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Saudi’s MBS now owns over 96% of Japanese games developer SNK

April 7, 2022 at 1:41 pm

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 23, 2021 [Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency]

Saudi Arabia’s Electronic Gaming Development Company (EGDC), which is owned by the Mohammed Bin Salman Foundation (MiSK), now almost entirely owns Japanese games developer SNK, acquiring 96.18 per cent of the company’s shares.

The deal, initially proposed late last year, was finalised on 15 February, according to SNK’s website. It follows MiSK’s earlier acquisition of a 33.3 per cent stake in SNK in November 2020.

At the time the Foundation hinted at ambitions to only own a majority 51 per cent holding in SNK. “The Mohammed bin Salman Foundation’s (MiSK Foundation) investment in SNK continues a long-standing partnership with the Japanese company that includes previously working on joint projects in animation and video games, through MiSK’s subsidiary Manga Productions,” a press release stated.

The takeover of SNK is the latest investment by the Saudis in the lucrative gaming industry. Earlier this year Bloomberg reported that the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PFI) owns over five per cent in both Capcom and Nexon worth over $1 billion.

READ: Saudi-backed group buys 2 largest e-sports companies for $1.5bn

In 2020, the sovereign wealth fund invested over $3 billion in US games developers Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts and Take-Two. The former is currently under acquisition by Microsoft in a deal expected to be finalised next year, pending regulatory reviews.

SNK is one of the oldest active Japanese video games companies, alongside Capcom, and is most notable for developing the Neo-Geo arcade system and is behind some of the most successful game franchises including the King of FightersMetal Slug and Samurai Shodown.

Saudi Arabia venturing into the gaming world is in line with the Crown Prince’s Vision 2030, which aims to steer the kingdom away from reliance on oil revenues to a more diversified economy. However, along with accusations of “sportswashing”, it is thought that the high-profile investments in the gaming sector is also a means to improve the country’s image abroad in light of its poor human rights record, the state-sanctioned murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the on-going war against Yemen, now in its seventh year.

OPINION: Accused of ‘sports-washing’, are the Saudis now ‘games-washing’?