Saudi Arabia and its crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as MBS) are making more moves onto the gaming market. On Wednesday, Al Jazeera reported that Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), where MBS sits as chairman, has purchased $3.3 billion worth of stock in three massive game developers: Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Take-Two Interactive.
The breakdown is 14.9 million Activision Blizzard shares worth $1.4 billion; 7.4 million EA shares worth $1.1 billion; and 3.9 million Take-Two shares worth $826 million.
MBS' fixation on video games and esports aside, Saudi Arabia's investment in these companies can be explained by their healthy stock state. Activision Blizzard stock is worth north of $100 per share — the highest in the company's history. Electronic Arts has also been on the rise, getting very close to beating their peak of $148 per share from July 2018. February has also been a strong month for Take-Two (owners of the Rockstar and 2K publication labels), continuing a long upwards trend of their stock.
MBS interest in games aligns with the crown prince's vision of a cultural reform for Saudi Arabia, a country long criticized for its poor human rights record. A core part of that reform is also the futuristic city of NEOM, which spearheaded some of MBS' previous attempts to enter esports.
In July, NEOM partnered with two major esports circuits: Riot Games' LEC in League of Legends, and BLAST's Pro Series in CS:GO. The first led to a community uproar, including many LEC talent speaking out against the deal or even stepping down from the desk, and after just one day, the partnership was ended from Riot's side.
The BLAST Pro Series partnership lasted longer, about a month, before it was ended in August. During that time, MBS' mixed-at-best reputation was brought to the forefront, as his reform to allow women to drive stood next to alleged crimes, including the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and genocide of the Yemeni people, on whose territories the NEOM city will lie.
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