Saudi creative industries set to soar

November 17, 2017

SAUDI Arabia’s creative industries received a game-changing boost on Thursday following the signing of three agreements with leading Japanese games development companies and animation studios to train Saudi young people and develop Saudi-created content. The Misk Foundation and its subsidiary, Manga Productions, signed agreements with Square Enix, Shin Nippon Koki (SNK), and Toei Animation Studios at the Misk Global Forum currently being held in Riyadh.

The Misk Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Square Enix Group, one of the most respected and successful video game developers in the world today. Creators of the Final Fantasy series, Square Enix was an early pioneer of online gaming and 26 of its titles were included in Famitsu magazine’s “Top 100 Games Ever.” The MoU will see Square Enix provide training and mentorship to young Saudi games developers through the Misk Foundation, empowering them to introduce more Saudi-created content to the world stage.

In addition, Manga Productions, a Riyadh-based games development, animation and creative studio, affiliated with Misk Foundation signed a new agreement with Toei Animation Studios to jointly produce a number of anime movies and television serials to be shown in both Japan and Saudi Arabia. Toei is a storied pillar of Japanese animation responsible for the first color anime feature film in 1958 and the pioneer of a number of now well-established animation techniques. The two companies have already collaborated on an all-ages television adaptation of the Saudi folk tale, the Woodcutter and the Treasure, which will be broadcast in both countries. The collaboration will enable young both countries to share and appreciate each other’s culture, bring Saudi folklore to Japan and anime techniques to the Kingdom.

Manga Productions also signed an agreement with SNK, a leading Japanese computer games developer responsible for a range of seminal games across several decades. The agreement will see two Arabic characters introduced into King of Fighters XIV, SNK’s long-running fighting video game franchise. This follows a competition held by Manga and SNK in September that challenged young people in the region to create a character and arena for the game. As announced today, the winners were:

• Mashael Al-Barrak, a 22-year-old female Saudi Arabian university student, took one of the first prizes with a female warrior character to appear in the Najd desert region of Saudi Arabia.

• Zainab Al-Lawaty, a woman from Oman, with a character who appears in the famous Masmak Castle in Riyadh.

King Of Fighters XIV is scheduled for release in Spring 2018 and will include not only these characters and arenas, but both Arabic and Japanese language options.

Dr. Essam Bukhary, CEO of Manga Productions, said: “We want to further enhance the partnership we have with Japan in order to create world-class animations and games. This will both develop and enhance the creativity and self-expression of Saudi Arabia’s young people, but encourage greater cultural exchange and understanding between cultures.”

Yosuke Matsuda, president and CEO of Square Enix Group, said: “It is an honor to have this opportunity to offer our expertise to this career development program that will enable young Saudi game creators to compete in the global market with us. We look forward to the content developed by creators who have participated in this program taking off from Saudi Arabia to reach the rest of the world.”

Zhihui Ge, chairman of SNK Corporation, said: “Thanks to the character competition, young people in the Arab world can enjoy the King Of Fighters game they already know well but with characters they can relate to even better. We look forward to working further with Manga Productions on encouraging local developers and content, sharing our visions and theirs with the world.”

Shinji Shimizu, a senior director at Toei Animation, said: “We are extremely honored to have the opportunity to work on the animation with Manga Productions. And, while respecting each other’s culture, we at Toei Animation hope that together we can keep on making great animations, to develop true cultural interaction between Saudi Arabia and Japan.”

The agreement was signed at the Misk Global Forum, which has seen these three leaders participate in a panel discussion entitled Work and Play: Digital Content Is Everywhere alongside Dr. Bukhary. The Forum was opened by Bill Gates and has seen other speeches, discussions, and workshops from global leaders in science and technology, art and creativity, and business and politics on “meeting the challenge of change.” — SG

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