When you think about powerhouse gaming nations, the United States and South Korea immediately come to mind, with both featuring a number of high-profile esports teams, as well as playing host to a myriad game developers and studios. You’d be forgiven though for excluding Saudi Arabia in that discussion, but that could change in coming years as the Middle Eastern nation has been investing heavily in gaming in 2020.
According to an SEC filing unearthed by Bloomberg, an estimated $3.3 billion was invested in 2020, with the strategy taken by the nation being quite specific.
To that end it has acquired sizeable shares in three game studios – Activision-Blizzard, EA and Take-Two – all of which have a wide variety of titles in their respective stables, but there is a clear focus on studios with games that have large global player bases, along with esports-focused offerings.
Bloomberg adds that 14.9 million shares in Activision, 7.4 million shares in EA and 3.9 million shares in Take-Two were purchased last year.
The investment comes via the Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund, which seems fairly innocuous, but the instruction to invest specifically in the gaming industry comes from the country’s divisive leader, Mohamed bin Salman, who has been at the centre of a few international controversies. Most notable of which was his implication by the CIA in the death of of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
As Engadget points out, Saudi Arabia has a recent history of trying to get involved in gaming, with its smart city project called Neom, partnering with Riot’s League of Legends Championship last year, only to call off the partnership a day later due to growing outcries from fans over the deal.
Now that we now that we know just how big a stake the bin Salman-backed fund has in these three studios, will there be a similar outcry from fans?
That remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Saudi Arabia’s interest in the world of gaming won’t die down anytime soon.
[Image – CC0 Pixabay]