Bloomberg has published an article detailing the Saudi Arabian government’s intention to spend a whopping $38 billion building a ‘gaming hub’ in the heart of the country. It’s an effort to become an industry leader and to diversify the country’s economy, which up until now has been almost entirely centred around oil.
This venture will reportedly be led by Savvy Gaming Group, and one of the first actions on the docket is to acquire or create a firm that could enable ‘new IP’ to be created in-country. Not only that but through heavy investment, Savvy seeks to increase stakes in companies like Nintendo and flesh out a thriving esports ecosystem in Saudi Arabia.
Will Saudi Arabia Become a Gaming Nation?
Savvy has been making massive waves in recent years, acquiring iconic esports firm, ESL, in 2022, securing one of the most steadfast footholds in the competitive gaming community. It’s tough for the esports industry at the moment, and almost every organisation in the space operates at a loss – the road to profitability is a tough one, but Savvy is poised to face that road with a smile on its face.
We are now more of an esports company than a games company. What we’re doing this year is focusing more on game publishing and development. We would like to use those investments to begin to work with these companies and ask how we can work together on publishing in (the Middle East and North Africa), run their esports businesses or develop new IP together,
Ward himself is a veteran of the industry, and his lengthy career has taken him through the doors of Activision and Electronic Arts, among other firms. Reportedly, Savvy boasts a $13 billion fund that it can use to invest in – or acquire – a game publisher, but on the subject of Electronic Arts, Ward claimed that the California-headquartered firm would be ‘too big’ for them to pick up.
In Bloomberg’s article, it was suggested that Riyadh-based Savvy is turning to game development because of a lack of traction in the esports space. No big esports backers are looking to sign up with Savvy – including Riot Games and Activision Blizzard, and that’s likely a geographical and political issue.
It’s no big secret that Saudi Arabia’s base nature has caused countless controversies over the years, and some developers, publishers, and tournament organisers have made active, targeted efforts to avoid operations there. However, speaking to Bloomberg, Ward stood firmly and claimed that he’d ‘hire an LGBTQ or Jewish person to lead a game studio in Saudi Arabia.’
It’s going to take more than a massive wallet to become the next big thing in gaming, but Saudi Arabia’s government – and Savvy – remain determined that they’ll succeed.