mixed-use gaming and esports district which aims to attract gamers from across the globe and cement Saudi Arabia as the “global epicentre” of this sector.

The ambitious gaming and esports attraction will boast four dedicated esports venues and aim to host a year-round calendar of some of the biggest esports events with a combined peak tournament seating capacity of 73,000 across the destination.

Qiddiya Investment Company’s (QIC) board of directors said that one of the new venues will boast the largest indoor LED screen in any esports arena and feature 5,155 seats – making it one of the three largest esports venues in the world.

Creating a fantasy world for fans

Qiddiya City Esports Arena is being designed by architecture and design practice Populous, and will also feature 4D haptic seats where visitors can sense, feel and smell the action taking place in front of them.

Designed to cater to both national and international esports requirements, the Esports Arena is positioned as a focal point for Qiddiya City and centrepiece of Qiddiya Gaming and Esports District.

Populous said the striking design creates an iconic venue capable of adapting to multiple experiences and events. Featuring a distinctive architectural identity, the multifunctional venue will seek to provide a best-in-class experience for players and spectators alike.

Extensive sightline studies have been carried out to optimise seating in the main auditorium for the best views, and parametric design tools have been utilised to refine screen locations, resulting in an innovative ‘digital chandelier’ placed centrally within the seating bowl for enhanced gameplay content delivery.

Populous believes the combination of screen size and 4D haptic seat experience, together with specifications for the most advanced AV systems available, will deliver a fully immersive and ever-changing experience for visitors.

The design philosophy for the arena is centred on creating a fantasy world for fans, providing a completely immersive esports and gaming experience.

The general admission experience includes two concourses wrapping around the seating bowl, offering unique designs and functions. These include a centralised arcade with breakout zones for gaming, a food ‘souk’, retail and an immersive entertainment zone.

This design ambition extends to the food and beverage offering, providing variety and choice through diverse typologies such as self-checkout markets and gaming bars. Many of these spaces can be operated prior to an event or fully on non-event days, with access from the podium, which increases the operation of the venue and its integration into the community. 

Premium hospitality, constituting 20% of the arena, introduces six unique concepts, declining standard hospitality conventions in favour of themes aligned with gaming culture. Populous said “meticulous attention” has also been given to the design of the back-of-house and event production spaces.

Rhys Courtney, senior principal at Populous EMEA, said: “We are proud to have been able to combine our extensive knowledge of esports facilities and technology with Qiddiya’s vision to create a world-leading arena for competitors and fans alike. This arena will be unique in esports in both scale and user experience.”

An esports district

Qiddiya said the district as a whole will host the world’s elite esports clubs, not just during tournaments but on a full-time basis. It will invest in developing “innovative facilities” that up to 25 esports clubs will be able to call home at any time as they live, train and compete.

Leaders from the gaming and esports industry will also be welcomed to Qiddiya City, which will house the regional headquarters of more than 30 leading video game companies. The Gaming & Esports District will cover more than 500,000 square metres, which in addition to gaming spaces, will include 100,000 square metres of retail, dining, residential and entertainment venues.

The district is a core pillar of the National Gaming and Esports Strategy, which aims to make Saudi Arabia, a country where two-thirds of the population are said to be gaming enthusiasts, the centre of global gaming and esports by 2030.

Abdullah Aldawood, managing director of QIC, said: “Qiddiya City is proud to be home to this innovative gaming and esports district, set to offer a unique, engaging, gamified experience to both its visitors and residents.”

Qiddiya City vision

The announcement comes just days after HRH Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Prime Minister and chairman of the board of directors of the QIC launched the urban design for Qiddiya City and Qiddiya’s brand.

Qiddiya’s first offering will be Qiddiya City, a one-of-a-kind destination located on the outskirts of Riyadh. Construction is progressing with contracts worth SAR10bn (£2.09bn/€2.43bn/$2.67bn) awarded.

With 60,000 buildings in an overall area of 360 square kilometres, it will eventually host over 600,000 residents. Located 40 minutes from Riyadh centre and overlooking the cliffs of the Tuwaiq mountains, Qiddiya City will include the gaming and esports district, a speed park track, golf courses, a water theme park, and Six Flags Qiddiya.

The city will also feature a multipurpose stadium. The new 40,000-capacity Qiddiya Stadium is included as one of Riyadh’s venues for the 2027 Asian Cup, with organisers stating it will be one of the “masterpieces” that Saudi 2027 will provide to Asia. In February 2022, QIC reached an agreement for Riyadh-based football clubs Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal to play at the stadium.

Click here to read TheStadiumBusiness.com‘s Q&A with Almamoun Alshinghiti, Qiddiya’s executive director of sports, from back in July 2019.