Saudi purchase of SNK 'will have no effect' on games, says Japanese developer
Japanese gaming giant SNK said it will not have to modify any content following its majority sale to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
Riyadh's multibillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund acquired a 96 percent stake in SNK, which is known for producing fighting games, according to announcements in April.
The PIF, controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), has previously invested in a number of gaming companies, including Nintendo, Capcom and Nexon. However, the almost total takeover of SNK alarmed fans that iconic games could be altered under Riyadh's orders.
"For us, we’re just focusing on making games. We're not a political company or anything like that, so it doesn't affect us in any way," said Yasuyuki Oda, a producer and designer behind SNK’s biggest series.
When asked if SNK could add LGBTQ+ characters to its games, Oda said: "It has no - no - effect on our creative output. We have full freedom on what we want to create."
Saudi Arabia criminalises homosexuality and has the death sentence for sex-same activities.
The King of Fighters series, one of SNK’s biggest games, features a female character Shermie who occasionally blows kisses toward her rivals before matches.
"One thing we would say is that our ownership are generally fans of the IP, and they have been forever, so it's up to us what we want to do as far as creating content goes," the developer said.
SNK has not issued a formal statement following these comments. They did not respond to a request from The New Arab.
MbS has used Saudi Arabia’s PIF as a core part of his plans to diversify the Gulf kingdom's economy away from oil toward other sectors including as technology, tourism, gaming and sports.
Over the past two years, the wealth fund purchased Newcastle United football club and Swedish gaming giant Embracer Group, among a number of other international brands.
There have also been rumours the giant could buy Inter Milan.
However, widespread concerns over Riyadh's poor human rights record and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have prompted criticism towards companies accepting money from the kingdom.