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Saudi Arabia invests $38bn to establish local gaming industry

Plans to work alongside companies it's invested in.

The Saudi Arabian government is reportedly planning to invest $38bn into the country's gaming industry.

Most recently, the Saudi government increased its stake in Nintendo to 8.26 percent through the Public Investment Fund, the state's sovereign wealth fund, and it also holds millions of shares in EA and Take-Two.

Savvy Gaming Group, a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund, hopes to work with the companies it has invested in to "work together on publishing, run their Esports business, or develop new IP together", Savvy's CEO Brian Ward told Bloomberg.

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Savvy is looking to move away from esport ventures, Ward told Bloomberg, and wants to focus on asserting itself as a publisher and developer.

Bloomberg reported that Savvy started a small studio a year ago, with 45 employees. The plan for the studio is to first develop a mobile game, then a console game, according to Ward.

The government-owned company is also reportedly still planning to acquire a publisher. Bloomberg reported a budget of $13bn for the acquisition. In September last year, the state announced it planned to invest £32bn into the games industry, with £12bn of that allotted to its budget for acquiring a publisher.

Ward also responded to allegations of sportswashing, for example its use of esport ventures as a means to improve the state's reputation. "We have on our executive team members of the LGBTQ community and women," Ward told Bloomberg, adding the company would "absolutely hire an LGBTQ or Jewish person to lead a game studio in Saudi Arabia".

The increasing investments made into the games industry by Saudi Arabia continue to be controversial due to its poor human rights record, which includes the criminalisation of homosexuality, fewer rights for women and the use of the death penalty. Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman has also been blamed by the CIA for the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

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