DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Saudi sovereign wealth fund now holds 8.26% of the stock in the video game maker Nintendo, making it the largest outside investor in the Japanese gaming outfit, a company filing said Friday.
The investment comes as part of efforts by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil, including billions already spent on video game firms. The fund has been a major component in the plans of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, himself said to be an avid gamer.
The Public Investment Fund declined to comment Friday night about its increased stakes in Nintendo.
However, the purchase of Nintendo and other gaming stocks entangles the video game companies into the politics surrounding Saudi Arabia and its assertive 37-year-old crown prince. American intelligence agencies believe Prince Mohammed ordered the slaying of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Saudi investment.
A filing to Japanese regulators on Friday revealed the Public Investment Fund’s holding in Kyoto-based Nintendo. Saudi Arabia has been steadily building its stake over recent months in the company, best known for its Super Mario Brothers franchise and its Nintendo Switch gaming console.
The Saudi fund remains behind Nintendo’s own holdings in the gaming company. Nintendo is valued at $52 billion.
Nintendo stock closed slight down Friday on the Tokyo Stock Exchange at $40.50 a share.
The Public Investment Fund did not immediately acknowledge increasing its holdings in Nintendo. It runs the Savvy Games Group, which aims to establish 250 gaming companies in Saudi Arabia and create 39,000 jobs. Savvy Games plans to invest some $38 billion into the gaming industry over the coming years.
Already, the Saudi wealth fund holds stock worth $2.9 billion in Activision Blizzard, $1.7 billion in Electronic Arts, $1.2 billion stake in Take-Two Interactive, according to data from the Nasdaq Stock Market.
The Saudi expansion into gaming, however, has sparked criticism. Riot Games, which makes the popular online multiplayer game League of Legends, cancelled a partnership with Prince Mohammed’s planned futuristic city Neom in 2020 after an outcry from gamers.