Saudi Arabia x SNK Deal Aims to Influence Kids with Japanese Games

Saudi Arabia intends on acquiring 51% of SNK in a bit to influence youth globally, statedly to give more access to Saudi development.

November 29, 2020

Following a string of reports that SNK was receiving heavy investment from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, many were left puzzled. Why exactly is the Middle East jumping into bed with Japanese developers, and is this part of a broader strategy? Following an announcement from the MiSK Foundation (Mohammed bin Salman’s official non-profit), we now know that Saudi Arabia is hoping to gain full control of the company in a bid to influence young audiences.

For those catching up, it was reported earlier this week that SNK was being acquired by Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince. While those rumors may have exaggerated the 33% minority ownership interest that the Middle East country acquired, there was still some speculation on what the intentions were between the two countries.

As noted above, MiSK Foundation (a non-profit political arm of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman) clarified the news following the mixed reports. In a blog post on their page, the Foundation clarified that they currently only have a 33% interest but intend on taking majority control in the near future:

The Mohammed Bin Salman Charitable Foundation “MiSK Charity” announced a strategic investment of about 813 million riyals [$216.8 million], whereby it acquires an initial share in the Japanese games company SNK at a rate of 33.3%.

[The] agreement also stipulates that the corporation will buy another 17.7% of SNK’s shares in the future to raise its share of investment in the ownership of the company to 51%.

Speaking to the broader strategy of these investments, MiSK Foundation implies directly it is to engage with youth audiences — mostly in Saudi Arabia — in order to get them more globally oriented and interested in game development. MiSK Foundation cites current programs to develop Saudi youth and develop and hone creative talents.

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Of course, MiSK Foundation itself is acting as a non-official spokesperson for Saudi Arabia, so there is some broader concern from our staff (and the gaming community at large) on what the actual intentions may be. Saudi Arabia has a storied history of censorship, and their influence on the Japanese market may mean more toned-down games, without as much explicit fan service — looking at you, SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy.

Additionally, Mohammed bin Salman has largely been stained in the United States following the unofficially backed assassination of Washington Post journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi. There is an argument to be made that the ultimate purpose of these purchases may be to help influence public PR — especially with younger audiences — to a more beneficial relationship with Saudi Arabia

In any case, we will keep you updated with any developments from SNK or Saudi Arabia — we have reached out to the former for comment, and we have not yet got a response.

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Lou Contaldi

Lou Contaldi specializes in both reviews and the business behind gaming. He began writing about tech and video games while getting his Juris Doctor at Hofstra University School of Law. He is maybe the only gaming journo based in Nashville, TN.

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