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Saudi Arabia invests $1B in Embracer, expanding position in games and media

The announcement comes on the heels of a $3B investment in Nintendo

Catan, set up for play. Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has made a $1 billion investment in Embracer Group, a Swedish game and media holding company, according to a report by Bloomberg. Embracer owns Gearbox (Borderlands), Crystal Dynamics (Tomb Raider), Dark Horse Media (Dark Horse Comics), and Asmodee Group — the tabletop giant that was recently purchased for $3.1 billion dollars. The move is part of a general push by the kingdom to expand its investments in the game industry, diversifying its income which is primarily generated by fossil fuels.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) wholly owns Savvy Gaming Group, the entity that made the investment. The move makes the kingdom the second largest owner of Embracer Group. This is not the first major investment in the gaming and media space by Saudi Arabia. Just last month it purchased 5.01% of Nintendo, worth an estimated $2.98 billion, becoming the company’s fifth-largest shareholder.

Aggressive investments in the media landscape such as these align with the overarching goals of the Saudi PIF. The kingdom is trying hard to transition the country’s economy away from fossil fuels, which account for some 70% of its exports at this time. Related sovereign funds have also made investments in Uber, Disney, Facebook, and Boeing among others.

An association with Saudi Arabia is particularly distasteful for brands, especially those who create family-friendly content. The country is known for its terrible history of human rights abuses. It has most recently been accused of war crimes in Yemen. But it’s most high-profile act in recent memory was the grisly murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A declassified Central Intelligence Agency report asserts that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally approved the extrajudicial killing.

Nevertheless, the United States government maintains a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia, including economic and defense partnerships around the world. It is the third leading source of all of our country’s imported oil.

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