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Saudi Government Aims to Contribute $13.3B to GDP by 2030 Through Gaming and Esports
Saudi Crown Prince MBS unveils National Gaming and Esports Strategy.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (MBS) announced on Thursday a new initiative he calls the “National Gaming and Esports Strategy,” which aims to make Saudi Arabia a “global hub” for esports and gaming by 2030. The initiative is a part of what Saudi Arabia calls “Vision 2030,” which aims to open up the country to global commerce, create jobs, and provide various types of entertainment for citizens and international visitors.
The crown prince wears a number of different government hats including deputy prime minister and chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, deputy prime minister, and minister of defense of Saudi Arabia.
The salient points of the plan are as follows:
Create an “economic impact” that will contribute about 50 billion riyals (roughly $13.30B USD) “directly and indirectly” to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product.
The creation of roughly 39,000 new “direct and indirect job opportunities by 2030…”
The production of more than “30 competitive games globally in the Kingdom’s studios..”
To become one of the “top three countries in the number of professional esports players.”
The Saudi government says that it will do this through “86 initiatives covering the entire value chain, launched and managed by more than 20 government and private entities, from launching business incubators and hosting major events for gaming and esports, establishing educational academies, and developing stimulating regulations that ensure keeping pace with the rapid growth in this sector.”
This will be divided among eight areas of focus that include “technology and hardware development, game production, e-sports, additional services, and other enabling aspects that include infrastructure, regulations, education, and talent acquisition, as well as financing and financial support.”
Through Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the country has made great strides in buying into the video games, technology and software, and esports industries.
Savvy Gaming Group, a company fully financed by the PIF, acquired tournament organizers ESL Gaming and FACEIT in January for roughly $1.5B, merging both under the new company, ESL FACEIT Group. The PIF fund also owns 96% of fighting game developer SNK, as well as minor investments in Activision Blizzard, Nintendo, Capcom, and Electronic Arts, among others. Savvy Gaming Group also invested $1.05B in Embracer Group in June.
While some have expressed strong concerns over Savvy Gaming Group and PIF-backed investments due to geopolitical issues, ongoing military operations in Yemen, and human rights issues, it should be noted that Chinese conglomerate Tencent Holdings owns 100% of League of Legends and Valorant maker Riot Games, and has minority investments in Fortnite maker Epic Games, Rainbow Six: Siege developer Ubisoft, and Call of Duty and Overwatch owner Activision Blizzard, among many other major esports-related IPs around the world.
The prevailing concerns with these particular investments from Tencent is that the company is subject to the control and direction of the People’s Republic of China, which has also been strongly criticized for its human rights record, its ongoing issues with Taiwan, and show of military force in the South Pacific, much to the concern of its neighbors in the region such as the Philippines and Japan.