Embracer Group

Swedish video game holding company

Embracer Group AB
Embracer Group logo.svg
Logo in use since September 2019
Formerly
  • Nordic Games Licensing AB (2011–2016)
  • THQ Nordic AB (2016–2019)
TypePublic
Traded as
Nasdaq Stockholm: EMBRAC B
ISINSE0013121589
IndustryVideo games
Founded2011; 11 years ago (2011)
FounderLars Wingefors
Headquarters
Karlstad
,
Sweden
Key people
  • Kicki Wallje-Lund (chairman)[1]
  • Lars Wingefors (CEO)[1]
  • Erik Stenberg (deputy CEO)[1]
  • Johan Ekström (CFO)[1]
RevenueIncrease 10.603 billion kr[2] (2021)
Increase 0.476 billion kr[2] (2021)
Net income
Increase 0.287 billion kr[2] (2021)
Total assetsIncrease 33.752 billion kr[2] (2021)
Total equityIncrease 27.165 billion kr[2] (2021)
OwnersLars Wingefors (24.21%)[3]
Number of employees
14,800+[4] (2022)
ParentNordic Games Group (2011–2016)
SubsidiariesSee § Subsidiaries
Websiteembracer.com

Embracer Group AB (formerly Nordic Games Licensing AB and THQ Nordic AB) is a Swedish video game and media holding company based in Karlstad. The company was established under the name Nordic Games Licensing in 2011 as part of Nordic Games Group and as the parent of publisher Nordic Games GmbH.

The company has acquired several assets from defunct publishers, beginning with those of JoWooD in 2011 and THQ in 2013. In August 2016, Nordic Games Licensing and its publishing subsidiary changed their names to THQ Nordic AB and THQ Nordic GmbH, utilising the "THQ" trademark that it had acquired in 2014. In November 2016, it became a public company listed on Nasdaq First North. Throughout 2018, THQ Nordic acquired Koch Media Holding (parent of Koch Media) and Coffee Stain Holding (parent of Coffee Stain Studios), both of which became independently operating groups within THQ Nordic, complementary to THQ Nordic GmbH. To avoid confusion with THQ Nordic GmbH and to clarify its position as a holding company, THQ Nordic AB was renamed as Embracer Group in September 2019, while THQ Nordic GmbH retained its name.

As of August 2022[update], Embracer Group has twelve operative groups as its direct subsidiaries: Amplifier Game Invest, Asmodee, Coffee Stain Holding, Dark Horse Media, DECA Games, Easybrain, Embracer Freemode,[5] Unnamed 12th operative group, Gearbox Entertainment, Plaion, Saber Interactive and THQ Nordic. Each group has its own operations, subsidiaries and development studios.

History

The original Nordic Games (1990s–2004)

At an early age, Swedish entrepreneur Lars Wingefors began successfully selling a diverse range of products, including Christmas magazines and plastic bags, and when he was 13 years old, he founded LW Comics, a company that sold second-hand comic books.[6][7] He established the business as a mail order company using a 2,000-entry customer register he had acquired from another, defunct mail order company.[6] The company made close to 300,000 kr annually.[6] At age 16, Wingefors established a second company, Nordic Games, which did the same as LW Comics, though with used video games instead of comics.[6] In its first year, the company generated 5 million kr in revenue.[6] With growing income throughout the 1990s, Nordic Games was turned into a retail chain—in the same vein as British video game retail company Game—and opened seven stores across Sweden.[6] The company also acquired Spel- & Tele shopen, a game shop in Linköping, Sweden, that had been founded by Pelle Lundborg four years prior.[8]

Towards the end of the 1990s, Nordic Games was suffering from a poor corporate structure, and Wingefors was asked to either seek new partners or bring in venture capital, though he instead opted to sell the company to Gameplay Stockholm, the Swedish subsidiary of Europe-wide retailer Gameplay.com, in March 2000 for Gameplay.com stock valued at £5.96 million.[6][9] Under Gameplay, Nordic Games failed to generate much revenue; the company tried to establish mobile game, digital distribution and cable TV box businesses, all of which did not gain traction.[6] When the dot-com bubble burst, Gameplay faced financial issues, and Nordic Games was sold back to Wingefors in May 2001 for a symbolic sum of 1 kr (at the time equivalent to £0.07).[6][10][11] Wingefors brought in venture capitalists and reformed the company to only sell newly released games, but the company faced strong competition and finally filed for bankruptcy in 2004.[6]

