Saudi Arabia has invested billions in Activision, EA and Take-Two

The country's sovereign wealth fund invested more than $3.3 billion in gaming at the end of 2020.

Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s controversial Crown Prince, has pushed his country to acquire stakes in three major video game publishers. Recent SEC filings spotted by Bloomberg show that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which bin Salman chairs, purchased more than $3.3 billion worth of shares in Activision-Blizzard, EA and Take-Two. That’s the same fund that bought a massive $3.5 billion stake in Uber back in 2016.

In all, it purchased 14.9 million shares in Activision, 7.4 million shares in EA and 3.9 million shares in Take-Two near the end of last year. Those investments give the Public Investment Fund, or PIF, $1.4 billion, $1.1 billion and $826 million stakes in those companies as tries to lessen Saudi Arabia’s reliance on oil.

Notably, this isn’t the first time bin Salman has invested in video games — or at least tried to do so. Last year, Riot’s League of Legends European Championship (LEC) announced a partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Neom, a divisive smart city project the prince announced in 2017. Less than a day later, Riot called off the sponsorship agreement after the professional LoL community came out against it in force. That same year, bin Salman’s MiSK youth charity purchased a 33.3 percent stake in SNK, the Japanese developer of King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown franchises, and said it planned to take majority ownership of the company in the future.

In 2018, the CIA implicated bin Salman in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Although Saudi Arabia initially denied any knowledge of the killing, Shalaan al-Shalaan, the country’s deputy public prosecutor, later said the assassination had been ordered by the head of a “negotiations team” sent to bring Khashoggi back to the country.