Electronic sports is growing worldwide.
To remain a key player in sports after the Soccer World Cup, which it organizes at the In the fall, Qatar is looking to develop the booming esports sector.
Doha, the capital of the country, has a complex reserved for this discipline in 2019, called Virtuocity. Shelved during the pandemic, it hosted its first major tournament in March: the opening round of the Smash World Tour, the Super Smash Bros. international fighting game championship, with 5,000 Qatari Rials (approximately $1,800 Canadian dollars) to the key for the winning person.
Qatar also has an electronic sports federation, which was created at the end of 2021, and the discipline has even been integrated into the curriculum at the local campus of the International School of London as a way to develop certain skills in students.
The challenge: to get Qatari players out of their homes, or rather their majlis, large rooms adjoining houses where men in general meet, and central places of sociability in Qatar.
Our majlis are extremely well equipped, with [sometimes] six consoles on which friends can play at the same time, explains Ibrahim Samha, in charge of electronic sports projects of Virtuocity.
The Virtuocity e-sports center was inaugurated in 2019 in Doha.
We play there to have fun, but if we want to take it to the next level, we have to participate in tournaments, and that's where we come in, he adds.
Ahmed Al Meghessib, 24, made the jump in 2017 to represent Qatar in the most popular soccer video game, FIFA (now known as 'EA Sports FC), and bring the national team to tenth in the world in May 2021.
At first there was not much interest in what I was doing […], but it's progressing, he testifies.
“People understand that electronic sport is a serious thing, an industry that can be a source of income for the country. ”
— Ahmed Al Meghessib, representative of Qatar in the game EA Sports FC
Soccer games are hugely popular on console.
Khalifa Al Haroon, aka Mr. Q, is a big proponent of esports in the wealthy gas emirate who wants to diversify its economy overseas. #x27;horizon 2030.
Influencer and owner of a store specializing in video games, he sponsors content creators and tournaments, and he wants see Qatar become a leader in gaming in the Middle East and around the world.
His program: To make people understand that it's not just a game, to create more local leagues, to encourage studios to settle in Qatar to create original content, working with agencies to bring major international tournaments and showing our companies that they need to invest.
Electronic sports events bring together several thousand followers.
The foundation is there, we have already built it, but we need corporate support to move in the right direction, says Jack AlBlushi, a 35-year-old Qatari-born Pakistani who organizes tournaments game for PUBG Mobile phones or tablets.
Mobile operator Ooredoo was convinced: it sponsored a tournament of the game FIFA (now known as EA Sports FC, as previously explained) at the end of May, with approximately $32,000 in prize money, and launched a talent scouting program to build a professional team.
Among its first two recruits: Ahmed Al Meghessib (on EA Sports FC) and Yousef Al Defaa (on Fortnite).
Are we far from our goal? asks Khalifa Al Haroon. A year ago there was almost nothing. Qatar doesn't stop, they move at 100 an hour.
For Mexican player Chag, winner of the first stage of the Smash World Tour at Virtuocity in March and one of the best Super Smash Bros players in the world, the Qatari scene can grow a lot, and that's a good thing. basis for the world to turn to Qatar.
Super Smash Bros is a fighting game featuring characters from the Mario universe.
There is a very strong push from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, confirms to Agence France-Presse Nicolas Besombes, sociologist of electronic sports, speaking about ;a fairly recent phenomenon that started a little before the pandemic.
It's "soft power" in the raw, as they have done with sport, to improve their image and their attractiveness, he analyzes. The Middle East is also a world that esports is trying to seduce. He seeks investors where there is money.