You might not have heard of Embracer Group, but you’ve probably played something a studio it owns developed. Have you played Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, Valheim, Elex II, or Shadow Warrior 3 recently? Then you’ve been enjoying a game from Embracer.
While Embracer’s name might not be on the box or store page, this European holding company has subtly become one of the biggest companies in the gaming space. If there’s a AA game launching, this studio probably has a hand in it. And soon, the company will be behind major franchises like Tomb Raider now that it’s buying Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, and Square Enix Montreal.
These acquisitions speak to the continued growth of the Embracer Group, which looks like it will become a bigger player in the AAA gaming space in the years to come. While the Embracer Group has fallen under the radar for many people over the past decade, it’s worth paying attention to in the years to come.
Starting the embrace
“Embracer Group is a parent company of businesses led by entrepreneurs in PC, console, mobile and board games, and other related media,” the company boasts on its website. “The group has an extensive catalog of over 850 owned or controlled franchises.”
Embracer Group is a holding company that continuously buys a lot of new studios and IP, making it the somewhat obscure parent company of several notable publishers and developers. It doesn’t help that Embracer Group has actually gone by many names over the years.
Originally known as Nordic Games, the company has steadily acquired various IPs and studios since 2011. A significant shift happened in 2016 when the company rebranded to THQ Nordic AB after acquiring the trademark for, and many assets of, the defunct classic publisher at auction.
“Embracer is the best-kept secret in gaming.”
This might be the most recognizable period of its history, although the company also confusingly had a subsidiary called THQ Nordic GmbH that published games like Battle Chasers: Nightwar and Darksiders 3. The THQ Nordic name got sullied when the THQ Nordic GmbH held an AMA on the controversial 8Chan platform in early 2019.
While THQ Nordic GmbH apologized for this event, its parent company decided to end the confusion later that year and changed its name to Embracer Group. This move kept THQ Nordic as a publishing subsidiary as Embracer Group acquired new developers and publishers like Saber Interactive and Gearbox Entertainment.
Embracer Group owns too many companies and franchises to list here, but know that as of 2022, Embracer Group still exists and continues to acquire new studios and IP through 10 operating groups that it owns. Here’s a look at what the group currently owns.
- THQ Nordic
- Koch Media
- Saber Interactive
- Gearbox Entertainment
- CHILDREN Games
- Coffee Stain
- Amplifier Game Invest
- Dark Horse Media
Companies like Saber, THQ Nordic, and Gearbox have the autonomy to make their own acquisitions, further fueling growth for the Embracer Group. While this approach means that not many gamers will know the name Embracer Group, it is very likely that they at least know of a game made by a studio that falls under this publiclytraded company gigantic umbrella.
Crystalizing the embrace
On May 2, Embracer Group announced it would buy Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, and Square Enix Montreal from Square Enix for $ 300 million. Currently, these studios aren’t under a company like Saber or Gearbox, bringing even more attention to Embracer’s existence.
“Embracer is the best-kept secret in gaming: A massive, decentralized collection of entrepreneurs whom we are thrilled to become a part of today,” Square Enix America and Europe CEO Phil Rogers said when Embracer Group acquired the former Square Enix studios. While that’s a highly positive interpretation of Embracer Group’s strategy, it speaks to how big Embracer is despite its relative obscurity.
Embracer’s latest acquisitions signify its intent to make more big-budget AAA video games. While THQ Nordic and Deep Silver are not unknown companies, they have more of a reputation for producing mid-budget or “AA” video games. As Embracer Group continues to grow, it clearly wants to change that.
Several AAA titles like the new Saints Row and the remake of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic are in development at studios Embracer owns. Notably, Embracer emphasized the AAA capabilities of Square Enix studios’ upon the acquisition.
“Embracer has been particularly impressed by the studios’ rich portfolio of original IP, housing brands with proven global potential such as Tomb Raider and Deus Ex, as well as demonstrating the ability to create AAA games with large and growing fan bases,” Embracer Group said in the acquisition press release. “There are compelling opportunities to organically grow the studios to maximize their commercial opportunities.”
These acquisitions bring more AAA-level studios that employ over 1,100 developers under its belt. Franchises like Tomb Raider and Deus Ex are multimillion sellers, so Embracer isn’t making its AAA franchises from scratch.
A future embrace
“I’m looking a decade ahead,” Embracer Group CEO Lars Wingefors said in a presentation about the acquisitions. “I want to create some amazing new big games with high quality or very high ambitions together with the teams. And what I’ve seen, I’m thrilled about. “
While there is the occasional surprise hit like Valheim, Embracer Group has yet to really have a AAA success on the level of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed or EA’s Battlefield series. Acquiring these Square Enix studios for 300 million is a big step in making that happen.
Embracer Group’s strategy for success seems to be to continuously acquire studios so it can release as many successful games as possible. The more that are on a AAA level, the better. According to the presentation about these acquisitions, Embracer Group has over 230 games in the pipeline across every studio it owns. Thirty of those are AAA titles, and it’s safe to assume that number will continue to grow.
Couple that with its acquisition of non-video game companies like Asmodee and Dark Horse, and Embracer Group will only become more prominent and more relevant in and outside of video games for years to come.
While Embracer has mainly been acquiring studios and IP in the minor leagues for years, it’s a company like Tencent or Microsoft that you can no longer ignore when it comes to video game acquisitions. Because acquisitions in the video game industry are so hot right now, this has proven to be a lucrative strategy for the Embracer Group.
Take a look at everything it owns; you just might be surprised. In a few years, one of the biggest AAA games of the year might have some connection to the Embracer Group. It’s a company that we’ll probably see a lot more from in the coming years.