Saudi Arabia has utilized its Public Investment Fund to invest over $3.3 billion (that’s $3,300,000,000 for the more visual learners out there) in Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive, and Activision Blizzard, Al Jazeera reported (h/t Eurogamer).
This move, undertaken by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (known colloquially as MBS), equates to millions of shares in each company, a decent foothold in the video game industry but relatively small fractions of ownership.
The crown prince’s MiSK Foundation, a non-profit foundation meant to “foster, empower, and create a healthy environment for young creative talents” in Saudi Arabia, also obtained a one-third stake in Japanese gaming company SNK late last year, with the end goal of eventually taking majority control of the iconic studio.
While not explicitly part of MBS’s overall Saudi Vision 2030 plan—which, on paper, is about attracting investors and tourism but essentially boils down to a propaganda campaign hoping to portray Saudi Arabia as a progressive nation rather than the oppressive, medieval monarchy it truly is—his recent overtures to the video game industry follow the same pattern as investments his regime has made in sports, esports, and professional wrestling.
MBS was hailed as a reformer early into his tenure as crown prince for, among other things, giving women the right to drive. But his alleged role in ordering the 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabi’s continued genocide of the Yemeni people (with assistance from the United States and the United Arab Emirates) have made him controversial on the global stage.
Last summer, Riot was forced to pull out of a partnership with Saudi Arabia, which would have seen a League of Legends event promote the kingdom’s incredibly dumb NEOM project, after backlash from the esports community.