The new Nordic Games (2004–2011)

Former logo of Nordic Games Licensing (2011–2016)

Wingefors invested the money he had left into a new limited company and, together with potential customers acting as investors, reformed Nordic Games under the name Game Outlet Europe.[6] The new company saw success with purchasing unsold stock from larger video game companies, such as Electronic Arts, repackaging them on pallets in its Karlstad headquarters, and selling them on the international market and through other retail chains, such as Jula, Coop, and ICA.[6][7] In December 2008, a new company with the name Nordic Games Publishing was established as the video game publishing subsidiary of Game Outlet Europe.[8] The subsidiary started out with seven people, including primary shareholder Wingefors, based in Karlstad, and chief executive officer Lundborg, who had since moved to Málaga with his wife.[8][12] Nik Blower in London was added to the management team in February 2010.[8][13]

The idea behind Nordic Games Publishing was to invest in the development of games that would fill gaps in the video game market; Wingefors and Lundborg had noticed that the line-up of games for Nintendo platforms was lacking karaoke games similar to SingStar, which was exclusive to PlayStation consoles.[8] Based on 100-page requirement documents from Nintendo, which included that the game's microphones should be produced by Logitech, and four months of research at a karaoke bar in Watford, England, Nordic Games Publishing assembled a song list for the game and started producing what would later become We Sing.[8] Around this time, Nordic Games Publishing also released Dance Party Club Hits, a dance game that came packaged with a dancing mat.[8] In 2009, Nordic Games Publishing had a turnover of 50 million kr, of which 75% were accounted for by We Sing's sales.[8] For 2010, the company projected a turnover of 200 million kr, while at the same time, Lundborg was looking for new investors in the company to make it independent from Game Outlet Europe.[8] By March 2011, Nordic Games Holding had been established as a holding company, with Game Outlet Europe and Nordic Games Publishing aligned as its subsidiaries.[6]

International expansion (2011–2018)

Former logo of THQ Nordic AB (2016–2019)

In June 2011, Nordic Games Holding acquired the assets of insolvent publisher JoWooD Entertainment and its subsidiaries.[14][15] The acquired assets were transferred to Nordic Games GmbH, a newly established subsidiary office in Vienna, Austria.[16] Several former JoWooD employees were hired by Nordic Games GmbH to work on backlog sales of former JoWooD properties, and Nordic Games Publishing was integrated into Nordic Games GmbH to facilitate operations.[17] Nordic Games Licensing AB, also established in 2011, became the holding company within Nordic Games Holding (later known as Nordic Games Group), as well as the parent company of Nordic Games GmbH.[18][19] In April 2013, Nordic Games Licensing acquired several assets of bankrupt publisher THQ to be managed by Nordic Games GmbH.[18]

In June 2014, Nordic Games Licensing acquired the "THQ" trademark, intending to use the name as a publishing label for its THQ properties.[20] Subsequently, in August 2016, the company changed its name to THQ Nordic AB, while Nordic Games GmbH became THQ Nordic GmbH.[20][21] According to Wingefors and THQ Nordic GmbH's Reinhard Pollice, the name change was undergone to capitalise on the good reputation of THQ's past, although they avoided naming the companies just "THQ" to avoid connections to THQ's more recent, troubled history being made.[20] On 22 November 2016, THQ Nordic undertook its initial public offering and became a public company listed on the Nasdaq First North stock exchange, being valuated at 1.9 billion kr, while Wingefors retained a 50% ownership in the company.[22]

