The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made some big moves into the gaming space in recent years. Through various public agencies, it made large investments in Capcom, Nexon, Nintendo (opens in a new tab)ESL Gaming (opens in a new tab)SNK (opens in a new tab)and Embracer Group (opens in a new tab). And it’s not done yet: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who, according to many intelligence services, is responsible for the brutal murder and dismemberment of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (opens in a new tab) in 2018, announced plans to invest nearly $38 billion across four separate programs, more than $13 billion of which will go toward acquiring a “major game publisher.”
The investments will be made by Savvy Games Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is chaired by bin Salman, widely considered the architect of Yemen’s ongoing civil war. (opens in a new tab) this resulted in approximately 377,000 deaths. This is how the investment will be divided:
- $18.7 billion for “a series of minority equity investments in key companies that support Savvy’s game development agenda.”
- $13.3 billion for “the acquisition and evolution of a leading game publisher to become a strategic development partner.”
- $5.3 billion investing in “mature industry partners that add value and expertise to Savvy’s portfolio.”
- $533 million for “diversified investments in industry disruptors to grow early game and esports companies.”
“Savvy Games Group is one part of our ambitious strategy aimed at making Saudi Arabia the ultimate global hub for the games and sports sector by 2030,” bin Salman said in a Saudi Press Agency statement. (opens in a new tab) (via Axios (opens in a new tab)). “We are tapping into the untapped potential across the sports and games sector to diversify our economy, drive innovation in the sector and expand the entertainment and sporting competition offerings across the Kingdom.”
Savvy Games Group expects its strategy to result in the creation of 250 gaming companies in Saudi Arabia, generating 39,000 jobs and increasing the industry’s contribution to Saudi Arabia’s GDP to $13.3 billion – the cost of publishing – by 2030.
There is no indication of who Saudi Arabia might be looking at, but it will be a big deal if and when it happens. By comparison, Sony picked up Bungie for $3.6 billion (opens in a new tab)Microsoft acquired Bethesda Softworks for $7.5 billion (opens in a new tab)and Take-Two snapped up Zynga for $12.7 billion (opens in a new tab). The only thing keeping a $13 billion purchase from the top of the pile is Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision-Blizzard, which if and when completed will cost $68.7 billion. (opens in a new tab). That will probably hold the main title for a while. However, if Savvy blows the entire budget on one company, it will surely be one of the five largest.
The question now is, who could Savvy Games Group have in mind? A rumor surfaced in August that Amazon was looking to acquire Electronic Arts; that was finally shot down (opens in a new tab), but having EA in its stable would make Savvy an instant big player in the international gaming industry. Ubisoft is another perennial favorite for takeover rumors, but it’s equally notorious for resisting such attempts, and recently took big money from Tencent, which is actually strengthening its independent base. (opens in a new tab). Ubisoft is also not worth nearly $13 billion: At the time of Tencent’s investment, it had an estimated public valuation of $5.3 billion.