Creating new perspectives since 2009

Saudi Arabia invests almost $40bn to become video gaming hub

April 5, 2023 at 3:49 pm

File photo of the audience at an eSports Tournament [ESL]

In line with its ambitions to diversify its economy away from oil and to become a video gaming powerhouse, Saudi Arabia will be investing $38 billion in the local online gaming industry in Riyadh.

According to a report by Bloomberg on Monday, Savvy Gaming Group, a subsidiary of the kingdom’s sovereign Public Investment Fund (PIF), is seeking not only game projects to acquire, but also to develop and publish its own.

“We are now more of an e-sports company than a games company,” Savvy Gaming Group CEO Brian Ward was quoted as saying. “What we’re doing this year is focusing more on game publishing and development. We would like to use those investments to begin to work with these companies and ask how we can work together on publishing in [the Middle East and North Africa], run their esports businesses or develop new IP together.”

Savvy has already made multibillion-dollar investments in gaming giants such as Tencent, Activision Blizzard and Nintendo. It is the largest outside stakeholder in the latter, having increased its stake in February, and now owning 7.08 per cent, up from 6.07 per cent at the start of the year. It also has taken over two of the largest e-sports brands.

In September 2022, Savvy announced plans to set aside $13.3 billion to acquire “a leading game publisher to become a strategic development partner.”

Responding to accusations of “games-washing” to improve the kingdom’s reputation and human rights violations, Ward said, “We have on our executive team members of the LGBTQ community and women… [and the company would] absolutely hire an LGBTQ or Jewish person to lead a game studio in Saudi Arabia.”

READ: MENA games market projected to exceed $5bn by 2025