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Artisan Studios Will Open Largest Foreign-Owned Studio In Saudi Arabia

Artisan Studios Will Open Largest Foreign-Owned Studio In Saudi Arabia

Quebec City, Canada-based Artisan Studios has revealed that it will open a new studio in Saudi Arabia. The studio has also promised that it would create the first AAA games in the region. Artisan Studios entered an agreement with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Investment to open what it terms “the largest foreign-owned game development studio in the Kingdom”.

The studio office will be located in Riyadh with a capacity of 200 staff which will include “the best talent in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region”. Artisan Studios has set the ambitious goal of developing “the first AAA console titles in the Gulf Corporation Council,” a regional union made up of UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.

“Riyadh has one of the most dynamic and exciting independent game development communities,” said Artisan Studios CEO Mario Rizzo in a statement. “After spending the last two years exploring the region, we knew it would be the best place to build a new studio.”

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Artisan Studios plans to use the Riyadh studio to grow its global footprint. They hope to become the first independent console game developer in the MENA region. Artisan plans to collaborate with artists in the region to create new IPs that would be exported globally.

“The support we have received from the Ministry has been world-class, and they have made us feel welcome in the Kingdom. We are honored to be the first developer invited to set up in Riyadh and look forward to building amazing new games together.”

Artisan Studios CEO Mario Rizzo

Artisan Studios is most famous for creating Astria Ascending and Super Neptunia RPG. It was also the first company to take part in the Kingdom’s Ignite program. The initiative was launched by the Kingdom’s Digital Content Council last year and raised $1.1 billion to support digital content (which includes video games).

More game developers like Artisan Studios likely to open offices in KSA

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has continued to increase its push to become a leader in the game industry. Consequently, the Kingdom has grown its game portfolio through its Public Investment Fund (PIF). The Kingdom has invested in a plethora of foreign developers and publishers.

A few months ago, the PIF raised its stake in Electronic Arts to 9%. Also, the fund invested in Nintendo in May 2022 when it acquired a 5.01% stake in the Japanese company. It raised its share in the company to 6.07% in January this year and raised it again to 7.08% and 8.26% in February 2023.

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The fund purchased $3 billion worth of stock in Take-Two, Activision Blizzard, and EA in December 2020. Earlier in the year, the fund said it plans to invest $38 billion into Riyadh’s local game industry through its subsidiary Savvy Games Group.

Perhaps, Artisan Studios’ intention to open an office in Riyadh was strategically calculated so that it would get a share of that lot. The series of investments by the PIF is an effort to diversify the country’s economy and end its overreliance on oil.

“We are now more of an esports company than a game company,” Savvy Group CEO Brian Ward told Bloomberg. “What we’re doing this year is focusing more on game publishing and development.”

Western partnership with Saudi Arabia is usually met with criticism

Every partnership between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and any other Western country has been criticized based on Saudi’s poor human rights records. In 2018, American Intelligence agencies fingered the crown prince in the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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Earlier this month, the British Esports Association came under fire for partnering with the Saudi Esports Federation. The British Esports Association was even accused of entering the partnership because of monetary rewards. However, the association released a statement the next day to address some of the criticism and explain the extent of the partnership.

Do you think Saudi Arabia will one day become a video game development hub? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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