Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has in recent times targeted the videogames industry, and now owns a slice of many big players. The Saudi PIF has stakes (some of which are held through subsidiaries) in Activision Blizzard, Capcom, Embracer Group, Nexon, Nintendo, Take-Two Interactive and more. Now it’s doubled an existing stake in Electronic Arts, and owns just under 10% of the global giant.
The PIF previously held 16.01 million shares in EA, but now holds 24.81 million–The total number of shares in EA stands at over 274 million, so that’s around 9% of the total. The ‘why’ is no real mystery, as business is booming for EA. Its most recent results showed revenues of $7.4 billion for the last financial year, up 6% year-on-year, with the publisher predicting between $7.3 and $7.7 billion for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2024. In the earnings call EA largely credited these results to its live services performance in games such as Apex Legends and FIFA 23.
Saudi Arabia, for its part, has been pouring billions into games because it wants to make itself less completely dependent on oil. But Saudi investment is always controversial, because the country has an appalling human rights record, criminalises homosexuality (with punishments ranging from flogging to execution), and its crown prince Mohammed bin Salman allegedly ordered the 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi government engaged in extensive efforts to cover up Khashoggi’s killing. The crown prince chairs the Saudi PIF.
Unfortunately, however, money talks. The Saudis have an awful lot of it, and now have their fingers in a whole bunch of videogame pies.