Iconic Japanese games developer SNK (King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown) has confirmed a majority acquisition of its company shares by the Electronic Gaming Development Company (EGDC), a subsidiary organisation run by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The EGDC reportedly owns 96.18% of the developer, making it the primary shareholder.
In a report detailing the acquisition, SNK noted that the EGDC had purchased 14,048,218 shares in the company, at ₩37,197 KRW (AU $40) per share, for a total investment of ₩522 billion KRW (AU $571 million) in late 2020. The news follows a major push from the EGDC to snap up portions of the global video games market.
The company also recently bought shares in Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive, Capcom and Nexon.
While the move is part of the ‘Saudi Vision 2030’ strategy program designed to diversify the country’s major investments, it’s also a fairly cynical attempt at ingratiating the country while it allegedly covers up human rights violations.
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In 2021, a US intelligence report concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly approved the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after he wrote a column in the Washington Post criticising the policies of Salman – an order that sparked global ire.
Seemingly ‘progressive’ investments in pop culture properties – including deals with organisations like WWE – have been accused of being smokescreens to ‘whitewash‘ the image of Saudi Arabia and distract from these serious allegations.
‘When Hollywood A-listers, international athletes, and other global celebrities take government money to perform in Saudi Arabia while staying silent on the government’s atrocious rights record, they are boosting the kingdom’s strategy of whitewashing Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s abuses,’ Michael Page, Deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch said in 2020.
By invest in companies like SNK, the country has been accused of attempting to sanitise its image in light of allegations it frequently violates global human rights law. Going forward, those who choose to purchase games from SNK should be aware of exactly where their money is going.