With over 120 internal studios, 230 games in development, and a massive stable of 850 IPs, Embracer Group has quietly become one of the biggest names in video games. The company, which calls itself “a parent company of businesses led by entrepreneurs in PC, console, mobile and board games, and other related media,” most recently purchased a handful of studios and IPs from Square Enix, including Crystal Dynamics/Tomb Raider, Eidos-Montreal/Deux Ex, and Hitman Go developer Square Enix Montreal.
As Embracer Group continues to expand, many gamers have wondered, What exactly is Embracer Group, and what’s it doing with all these game franchises?
To answer that question, we’ve distilled Embracer Group’s thirty-year history into a digestible chronology, explaining how the company came to be and cataloging its growing list of notable development studios and game franchises. (Monetary amounts are listed in USD$ via exchange rate based on the days those deals were announced.)
What is Embracer Group?
Embracer Group is a Swedish holding company — that is a company that doesn’t produce goods or services itself, rather it owns other companies that do. In the case of Embracer, it owns 10 such companies (i.e., operating groups): THQ Nordic, Koch Media, Coffee Stain, Amplifier Game Invest, Saber Interactive, DECA Games, Gearbox Entertainment, Easybrain, Asmodee, and Dark Horse. All 10 companies operate a varying number of businesses and/or studios, all of which fall beneath the Embracer Group umbrella.
To extend the oft-used familial metaphor, Embracer is the parent company of Koch Media and Saber Interactive, and therefore could be considered the grandparent company of developers like Volition (Saints Row) and 4A games (Metro), which are owned by Koch and Saber, respectively.
So how did Embracer make the jump from a relatively unknown company to a global gaming powerhouse? It began rather humbly, in 1990, when a 13-year-old Lars Wingefors (Embracer’s founder and current CEO) started selling used comics. By ‘93 Wingefors expanded into buying and selling used video games, and by 2000 he “operated Sweden’s largest independent games wholesale business,” according to Embracer’s website.
Wingefors would reconfigure his business several times throughout the early 2000s, culminating in the transition from game sales to game publishing as Nordic Games. The company says the current iteration of Embracer Group started “for real” with the acquisition of publisher JoWood Entertainment in 2011, though its rise to public consciousness is better placed in 2013 when it acquired Darksiders, Red Faction, and Destroy All Humans from a bankrupt THQ.
THQ’s bankruptcy played a significant role in the rise of Embracer; not only did the company purchase the aforementioned THQ franchises, it later bought the THQ trademark. By 2016 Nordic Games was renamed THQ Nordic to capitalize on the stronger brand recognition. In 2019 the company rebranded for the last time, taking on the moniker Embracer Group to represent its mission: “Embrace great companies, great people, and great ideas.”
In addition to a diverse portfolio of video game studios and IPs, Embracer owns household names in board gaming (Catan Studio – Catan, Z-Man Games – Pandemic) and comics (Dark Horse – Hellboy, The Umbrella Academy).
Notable Embracer Group Acquisitions
Embracer’s current acquisition spree kicked off in 2018 with its nine-figure purchase of Koch Media, though as previously mentioned, it began buying game franchises in the early 2010s.
Below we’ve compiled a chronology of Embracer’s most notable purchases. Considering the number of acquisitions Embracer has completed over the past decade, we’ve omitted lesser-known studios and IPs from this list, as well as most mobile and board game developers.
In 2013, Embracer (then operating as Nordic Games) made its first major acquisition, buying Darksiders, Red Faction, MX vs. ATV, Destroy All Humans, and other IPs for $4.9 million from a bankrupt THQ.
After a few quieter years, Embracer acquired German developer Black Forest Games and its IPs — Giana Sisters, Helldorado, and Rogue Stormers — for roughly $1 million. Black Forest is now working on a remake of Destroy All Humans 2, after releasing a remake of the series’ first game in 2020.
A week later, Embracer acquired Pieces Interactive, makers of Magicka and Titan Quest, for roughly $350,000. The studio’s been quiet since releasing its third Titan Quest expansion in 2019.
Embracer’s third and final acquisition of 2017 was of BioMutant developer Experiment 101 for around $9 million. As part of the purchase, Embracer also became the owner of the BioMutant IP, which it planned to turn “into one of [its] major franchises.” However, after a lengthy development, the action-RPG was released in 2021 to middling reviews.
Embracer’s first nine-figure acquisition came in early 2018 when it bought Koch Media/Deep Silver for $150 million. As part of the deal, Embracer became the owner of Dambuster Studios (Dead Island 2, Homefront: The Revolution), Fish Labs (Chorus), and Volition (Saints Row, Red Faction).
The company followed up on that massive purchase by acquiring two IPs — Timesplitters and Kingdom of Amalur — for undisclosed amounts. The stylish first-person shooter series Timesplitters was created by Free Radical Design, which would go on to become Crytek UK in 2009 before folding into Deep Silver Dambuster in 2019. However, in 2021, studio founders Steve Ellis and David Doak reformed Free Radical to create a new Timesplitters. Kingdom of Amalur, meanwhile, was remastered in 2020 as Kingdom of Amalur: Re-Reckoning.
