Saudi spending on sport and sportswashing is causing conniptions on every continent, but it’s dwarfed by Saudi spending on video gaming, which so far has caused none at all. The FT reckons the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) has spent $8 billion on video game assets in the past year and a half, paying a premium most of the time because, as one source puts it, “nobody is going to move to Riyadh or Jeddah for the nightlife”. In reality the premium is the cost of soothing consciences troubled by the idea of selling out to the sovereign wealth fund of a regime as compromised as Mohammed bin Salman’s. More than half that $8 billion is accounted for by the $5 billion acquisition of the US-based Scopely group by the Savvy Games Group, which is wholly owned by the PIF. This is diversification in action, but it’s also playing to Saudi tastes. Seventy per cent of its population, including the Crown Prince, say they play video games. No wonder Savvy has been given $38 billion to spend in all. Double that, and Saudi could be in the market for Activision Blizzard, whose purchase by Microsoft has been blocked by UK and now US competition authorities.
Illustration courtesy Marvel Strikeforce/Scopely