The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), the country’s investment group chaired by controversial crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, has scooped up shares in big-name game publishers Activision Blizzard, EA and Take-Two worth more than $3.3bn.
The investments were made in the fourth quarter of last year, and have come to light now in a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing reported by Al Jazeera.
That filing shows the PIF now owns $1.3bn in shares in Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard and $1bn in shares for FIFA maker EA. This equates to around 3.5 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively of those companies’ share totals.
It has also invested $825m in GTA publisher Take-Two, about 3.5 per cent of that company’s total shares.
The PIF also owns shares in various non-video game companies, such as around $1bn in live events conglomerate Live Nation Entertainment. It has a $4.4bn stake in Uber, and a modest $150m investment in NovaGold, a company seeking to mine gold in Alaska.
These are not the first investments in video games from the Saudi Prince Mohammed. Last November, the crown prince’s flagship charity bought a third of Japanese game company SNK, with an eye to increase its ownership to 51 per cent.
Back in June 2020, The League of Legends European Championship, the professional esports league run by Riot Games, announced a sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabian city-building project Neom – before backtracking on the move after significant criticism.
Prince Salman is a noted video games fan who has previously said he enjoys Call of Duty. He has also been blamed by the CIA for the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, while his rule of Saudi Arabia has kept up the country’s notoriously poor human rights record, with homosexuality still criminalised with punishments ranging from floggings to the death penalty.