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What's behind Saudi Arabia's decision to host first-ever 'Dragon Ball' theme park

The announcement of the park based on the popular Japanese anime show follows the kingdom’s developments in video games and mixed martial arts.
Graphic of a planned roller coaster, Extraordinary Shenron, at the Dragon Ball Z theme park.

Saudi Arabia will soon host the first-ever theme park based on "Dragon Ball" universe of comics and games, the franchise said on Friday.

Dragon Ball Z said in a statement that the “Dragon Ball Theme Park” will be constructed in the Saudi development of Qiddiya City — a planned gaming and esports district near Riyadh. The park will be more than 500,000 square meters in size and will feature different areas based on storylines from the franchise, as well as rides, hotels and restaurants, per the statement.

Dragon Ball Z is a Japanese fantasy and martial arts-focused anime franchise. It has spawned television shows, comics, video games and more in both Japanese and English.

The franchise did not say when the theme park would be completed, adding that those details will be announced at a later point.

Why it matters: Saudi Arabia is aggressively seeking to diversify its economy per the Vision 2030 initiative, and the construction of a Dragon Ball Z theme park follows other developments related to video games and martial arts. In October of 2023, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), announced the launch of an “Esports World Cup,” which will take place in Riyadh this upcoming summer. The cup has yet to publish a start date, however, according to its website. Esports refers to competitive video gaming.

In August of last year, the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s SRJ Sports Investments signed a $100 million deal with the US-based mixed martial arts competition Professional Fighters League. Per the agreement, the league will launch its season opener in Riyadh on April 26.

The launch of the Dragon Ball Z theme park comes amidst an ambitious push by the kingdom to boost its tourism figures. The kingdom received 27 million foreign tourists in 2023 and revised its goal for 2030 to 70 million foreign visitors, up from the previous target of 30 million, Agence France-Presse reported last month.

The theme park could help boost those numbers. Dragon Ball Z has a significant following in Japan, the United States and around the world. Its 2015 mobile game Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle earned $3 billion in revenue by 2021, according to the US-based market research firm Sensor Tower.

Know more: Saudi Arabia could struggle to get the Dragon Ball Z park off the ground, as previous projects have faced difficulties in meeting their completion targets. In December, the kingdom admitted for the first time that some of the Vision 2030 projects have been delayed past 2030. Finance Minister Mohammed Al Jadaan said that the government delayed some of the projects due to inflationary pressure and supply bottlenecks. He did not specify which projects would be affected, according to Bloomberg.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that spending related to the kingdom’s megaprojects has caused the Public Investment Fund’s cash levels to fall to around $15 billion in September, the lowest level since the sovereign fund began reporting the data in December of 2020. The fund had approximately $50 billion in cash in 2022, for comparison, according to the outlet.