In February 2018, THQ Nordic acquired Koch Media Holding, the parent company of Austrian media company Koch Media, which in turn owned and operated the Deep Silver video game label, for €121 million.[23] Koch Media was set to operate independently under THQ Nordic, separate from THQ Nordic GmbH.[23] To better reflect its holding function and to avoid confusion between THQ Nordic and its Viennese office, THQ Nordic stated that it planned to rename itself.[23] In June 2018, the company issued 7.7 million new Class B shares to raise $168 million, which would be used for future acquisitions.[24] In November 2018, THQ Nordic acquired Coffee Stain Holding, the Swedish holding company that houses developer Coffee Stain Studios and affiliated companies, for 317 million kr in cash consideration.[25] Coffee Stain became THQ Nordic's "third leg", operating independently like Koch Media.[25] Through the two acquisitions and continued sales from THQ Nordic GmbH, THQ Nordic's net sales rose by 713%, to US$447.6 million, in the 2018 fiscal year.[26] In December 2018, gaming business website GamesIndustry.biz named Wingefors as one of their People of the Year 2018.[12] In February 2019, THQ Nordic issued 11 million new Class B shares, raising 2.09 billion kr ($225 million).[27]

Rebranding as Embracer Group and further acquisitions (2019–present)

At the end of its first fiscal quarter of 2019, THQ Nordic acquired Game Outlet Europe from Nordic Games Group for 10 million kr.[28] In August 2019, the company acquired investment company Goodbye Kansas Game Invest (GKGI) for 42.4 million kr.[29] GKGI held minority investments in five startup developers—Palindrome Interactive, Fall Damage, Neon Giant, Kavalri Games and Framebunker—as well as royalty rights to the THQ Nordic GmbH-published Biomutant.[29] GKGI's investments in Bearded Dragons, Goodbye Kansas VR and IGDB were retained by its previous parent company, Goodbye Kansas.[29] GKGI had been founded in 2016 and by the time of the acquisition had four full-time employees.[30] To avoid further confusion with THQ Nordic GmbH and clarify its position as a holding company, THQ Nordic assumed the name "Embracer Group" at its annual general meeting on 17 September 2019, while the branch in Vienna retained its name.[31][32] In December 2019, the company, through GKGI, acquired Swedish developer Tarsier Studios for 99 million kr. The deal included the studio's 65 employees and intellectual property, excluding Little Nightmares and The Stretchers, which remained with their respective owners.[33]

GKGI was rebranded Amplifier Game Invest in January 2020 to better reflect its new ownership under Embracer Group.[34] That same month, Amplifier opened River End Games, in Gothenburg, Sweden, and C77 Entertainment in Seattle, United States; two development studios, each with veterans from game studios of the respective areas.[35][36] Embracer acquired Saber Interactive and its five internal studios in February 2020 for a total of US$525 million, making Saber the fifth direct subsidiary of Embracer.[37] Embracer raised $164 million in April 2020, to be used for future expansion.[38]

Embracer Group announced seven acquisitions in August 2020: 4A Games and New World Interactive which will be under the Saber Interactive unit; Palindrome Interactive, Rare Earth Games and Vermila Studios which will be under Amplifier Game Invest; Pow Wow Entertainment which will be under THQ Nordic; and lastly DECA Games which became the sixth direct subsidiary under Embracer and will maintain autonomy under the deal.[39][40] The group, under Koch Films, also acquired Sola Media, a Stuttgart-based television-and-film licensing group focusing on children and family properties.[39][41] In November 2020, Embracer Group announced the acquisition of twelve companies: 34BigThings, Mad Head Games, Nimble Giant Entertainment, Snapshot Games and Zen Studios under Saber Interactive; A Thinking Ape Entertainment and IUGO Mobile Entertainment under the DECA Games unit; Flying Wild Hog under Koch Media; Purple Lamp Studios under THQ Nordic; Silent Games under Amplifier Game Invest; and lastly quality assurance company Quantic Lab under Embracer Group to support other studios within the company and public relations company Sandbox Strategies directly under Saber Interactive.[42] THQ Nordic CEO Klemens Kreuzer stated that while large number of acquisitions were driven by the individual divisions under Embracer Group, the move represented part of the portfolio diversity of games that the company wanted to have, in contrast to larger publishers like Electronic Arts which have banked on only a few keystone titles.[43]

Embracer Group announced three major acquisitions in February 2021: The Gearbox Entertainment Company including Gearbox Software for a price of $1.3 billion for which it will become the seventh major holding label within Embracer,[44] Easybrain for $640 million which will become the eighth major holding label,[45] and Aspyr Media for $450 million which will be a subsidiary under the Saber Interactive label.[46] The acquisitions were formally completed in April 2021.[47]

