Saudi Arabia is continuing its plans to diversify its economy, with a strong focus on the gaming scene. As part of this effort, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman revealed that he aims to develop 30 competitive games in the country by 2030, thereby strengthening the region’s esports scene.
It’s not yet clear what those games will look like, but the Crown Prince hopes the releases will push Saudi Arabia to become one of the “top three countries for esports players.” Current statistics suggest the top three are the United States, China and Russia, with Saudi Arabia not even making the list.
As reported by Arab News, the announcement was made by state media and makes it clear that the country’s crown prince aims to double down on recent investments in the gambling industry.
“The national gaming and esports strategy is driven by the creativity and energy of our citizens and gamers, who are at the heart of the strategy,” Mohammed bin Salman said during the announcement. He hopes the initiative will create 39,000 jobs.
The report also claims that Saudi Arabia has “more than 500 professional players signed under official contracts”. If true, that would put the country just below Japan in player count, making it roughly 11th in the world.
However, no matter how much money is invested, the country is unlikely to realize its esports aspirations without opposition. As we have seen with traditional sports, holding Esports events in Saudi Arabia is likely to be controversial. As Amnesty International reported, those who criticize government policy still risk prison sentences of up to 20 years. The organization also states that, despite the Saudi government’s claims to the contrary, women still face discrimination in “marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody”. LGBTQ+ rights are also virtually non-existent in Saudi Arabia, with same-sex sexual activity punishable by death. This may prove problematic for queer and trans Esports players.
Despite this, investments are still underway. More recently, the Saudi state purchased a $1 billion stake in Embracer Group. He also owns a 5% stake in Nintendo, and even a staggering 96% of SNK.
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