UAE is on its way to become the gaming hub of the Middle East with the launch of the fourth season of the World Game Championship (WGC) in collaboration with Etisalat XGames at the Central Plaza of American University of Sharjah (AUS) on Wednesday.
Hosted in an educational institution for the first time, it is a dream come true for AUS Games Club president Yoossuf Al Khanchi who strived to include video games as a recreation for students.
WGC is regarded as the most anticipated video game tournament in the region and is a partner of the Dubai World Game Expo organised by Index Conferences and Exhibitions Organisation Est., a member of INDEX Holding, to be held from November 30 till December 3.
WGC is bringing new activities for gamers at new venues like schools and Gaming Centers that are at the forefront of the road show, in addition to the new games that will be introduced to the competitive arena.
The WGC is officially managing the top two teams in Counter Strike 1.6 in the country - the GameHolics team, which consists of Emirati contestants and the Impulse team which consists of expatriates living in the UAE. Both teams are undergoing extensive training to become professional cyber athletes, according to the organisers.
“The year 2011 marks several milestones for WGC and the gaming community as well. First, we are proud to see one of the leading universities of the country - AUS, open its doors to WGC. Second, we are proud that we are embarking to manage the two best teams of cyber athletes - ‘GameHolics’ the all-Emirati team and ‘Impulse’ the mixed nationality team,” said Anas Al Madani, Vice-President of INDEX Holding at a press conference before the launch.
“These young athletes had a dream and now they are realising what most young men in this country have wished for and I am certain that these gamers will continue to make the UAE proud.”
Ahmad Al Banna, team leader of the UAE National Team GameHolics said he was privileged to be part of first UAE national team.
“A few years ago it was just a dream. There was not even a Middle East country represented in the international gaming arena. However, for the past three years the Emirati flag stands proud in the Olympic of Cyber Games,” he said. The team of five will represent UAE at the World Cyber Games to be held in Seoul, South Korea later this year.
“Etisalat XGames is proud to sponsor World Game Championship again this year as we have witnessed the growth of the online gaming community in the last three years. The championship is a perfect channel for the Etisalat XGames portal as it encourages increased interaction between players and the portal and provides gamers with the quickest response times and a better overall gaming experience," said Maha Muraish, Director of Online Channel and Portal at Etisalat.
“By supporting WGC 2011, we hope to further strengthen our relationship with the gaming community, and help to support their gaming aspirations,” Muraish said.
“Gaming has been there for very long period of time and is a rage among youth segment. With the increase of internet penetration, these two factors played a big role for gaming interest to reach areas that have not been there before,” she explained.
“If we look into how the internet penetration in UAE is driving community to produce or create a massive demand or a hub in the UAE for the game, it is really amazing,” she said.
“We took the decision to sponsor WGC because Etisalat’s strategic vision and INDEX’s goal go hand in hand. What we wanted to do is make UAE the gaming hub for the Middle East,” she said of the $15 billion gaming industry.
“We would love to see more gamers come on board and to use WGC platform to interact with gamers to understand what they need and to serve them even better,” she added.
Al Madani said they have been watching the surge of corporate sponsors acknowledging WGC as a premier event catering to the young generation of this region.
“We have also witnessed the tremendous growth of the competitive gaming community where very few tournaments were taking place around the region. This community has evolved over the past 36 months into a dynamic and energy filled network of gamers,” he said.
“Video games became an integral part of our lives and it is no longer associated with a specific age group, we have seen kids as young as three playing. Last year’s Open Championship winner was a 12 year-old who beaten thousands of PES fanatics of all ages. We have also witnessed dads and moms play and compete with younger participants,” he said noting that there is at least one game console in every household.
“People play games on their mobile phones, computers and tablets, and digital games have become part of education and it is even coined today as ‘Edutainment’. Moreover, games are also used for teambuilding, stress management, and for more serious use such as promotion and simulation,” he said.
Al Madani also announced that they have introduced a Corporate eGames Challenge which will take place in the Dubai World Trade Center at the end of the season to “bring back the good old players to the competition arena”.
The WGC 2011 will be highlighting four PC games and two console games including; Counter Strike 1.6, StarCraft 2, DOTA, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 and Super Street Fighter 4.The seven venue series starting from the American University of Sharjah and ending at the Dubai World Trade Centre will bring three tournaments: the Inter School Championship, The Open Championship, and the Corporate eGames Challenge.
There is total prize money of Dh100,000 up for grabs and organisers are expecting over 10,000 competitors to vie for it.
The WGC 2011 has also signed for the fourth year a Strategic Partnership contract with World Cyber Games, the Olympics of Cyber Gaming, where the best of the best cyber athletes battle it out for the biggest prizes and national pride.
“We are looking forward to the opening event and want student gamers from all around the region to gear up. This is exactly what Samsung is here for, to enhance the gaming experience of the gamers,” Mehdi Zadeh Heidari General Manager, IT Sales Group, said. “The entertainment, the competition, the fun and the sheer excitement is wonderful to see and we are extremely proud to again be part of the growing community of Arab gamers.”
The WGC 2011 is also supported by Puma, Geekay, Stuff, Tahadi and PlayStation 3, and Al Wasl Sports Club. The tournament, which is the strategic partner of the World Cyber Games in the UAE, is held in conjunction with Dubai World Game Expo, Character Dubai and MyContent.