The company began issuing additional stock in March 2021 to raise another $890 million to strengthen its finances and continue its acquisition strategies.[48]

In May 2021, the company announced the acquisition of Appeal Studios, Kaiko, and Massive Miniteam under its THQ Nordic subsidiary, which has also established Gate 21 d.o.o. to enable the creation of "world-class 3D characters", as well as acquired Frame Break under its Amplifier Game Invest subsidiary. Massive Miniteam will be fully integrated within the HandyGames organisation, under the operative group THQ Nordic.[49] Later that month, Embracer announced their intentions to build a huge games archive to "embrace the history of games."[50]

Embracer acquired several more companies in the beginning of August 2021, including 3D Realms, Ghost Ship Games, Slipgate Ironworks, DigixArt, Force Field, Easy Trigger, CrazyLabs, and Grimfrost, under a combined $313 million deal.[51] On 18 August 2021, Embracer announced the acquisition of three more companies including Demiurge Studios, Fractured Byte and SmartPhone Labs, all of which will be made subsidiaries of Saber Interactive.[52]

In December 2021, Embracer launched its intent to acquire Asmodee for €2.75 billion, as to incorporate it wholly as Embracer's ninth operational group and allowing Embracer to expand into the board game market.[53] That same month, Embracer also acquired Perfect World Entertainment, including its publishing arm and Cryptic Studios, from the Perfect World holding group and Perfect World Europe, for $103 million. Once approved, Perfect World Entertainment would become part of the Gearbox division.[54] It further acquired Dark Horse Media, the parent company for Dark Horse Comics and Dark Horse Entertainment, establishing Dark Horse as its tenth operating division. Additionally, the company acquired both Shiver Entertainment and Digic Pictures as part of the Saber group, and Spotfilm Networx, a German video-on-demand service, as part of Koch Media.[55][54]

In May 2022, Square Enix and Embracer Group entered into an agreement for Embracer to purchase several assets of Square Enix Europe for $300 million. These includes development studios Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montréal, Square Enix Montreal, and intellectual properties such as Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, Thief, Legacy of Kain and more than 50 others, with the deal expected to be completed in the second quarter of Embracer's financial year.[56][57] The acquisition was closed by August 26, 2022.[58]

Additionally, in May 2022, the company established the Embracer Games Archive, a video game preservation effort, using its library of games as well as from other parties. The Archive was established physically in Karlstad, Sweden, with over 50,000 games already within it, and Embracer plans to eventually make parts of the archive available online for research purposes.[59]

The Savvy Gaming Group, an entity wholly owned by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, invested about $1 billion into Embracer in June 2022, amounting to about 8% of the company's ownership.[60]

In August 2022, Amplifier Game Invest opened Infinite Mana Games, in Malmö, Sweden.[61]

On August 18, 2022, Embracer Group announced that it is acquiring the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit intellectual properties by acquiring Middle-earth Enterprises, which manages licensing rights across video games, merchandise and more for The Lord of the Rings universe. At the same time, Embracer Group announced it would acquire Bitwave Games, Gioteck, Limited Run Games, Singtrix, Tatsujin Co. (which owns the intellectual properties to Toaplan games), Tripwire Interactive, and Tuxedo Labs.[62] The newly acquired studios will be operating under the Embracer Freemode operating group that was created for this purpose.[5]

Subsidiaries

As of August 2022, Embracer Group has 127 internal game development studios and is engaging more than 14,800 employees and contracted employees in more than 40 countries.[63][4]

