UAE: World's best esports players battle it out for $500,000 prize

The Blast Premier World Final was hosted in Abu Dhabi for the second consecutive year, with plenty of off-stage entertainment and activities too

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Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Mon 18 Dec 2023, 4:05 PM

Last updated: Mon 18 Dec 2023, 11:05 PM

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena roared to life with a high-energy atmosphere during the Blast Premier World Final – a prestigious Tier One global esports tournament offering a $1 million prize pool.

The world’s best gaming teams entertained passionate supporters with thrilling displays of Counter-Strike action. In the end, Team Vitality from France, claimed the top prize of $500,000 with an emphatic win over the US’ Faze Clan.

“It’s a good feeling to play at the Etihad Arena in front of a lot of people. It was an amazing atmosphere. It was kind for everyone to come and enjoy the show,” Team Vitality captain Dan ‘apEX’ Madesclaire told Khaleej Times as huge crowds filled the Arena on Yas Island.

The final was hosted in Abu Dhabi for the second consecutive year, and it was a bigger edition with plenty of off-stage entertainment and activities too.

Madesclaire noted that Abu Dhabi has been an ideal place to host the esports tournament final this winter.

“It’s zero degrees right now in Europe. So, coming here, certainly, this is the best place. We like to be in flip-flops, shorts, and T-shirts because back home we cannot do that. And then, of course, everything has been well here. Everyone is kind and we just enjoy it so much to be here,” he said as Team Vitality nailed a thrilling encounter to end the year as the world’s best Counter-Strike team.

This was Team Vitality’s second consecutive title following the Spring Fall triumph in Copenhagen.

“We played some good Counter-Strike. We will now keep going for the New Year.”

The final day also saw India’s True Rippers Esports come out on top against Pakistan’s Team WahWah in the Showmatch encounter where each team included two elite esports Blast Premier players in their ranks. “It was a great experience. It was fun to play with the professional players. It was a dream come true moment,” Hamad Chowdhury of True Rippers noted.

The tournament was organised by Blast, a global esports tournament organiser, in partnership with AD Gaming, an Abu Dhabi Government gaming initiative, and attracted the best eight sides in the world in the five-day event.

Among the several side activities was an expanded Blast Zone hosting tournaments where amateurs could compete for a prize pool of Dh40,000. The platform provided an opportunity for visitors to understand more about the thriving gaming industry that is expected to grow to $5 billion by 2025 in the Mena region. According to research by Statista, almost half of esports gamers in the UAE last year were aged between 25 to 34-year-olds while 91 per cent of UAE residents between 18 and 64 said they play games at least occasionally.

Andrew Haworth, programme director of Blast Premier World Final, is thrilled to have raised the bar by delivering yet another successful edition.

“It was fantastic to see thousands of adults and children of different nationalities and ages, as well as students and families coming together to see through their own eyes how exciting esports, as well as the opportunities gaming, can offer.”

This year’s final is the first edition since AD Gaming integrated with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi. AD Gaming has boosted the expansion of the region's gaming industry, offering career opportunities to aspiring talent and producing world-class content in the emirate.

James Hartt, gaming and digital development department director of AD Gaming, the Blast Final is the pinnacle of the Counter-Strike season.

“It’s very fitting that it was held in Abu Dhabi again as the event is one that everyone enjoys every year. At AD Gaming, we are doing so much work at grass-roots to take esports to the next level. More teams are moving here while creating opportunities for local and international teams as well as at community level.”

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