Embracer then acquired Coffee Stain for ~$34.7 million. The company came into the Embracer fold along with the Goat Simulator and Satisfactory IPs. Coffee Stain is now one of Embracer’s 10 operating groups, alongside Koch Media, THQ Nordic, Gearbox, and others. The company also published the 2021 PC hit Valheim, though developer Iron Gate Studio remains independent.
The same day Embracer acquired Coffee Stain, it purchased Bugbear Entertainment, the racing-focused studio behind Wreckfest, for an undisclosed amount.
Embracer’s first acquisition of 2019 was the $37.5 million purchase of Warhorse Studios, the developer behind the immersive RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Warhorse is now working with Saber Interactive, another Embracer-owned company, on a Switch port of Kingdom Come.
ELEX 2 developer Piranha Bytes was acquired by Embracer that May for an undisclosed amount. As part of the deal, Embracer also obtained the Gothic and Risen IPs.
Embracer then expanded its racing portfolio with the $50 million purchase of Milestone in 2019. The Italian developer most recently released the excellent Hot Wheels Unleashed in 2021. Its other notable racing series include MotoGP, Ride, and Monster Energy Supercross.
Six years after acquiring the Darksiders IP, Embracer bought the series’ current developer, Gunfire Games, for an undisclosed amount. Outside of the Darksiders series, Gunfire found success with its Dark Souls-inspired shooter Remnant: From the Ashes.
Little Nightmares developer Tarsier Studio was the final studio to be embraced in 2019. The studio, acquired for $10.5 million, is now focused on creating new IPs, as Bandai Namco owns Little Nightmares. With the sale, Embracer also obtained the rights to Tarsier’s previous puzzle-solving VR game, Statik.
Saber Interactive became Embracer’s fifth operating group when it was purchased for $150 million in early 2019. (While the upfront purchase price was $150 million, the deal has the potential to climb to $525 million based on performance goals.) Saber is best known for its ports and remasters (The Witcher 3 for Switch, Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary), though it also found success creating its own game with World War Z. It’s now working on Evil Dead: The Game, due out May 13, as well as Warhammer 40k: Space Marine 2.
Embracer then acquired developer 4A Games, its proprietary game engine, and the Metro IP for $36 million, though the deal could be worth as much as $71 million based on performance milestones. The studio most recently released Metro Exodus in 2019.
The same day Embracer acquired 4A, it picked up New World Interactive, the studio behind the multiplayer FPS series Insurgency, for an undisclosed amount.
Embracer also expanded its VR presence in 2020 with the $59 million purchase of Arizona Sunshine developer Vertigo Games.
It followed that up by acquiring 13 studios in a single day, including Pinball FX developer Zen Studios, SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated developer Purple Lamp Studios, and Shadow Warrior 3 developer Flying Wild Hog. Of those three acquisitions, only the purchase price of Flying Wild Hog was disclosed ($137 million).
Embracer kicked off 2021 with its biggest purchase to date, acquiring Borderlands developer Gearbox for $363 million upfront, with incentives that could make the deal worth as much as $1.3 billion. Gearbox was made Embracer’s seventh operating group upon its acquisition. Regarding Borderlands, 2K will still publish “all of the known and planned” games in the series, though the IP is owned by Gearbox/Embracer.
Alongside Gearbox, Embracer announced its $100 million acquisition of developer-publisher Aspyr Media in February 2021. The acclaimed port studio has worked on several Star Wars games, including the upcoming Knights of the Old Republic Remake. The deal could end up being worth as much as $450 million.
Two years after acquiring Deep Rock Galactic publisher Coffee Stain, Embracer purchased the game’s developer, Ghost Ship Games. Ghost Ship was one of eight acquisitions Embracer announced on August 5, 2021, alongside DigixArt (Road 96), Splitgate Ironworks (Ghostrunner), and 3D Realms (Duke Nukem Forever). While individual prices weren’t disclosed, Embracer announced the collective total of that day’s eight acquisitions was $313 million.
Perfect World Entertainment and its subsidiary Cryptic Studios joined Embracer in December 2021 at the cost of $125 million. Cryptic is best known for its work on MMORPGs, including Star Trek Online and the D&D-based Neverwinter. Perfect World has rebranded to Gearbox Publishing since being acquired.
This brings us to 2022 and Embracer’s latest set of acquisitions, which came courtesy of Square Enix, who dealt Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montreal, and Square Enix Montreal to Embracer for $300 million. Also included in that deal were a number of notable Square IPs, including Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, Legacy of Kain, and Thief.
The acquisition came less than a month after Crystal Dynamics announced it was working on a new Tomb Raider using Unreal Engine 5. Eidos-Montreal, meanwhile, is “working on a host of AAA projects including both new releases from beloved franchises and original IP.”
For more on Embracer’s latest acquisition, you can read our op-ed on why Square Enix’s sale could be a good thing. “At the very least, [Hitman developer] IO’s independence from Square certainly offers a cautiously optimistic tale of what could happen,” writes IGN’s Jonathon Dornbush, “though we won’t fully understand how these teams truly succeed or fail for at least another couple of years.”