Video Games

PC/Console Games

Parent group Name Location Subsidiary Type Founded or acquired Ref(s).
Amplifier Game Invest A Creative Endeavor Gothenburg Developer February 2022 [64]
DestinyBit Ravenna Developer May 2020 [65]
Fall Damage Stockholm Developer 2017 [66]
Frame Break Skövde Developer May 2021 [49]
Framebunker Copenhagen Developer 2019 [66]
Goose Byte Montreal Developer October 2021 [67]
Green Tile Digital Skövde Developer December 2021 [68]
Infinite Mana Games Malmö Developer August 2022 [61]
Invisible Walls Copenhagen Developer March 2022 [69]
Kavalri Games Stockholm Developer 2019 [66]
Misc Games Stavanger Developer 2019 [70]
Neon Giant Uppsala Developer 2019
Palindrome Interactive Skövde Developer August 2020 [39]
Plucky Bytes Karlstad Developer November 2020 [71]
Rare Earth Games Vienna Developer August 2020 [39]
River End Games Gothenburg Developer January 2020 [72]
Silent Games Newcastle upon Tyne Developer November 2020 [73]
Tarsier Studios Malmö Developer December 2019 [74]
Vermila Studios Madrid Developer August 2020 [39]
Zapper Games Raleigh, North Carolina Developer October 2021 [75]
Coffee Stain Holding Box Dragon Gothenburg Developer August 2021 [76]
Coffee Stain Malmö Malmö Developer February 2022 [77]
Coffee Stain North Stockholm Developer November 2018 [78]
Coffee Stain Publishing Skövde Publisher [78]
Coffee Stain Studios Developer [78]
Easy Trigger Trollhättan Developer August 2021 [51]
Ghost Ship Games Copenhagen Developer [51]
Lavapotion Gothenburg Developer November 2018 [78]
Gearbox Entertainment Cryptic Studios Los Gatos, California Developer December 2021
Gearbox Publishing Frisco, Texas Publisher April 2021 [44]
Gearbox Software Developer
Gearbox Studio Québec Quebec City Developer
Gearbox Studio Montreal Montreal Developer August 2021 [79]
Lost Boys Interactive Madison, Wisconsin Developer April 2022 [80]
Gearbox Publishing San Francisco Redwood City, California Publisher December 2021 [54]
Plaion Deep Silver Dambuster Studios Nottingham Developer February 2018 [81]
Fishlabs Hamburg Developer [81]
Free Radical Design Nottingham Developer May 2021 [82]
Volition Champaign, Illinois Developer February 2018 [81]
DigixArt Montpellier Developer August 2021 [51]
Flying Wild Hog Flying Wild Hog Warsaw Developer November 2020 [73]
Flying Wild Hog Cracow Cracow
Flying Wild Hog Rzeszów Rzeszów
Milestone Milan Developer & Publisher August 2019 [83]
Prime Matter Munich Publisher June 2021 [84]
Ravenscourt Munich Publisher 2014
Splatter Connect Manchester Advertising Agency October 2021 [85]
Spotfilm Networx Berlin Production Company December 2021 [55]
Vertigo Games Vertigo Arcade Rotterdam / Los Angeles Developer September 2020 [86]
Vertigo Publishing Publisher
Vertigo Studios Developer & Publisher
SpringboardVR Los Angeles Developer February 2021 [87]
Force Field Amsterdam Developer August 2021 [88]
Voxler Paris / Marseille Developer February 2020 [89]
Warhorse Studios Prague Developer February 2019 [90]
Saber Interactive 34BigThings Turin Developer November 2020 [73]
3D Realms Aalborg Publisher August 2021 [51]
4A Games Sliema Developer August 2020 [39]
Aspyr Aspyr Media Austin, Texas Developer & Publisher April 2021 [46]
Beamdog Edmonton, Alberta Developer April 2022 [91]
Bytex Saransk Developer September 2021 [92]
Demiurge Studios Cambridge, Massachusetts Developer August 2021
Digic Pictures Budapest Computer Animation Studio December 2021 [54]
Fractured Byte Tallinn Developer August 2021
Mad Head Games Belgrade Developer November 2020 [73]
New World Interactive Denver, Colorado Developer August 2020 [39]
Nimble Giant Entertainment Buenos Aires Developer November 2020 [73]
Saber Interactive Saber Interactive Fort Lauderdale, Florida Developer & Publisher February 2020 (Acquired) [93]
Saber Interactive Belarus Minsk Developer February 2020 (Founded)
Saber Interactive Porto Porto
Saber Interactive Russia Saint Petersburg
Saber Interactive Spain Alcobendas
Saber Interactive Sweden Sundsvall
Sandbox Strategies Manhattan, New York Developer November 2020 [94]
Shiver Entertainment Miami, Florida Developer December 2021 [55]
Slipgate Ironworks Aalborg Developer August 2021 [51]
SmartPhone Labs Veliky Novgorod Developer
Snapshot Games Sofia Developer November 2020 [73]
Tuxedo Labs Malmö Developer August 2022
Tripwire Interactive Roswell, Georgia Developer & Publisher
Zen Studios Budapest Developer November 2020 [73]
THQ Nordic Alkimia Interactive Barcelona Developer 2018 [95][96]
Appeal Studios Belgium Developer May 2021 [49]
Ashborne Games Brno Developer November 2020 [97]
Black Forest Games Offenburg Developer August 2017 [98]
Bugbear Entertainment Helsinki Developer November 2018 [78]
Campfire Cabal Copenhagen Developer September 2022 [99]
Experiment 101 Stockholm Developer November 2017 [100]
Gate 21 d.o.o. Sarajevo Developer May 2021 [49]
Grimlore Games Munich Developer December 2013 [101]
Gunfire Games Austin, Texas Developer August 2019 [102]
HandyGames HandyGames Giebelstadt Developer & Publisher July 2018 [103]
Massive Miniteam Cologne Developer May 2021
Kaiko Frankfurt Developer [49]
Metricminds Developer February 2022
Mirage Game Studios Karlstad Developer 2016 [104]
Nine Rocks Games Bratislava Developer February 2020 [105]
Pieces Interactive Skövde Developer August 2017 [106]
Piranha Bytes Essen Developer May 2019 [107]
Pow Wow Entertainment Vienna Developer August 2020 [39]
Purple Lamp Vienna Developer November 2020 [73]
Rainbow Studios Rainbow Studios Phoenix, Arizona Developer 2013 [108]
Rainbow Studios Montréal Montreal Developer September 2020
THQ Nordic France SAS Paris Developer May 2021 [49]
12th operative group
(Company name TBA)
Crystal Dynamics Redwood City, California Developer August 2022 [109]
Eidos-Montréal Montreal, Quebec Developer August 2022 [110]
Square Enix Montreal Montreal, Quebec Developer August 2022 [111]

