Saudi Arabian esports and gaming company Savvy Games Group (SGG) has announced a SAR 142bn (~£34.5bn; $37.9bn) investment strategy as it looks to establish itself as a key player in the esports and gaming industries.
The sweeping strategy includes plans to acquire a leading game publisher as well as invest in ‘key companies’, industry disruptors and mature industry partners.
Savvy Games Group — previously stylised Savvy Gaming Group — is an investment group launched and fully owned by the Saudi Arabian government’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), a sovereign wealth fund.
The group most notably bought ESL Gaming and FACEIT, merging the two into ESL FACEIT Group in January, for $1.5bn (~£1.1bn).
Announcing its investment strategy, Savvy claims it has earmarked SAR 50bn (~£12bn) for the acquisition and development of a leading game publisher, which it says will become a strategic development partner.
A further SAR 70bn (~£17bn) will see Savvy make a series of minority stake investments in ‘key companies’ that support Savvy’s game development agenda. Meanwhile, SAR 20bn (~£4.8bn) will be invested into mature industry partners in order to add value and expertise to Savvy’s portfolio.
Finally, an additional SAR 2bn (~£0.49bn) is to be set aside for ‘diversified investments in industry disruptors’ to grow early-stage games and esports companies.
The ambitious investment plans, which seek to build Saudi Arabia into a global hub for gaming and esports, are centred around four key pillars: expansion, enhancing returns, creating a local impact and leaving a global footprint.
Savvy Games Group’s investment strategy will enable and support the Kingdom’s recently announced National Gaming and Esports Strategy. Unveiled by Savvy Chairman Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Strategy is a bid to pivot the country into a centre for esports and gaming by 2030.
Savvy Games Group claims the new plans will establish 250 games companies in the Kingdom, creating 39,000 jobs and raising the sector’s GDP contribution to SAR 50bn (~£12bn) by 2030.
Through Savvy Games Group and the PIF, Saudi Arabia has heavily invested in esports and gaming companies in recent years as it seeks to diversify its energy-based economy, including purchasing stakes in gaming conglomerates such as Nintendo, Capcom, Nexon and Embracer.
But Saudi Arabia’s plans are likely to prove controversial, as its growing involvement in esports is criticised by many as a form of reputation management, or ‘esportswashing’, to distract from a record of human rights abuses.
Tournament organiser BLAST and publisher Riot Games notoriously pulled out of partnerships with NEOM, a Saudi Arabian futuristic city development project, in 2020 following community backlash over the city and country’s human rights record. More recently, some esports organisations have boycotted Saudi-backed Gamers8 esports festival over the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Chairman of the Board of Savvy Games Group, said in a release: “Savvy Games Group is one part of our ambitious strategy aiming to make Saudi Arabia the ultimate global hub for the games and esports sector by 2030.
“We are harnessing the untapped potential across the esports and games sector to diversify our economy, drive innovation in the sector and further scale the entertainment and esports competition offerings across the Kingdom.”