Saudi Arabia is making significant strides in the video game industry, with plans to become a global hub for games and esports by 2030. The Saudi sovereign wealth fund has allocated nearly $40 billion to establish a conglomerate called Savvy Games Group, which aims to invest in gaming and esports, diversify the economy, and provide jobs and entertainment for the country’s youthful population.
Despite its rapid growth in gaming, Saudi Arabia faces criticism for alleged human rights abuses, such as the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, leading to accusations of “sportswashing” – using sports and entertainment to divert attention from such issues.
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The kingdom’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, sees gaming as part of his ambitious Vision 2030 plan to transform the economy and reduce dependence on oil.
Gaming is a massive and rapidly expanding industry globally, attracting millions of players and generating billions in revenue.
The Saudi investment also extends to the world of esports, with competitions drawing large audiences and significant advertising opportunities.
However, the involvement of autocratic Gulf states in esports has sparked debates within the gaming community, with some companies canceling partnerships in response to concerns about human rights issues in these countries.
UAE interest in Gaming Industry
The region’s growing presence in gaming is expected to continue, with other wealthy Gulf neighbors, such as the UAE and Qatar, also expressing interest in the industry.
However, this involvement raises ethical questions and trade-offs, as some organizations face dilemmas over accepting sponsorship from countries with controversial human rights records.
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Despite potential challenges and debates, the esports scene is likely to see further partnerships with state-owned companies from autocratic states as money continues to play a significant role in the industry’s growth and development.