Mobile Games

Parent group Name Location Subsidiary Type Founded or acquired Ref(s).
DECA Games A Thinking Ape Entertainment Vancouver Developer & Publisher November 2020 [73]
DECA Games Berlin Developer August 2020 [112]
CrazyLabs CrazyLabs Tel Aviv Developer August 2021 [51]
Firescore Interactive Mumbai Developer
IUGO Mobile Entertainment Vancouver Developer November 2020 [73]
Jufeng Studio Beijing Developer October 2021 [113]
Easybrain Limassol Developer & Publisher April 2021 [45]

Tabletop Games

Parent group Name Location Subsidiary Type Founded or acquired Ref(s).
Asmodee Guyancourt Publisher December 2021 [53]

Entertainment and Services

Parent group Name Location Subsidiary Type Founded or acquired Ref(s).
Dark Horse Media Dark Horse Comics Milwaukie, Oregon Publisher December 2021 [55]
Dark Horse Entertainment Production Company [55]
Embracer Freemode Bitwave Games Gothenburg Developer & Publisher August 2022 [63]
C77 Entertainment Seattle, Washington Developer & Publisher January 2020 [114]
Clear River Games Klarälven Publisher August 2022 [63]
Limited Run Games Apex, North Carolina Publisher
Middle-earth Enterprises Berkeley, California Trade Name
Game Outlet Europe Karlstad Distributor March 2019 [28][63]
Gioteck United Kingdom Tech Company August 2022 [63]
Quantic Lab Romania Tech Company [63]
Grimfrost Sweden Distributor August 2021 [51][63]
Tatsujin Tokyo, Japan Developer & Publisher August 2022 [63]
Singtrix Los Angeles Developer [115]

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External links

  • Official website
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Embracer Group
Operative groups
THQ Nordic
Plaion
Coffee Stain
Amplifier Game Invest
Saber Interactive
DECA Games
 
Gearbox Entertainment
Asmodee
Dark Horse Media
Freemode
Unnamed 12th group