May 23, 2024
Saudi Arabia's NEOM will invest $50M in Animoca Brands



Saudi Arabia’s ambitious NEOM Company threw its support behind Web3 in a big way today with a $50 million investment into Animoca Brands.

The initiative for NEOM and the investment in Animoca Brands, a game publisher with hundreds of investment in Web3 games, is aligned with the Saudi Vision 2030 plan to modernize the country. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, is serious about diversifying the economy beyond oil and steel. It’s part of a $37 billion plan to invest heavily in gaming.

I recently visited Saudi Arabia and saw Animoca Brands chairman Yat Siu at a gaming event there. And NEOM’s The Line was one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever heard about. The Saudis want to build a brand new city, dubbed The Line — in a linear form, not a circular one as most cities have. It will stretch 170 kilometers across the NEOM region in northwest Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea and could eventually be home to nine million people. It will incorporate modern industries, train technologies, and new ways to house people.

Saudi Arabia is promoting The Line at NEOM in Riyadh.

Animoca’s nWay division CEO Taehoon Kim spoke at our GamesBeat Next conference last week, talking about making fun Web3 games with a symbiotic link between Web3 and Web2 players.

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Saudi Arabia views NEOM as an accelerator of human progress. It’s a ground-up project envisioned as a living laboratory. It will be a hub for entrepreneurship, innovation, and a new model for livability, combining thriving businesses with environmental conservation and exceptional quality of life. NEOM will include hyperconnected, cognitive cities, ports and enterprise zones, research centers, sports and entertainment venues and tourist destinations. It will have super-fast trains, and it will be anchored on one side by a port city in the Gulf of Aquba.

An artist’s rendition of The Line stretching across northwest Saudi Arabia.

In a statement, Animoca’s Siu said, “We are honored and excited to partner with and receive investment from NEOM, one of the world’s most ambitious projects seeking to use innovation and technology to redefine how we live, work, and play. We have always referred to the growth of the Web3 ecosystem as the emergence of a new meta-nation, and now NEOM could well become the first region to fully harness the power of blockchain.”

The Red Sea side of NEOM’s The Line starts with a luxury yacht port.

The NEOM Investment Fund will invest $25 million in Animoca Brands by acquiring convertible notes, with a conversion cap price of $4.50 per share in Australian dollars. The remaining $25 million will be directed towards the purchase of Animoca Brands’ shares in the secondary market. This infusion of funds aims to bolster Animoca Brands’ capacity to develop and promote the Web3 ecosystem.

The Line will have a lot of greenery built into it.

Under this strategic partnership, Animoca Brands and NEOM will collaborate to build Web3 enterprise service capabilities with global commercial applicability. The initiatives are set to foster technology advancements in Riyadh and the broader NEOM region.

A model of NEOM’s The Line, which was designed by 10 architectural firms.

As part of these projects, the partners envision creating a Web3 hub within NEOM, nurturing the local ecosystem, and leveraging capabilities from Animoca Brands and its subsidiaries, partners, and portfolio of investments.

The Line is both a vertical and linear city.

Majid Mufti, CEO of NEOM Investment Fund, said in a statement, “We are excited to partner with Animoca Brands to support the development of NEOM’s digital infrastructure. Web3 technology and infrastructure development will not only be an important foundation of NEOM’s tech stack and architecture, but also has potential to revolutionize global industries. By partnering with a market-leading company like Animoca Brands, we hope to accelerate Web3 technology development and adoption.”

Of course, there is a lot of drama around the Saudis. Critics say that the regime of Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud doesn’t respect human rights. As crown prince and prime minister, he was connected to the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 via alleged killers who had ties to the crown prince.

Accepting funding from the Saudis under such a regime represents a moral quandary, as the Saudis have become a big source of funding in their efforts to diversify beyond their dependence on oil, which the world is in the process of moving away from in pursuit of clean energy. Saudi defenders say that all major sources of money in the world are tainted in some way, and accepting an investment from the Saudis does not mean you have to accept interference from the Saudis or embrace their agenda.

But the 38-year-old crown prince, known as MBS, said in a recent Fox interview that he is a gamer and he spends hours playing. Since a kid, he was a gamer and he enjoyed disconnecting from reality. He noted how esports is growing and some streamers are beating Hollywood with billions of views. As such, he identifies more with the new generation, rather than those who are stuck in the past.

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