Saudi Arabia has been making significant moves in a multitude of industries, from sports to technology, and web3 is high on their list of investments for the future. Now, NEOM, a key part of Saudi Arabia’s future strategy, has invested a rumored $50m in web3 gaming and metaverse giant, Animoca Brands.
In the past few years, we have seen Saudi Arabia in Western news more and more. I am no expert on geopolitics or global finance, but the general consensus appears to be securing Saudi’s financial future in a post-oil world (or at least post-oil being black gold.) Sports have been a sizable avenue for the country, as we’ve seen with football, golf, and boxing in particular, but there are many other strands that are less in the public eye. One of these, which I have been following for a while now, is web3.
Saudi Arabia and Web3
The Saudi government has been making moves in web3 this year and it’s something I have wanted to keep a close eye on. In April 2023, the South Korean games publisher, Wemade, announced a partnership with the Ministry of Investment in Saudi Arabia (MISA) to accelerate web3 gaming, with a MISA representative adding “This progress would be yet another step further into realizing the national objective of becoming a hub for gaming and esports in line with the National Gaming and Esports Strategy.”
This partnership formed around the same time that the metaverse project, The Sandbox, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Saudi government to support metaverse development. This is likely where the first seed for Animoca’s relationship with Saudi formed.
NEOM Invests in Animoca Brands
Animoca Brands is unambiguously one of the most recognizable names in web3 gaming and a company we have had cause to write about constantly for the past few years. Animoca has invested in web3 projects left and right for some time and sports a phenomenal portfolio of projects under its umbrella. Well, now Animoca has some more inbound investment.
NEOM is difficult to succinctly explain. It is a sort of modern utopia that will be on the coast of Saudi Arabia, offering new eco-cities (do you remember the viral horizontal city, The Line?) and commercial opportunities. NEOM has formed its own investment arm, the NEOM Investment Fund (NIF), which is a part of Prince Salman Jr.’s $500 billion fund. This fund has invested in several new technology companies, and in a recent announcement, revealed one of those to be Animoca Brands.
The NIF strategy is designed to align NEOM’s development objectives with those of innovators and institutional investors, de-risking opportunities for them to participate in creating core global growth businesses and a thriving economy in NEOM. To date, NIF has invested in several technology companies within the 14 priority sectors of NEOM that will accelerate technologies critical to the NEOM project and have a major impact on the future of living and sustainability. Replicated over time, this approach will position NEOM as a model for sustainable economic development.
— Majid Mufti, CEO of NEOM Investment Fund
If the focus of Saudi Arabia is esports, gaming, web3, the metaverse, and the various combinations of these categories, Animoca Brands makes perfect sense as an investment. There may not be a single entity better suited to aid with the rise of web3 gaming in Saudi Arabia.
As for web3 gaming: is this a positive? Yes, I believe so, and for two reasons. Firstly, heavy investment in Animoca feels like an unambiguous victory for web3 gaming as they have been highly active in investing their funds to further the space. Secondly, Saudi Arabia has the money to be a force in any industries they turn their attention to, and if that’s gaming in its various iterations, we can only hope that the money lands in the right hands for the benefit of the industry’s growth.