The eSports World Expands Through New Leagues in Latin America, Middle East

The eSports ecosystem continues to evolve as its global reach expands. There has already been massive growth in the past two years, but new initiatives in the Middle East and Latin America could be catalysts for a greater transformation.

Dubai Esports Festival
Dubai Esports Festival
The Dubai skyline at dusk. The emirate just completed its inaugural Dubai Esports Festival as it looks to attract more eSports interest in the area. (Image:

The inaugural Dubai Esports Festival (DEF) concluded yesterday, wrapping up 12 days of eSports competitions, music concerts and more. With cash prizes on the table, it drew a significant crowd from the region.

At the same time, halfway around the world, Panama was hosting its first LATAM Pro Gamers League (LAPGL). The event is at the center of an effort to turn the Central American country into a significant regional eSports hub.

Dubai Embraces eSports

The DEF attracted eSports leaders, gamers and fans of pop culture from around the globe. Over the course of 12 days, a solid lineup of live events, concerts, and other activities provided entertainment for tens of thousands of attendees.

The festival’s top attractions included the PUBG World Championship 2022, Initiate Summit and Minecraft Esports Schools Clash. Also running simultaneously was Game Expo, an event highlighting the best games and innovations in the video game space.

The Minecraft Esports Schools Clash had over 600 participants from 12 Dubai schools. Another event, the Gamers HUB ME Regional Online Tournament, attracted almost 1,800 competitors. Available was the AED22,000 (US$5,988) prize pool through a variety of popular games titles, including Fortnite, FIFA23 and others.

In addition, the Honor of Kings Regional Mobile Tournament was the first eSports LAN tournament to be held in Dubai. It offered a prize pool of $25,000 thanks, in part, to the game’s publisher and sponsor of the event, Tencent.

There were three eSports tournaments during the GameExpo, hosted in partnership with global gaming titles like Minecraft and Honor of Kings. Youth gamers and regional eSports competitors grabbed their seats and their keyboards for a chance to compete for prizes of up to $25,000.

The DEF concluded with the championship round in the inaugural PUBG World Championship 2022 Grand Finals. Ukraine’s Team Natus Vincere was crowned the winners, while Team 17 emerged as the runners-up.

32 teams representing four regions participated in the tournament. The goal was a share of the prize pool worth over $2 million.

Panama Sets Sights On eSports

The launch of the LAPGL in Panama City, Panama, hopes to introduce a new era of eSports to the region. The regional esports league, aimed at the general public and the Latin American market, offers gamers a chance to win an all-paid trip to the venue of the Grand Final in Panama, as well as cash.

Hiram Cañizales, a Panamanian entrepreneur and director of the Latin American Pro Gamers League (LAPGL), explained that Panama wants to become an Esports Hub. The league unites the region’s gamers under a single identity, offering a common space for competitions and social engagement.

The LAPGL 2023 games will take place simultaneously in different Latin American countries. Players from Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia and Panama will be able to participate, according to an LAPGL announcement.

The league will feature international competitive-level categories. Each country participating in the league will have national qualifiers open to the public. Players can participate in the league by registering on the league’s platform and competing in the qualifiers of his or her country.

Players 16 years old and older can register through the digital tournament platform GameLobby, an LAPGL product. Each of the participating countries will have two national elimination phases. Through these, the best players from each country qualify for the national final.

For the Regional Grand Final, the national representatives will travel with all expenses paid to Panama for the final competitions. There will be four months of the season, running from May to August.

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