Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has announced an annual Esports World Cup in Riyadh ©Saudi Esports Federation

Saudi Arabia's plans to tighten its grip on the esports bandwagon received a major boost as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the annual Esports World Cup.

From the summer of 2024, the Esports World Cup will replace Gamers8, the Saudi Esports Federation's $45 million (£37.1 million/€42.5 million) festival in Riyadh.

After attracting some of the best players to grace European football to its first division with big money offers, the Gulf State has sought their help to promote the Esports World Cup, with Portuguese icon Cristiano Ronaldo among them.

The event will feature the best games across genres, with organisers claiming the biggest prize pool in the history of gaming.

While exact numbers were not disclosed, the event will be run by the Esports World Cup Foundation, a new Government-founded non-profit organisation.

"The Esports World Cup is the natural next step in Saudi Arabia’s journey to become the premier global hub for gaming and esports, offering an unmatched esports experience that pushes the boundaries of the industry," bin Salman said.

"The competition will enhance our progress towards realising the Vision 2030 objectives of diversifying the economy, growing the tourism sector, creating new jobs in various industries, and providing world-class entertainment for citizens, residents, and visitors alike."

FIFA President Gianni Infantino was pictured along with bin Salman as the event was launched, with the Gulf nation declared the favourite to land the 2034 edition of the men's FIFA World Cup.

Critics have long argued that Saudi Arabian investment in sports and esports is sportswashing, and is designed to cover up accusations of human rights violations.

Criminalisation of homosexuality, women's rights and death penalties are among other problems, as 81 men were executed in a single day last year.

The country is also criticised for its role in the war in Yemen since 2015.

The Esports World Cup is expected be part of the Vision 2030 initiative, and is likely to contribute $13.3 billion (£10.9 billion/€12.5 billion) to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the nation and create 39,000 new job opportunities.

Recently, bin Salman has vowed that Saudi Arabia will continue sportswashing if it helps to increase the nation's GDP.