Saudi Arabia has a strong passion for gaming and e-sports, evident in its hosting of an eight-week festival called Gamers8 in Riyadh. The festival includes a museum showcasing the history of video games and offers crash courses in coding and animation. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is known for his love of gaming, and last year, he announced a $38bn investment strategy for the Savvy Games Group. The national gaming and e-sports strategy aims to promote local game production, with a focus on creating titles that highlight Saudi and Arabic culture.
While Saudi Arabia is enthusiastic about gaming, it has yet to develop a breakout hit that represents Saudi culture. Faisal bin Homran, chief e-sports officer at the Saudi Esports Federation, mentioned that there are currently 25,000 Saudi and foreign developers working on this challenge. The hope is that, with outside expertise and knowledge transfer, Saudi-developed games will have the potential to go global. Characters from global franchises, such as Shaheen from Tekken and Rashid from Street Fighter, provide inspiration for Saudi game developers.
The national strategy sets a goal of producing 30 globally competitive games in domestic studios by 2030. Some Saudi-made games have already resonated with local fans, bringing a sense of pride. Despite some controversy, such as backlash from LGBTQ gamers over Saudi Arabia’s social restrictions, Riyadh’s gaming push remains strong. The country recently completed a $4.9bn acquisition of Scopely, a California-based mobile games company, and now holds over 8 percent of Nintendo through the Public Investment Fund.