Sep 29, 2022 - Technology

Saudi Arabia to invest $38 billion in gaming

Illustration of a game controller with an upward trending wire

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Saudi Arabia's government-funded gaming conglomerate The Savvy Gaming Group will invest $37.8 billion in gaming as part of a controversial effort to expand the kingdom's role in the sector.

Why it matters: Savvy is primed to buy up a lot of gaming companies and start many of its own.

Details: Savvy has earmarked more than $13 billion "for the acquisition and development of a leading game publisher to become a strategic development partner," according to the kingdom's press agency.

  • Another $18 billion is pegged for minority investments.
  • Savvy's efforts are expected to establish 250 game companies and create 39,000 jobs, the press agency noted.
  • The investments are announced by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Catch up quick: Savvy emerged on the scene in January, when it announced the purchase of esports organizations ESL and Faceit for $1.5 billion.

  • In March, Savvy CEO Brian Ward said the group had the largest start-up capital ever provided by the Saudi government's public investment fund.
  • Savvy's ambitions are local and global, with plans to build esports organizations in the Middle East and studios making games for a worldwide audience.
  • In June, Savvy announced a $1 billion investment into Swedish gaming conglomerate The Embracer Group.
  • That's in addition to several multi-billion dollar investments from the Saudi government into EA, Take-Two, Activision, Nintendo and more.

Between the lines: Saudi and Savvy officials say this money is meant to diversify the country's economy, part of the country's Vision 2030 plan.

  • But many critics eye the moves skeptically, seeing them as attempted clean-up for the kingdom's record on human rights, including suppression of its citizens and its support for the war in Yemen.
  • The Crown Prince, who has been implicated in the brutal assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, chairs Savvy's board.
  • In March, Ward told Axios he was "not over there on an image makeover project," and said Savvy's goals were real and for the betterment of the gaming sector.

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