*** ----> Saudi crown prince seeks soft power in game hub Japan | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Saudi crown prince seeks soft power in game hub Japan

AFP | New Delhi     

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits Japan next week, where he will hold talks on energy while hunting more opportunities in gaming.

The reputed “Call of Duty” fan has launched a multi-billion-dollar push into the gaming sector -- from tiny eSports to game development -- as part of his Vision 2030 transformation strategy for the oil-rich kingdom.

“The Saudi Crown Prince finds Japanese soft power, particularly in gaming and eSports, highly appealing,” said Mohammed Soliman from the Middle East Institute in Washington.

“It aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and builds the kingdom’s soft power in this rapidly growing area beyond Riyadh’s religious leadership,” he told AFP.

Prince Mohammed, 38, known by his initials MBS, will meet Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the emperor on his first visit to Japan since 2019.

When Kishida visited Saudi Arabia last July, the focus was on energy, particularly green energy and decarbonisation.

But this time the scope will likely be broader “as Riyadh eyes partnerships with major Asian powers -- chiefly Japan and Korea -- on manufacturing, trade, and technologies,” Soliman said.

‘Global hub’

Saudi Crown Prince in 2022 announced a $38-billion investment strategy for the kingdom’s Savvy Games Group, owned by the deep-pocketed sovereign wealth fund.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund also reportedly holds stakes in Japanese “Street Fighter” maker Capcom, and US giants Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard.

Serkan Toto of Tokyo-based firm Kantan Games said there was ample potential for Prince Mohammed to meet gaming executives in Japan.

“Japan is the third biggest gaming market in the world, there are thousands of game companies here, and Saudi Arabia already has experience investing and... outright acquiring Japanese game companies,” he said.

“So of course Japan might be on the map for Savvy.” David Gibson, senior analyst at MST Financial, said Prince Mohammed will also want to encourage Japanese gaming companies to invest in Saudi Arabia’s “game development capability”.

But this could be “challenging” as the gaming industry faces upheaval with restructuring and layoffs worldwide, he said.