Embracer Group
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Embracer Group

Embracer Group AB
Formerly
  • Nordic Games Licensing AB (2011-2016)
  • THQ Nordic AB (2016-2019)
TypePublic
Nasdaq StockholmEMBRAC B
ISINSE0013121589
IndustryVideo games
Founded2011; 11 years ago (2011)
FounderLars Wingefors
Headquarters,
Sweden
Key people
RevenueIncrease 10.603 billion kr[2] (2021)
Increase 0.476 billion kr[2] (2021)
Increase 0.287 billion kr[2] (2021)
Increase 33.752 billion kr[2] (2021)
Increase 27.165 billion kr[2] (2021)
Owners
  • Lars Wingefors (35.1%)[1]
  • Erik Stenberg (7.61%)[1]
Number of employees
12,150+[3] (2021)
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 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 acquired several assets from defunct publishers, starting 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, the company 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 Embracer Group in September 2019, while THQ Nordic GmbH retained its name.

As of December 2021, Embracer Group has ten operative groups as its direct subsidiaries: Amplifier Game Invest, Asmodee, Coffee Stain Holding, Dark Horse Media, DECA Games, Easybrain, Gearbox Entertainment, Koch Media, 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.[4][5] 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.[4] The company made close to 300,000 kr annually.[4] 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.[4] In its first year, the company generated 5 million kr in revenue.[4] 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.[4] The company also acquired Spel- & Tele shopen, a game shop in Linköping, Sweden, that had been founded by Pelle Lundborg four years prior.[6]

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 GB£5.96 million.[4][7] 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.[4] 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 GB£0.07).[4][8][9] 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.[4]

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.[4] 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.[4][5] In December 2008, a new company with the name Nordic Games Publishing was established as the video game publishing subsidiary of Game Outlet Europe.[6] 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.[6][10] Nik Blower in London was added to the management team in February 2010.[6][11]

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.[6] 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.[6] Around this time, Nordic Games Publishing also released Dance Party Club Hits, a dance game that came packaged with a dancing mat.[6] In 2009, Nordic Games Publishing had a turnover of 50 million kr, of which 75% were accounted for by We Sing sales.[6] 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.[6] 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.[4]

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.[12][13] The acquired assets were transferred to Nordic Games GmbH, a newly established subsidiary office in Vienna, Austria.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16][17] In April 2013, Nordic Games Licensing acquired several assets of bankrupt publisher THQ to be managed by Nordic Games GmbH.[16]

In June 2014, Nordic Games Licensing acquired the "THQ" trademark, intending to use the name as a publishing label for its THQ properties.[18] Subsequently, in August 2016, the company changed its name to THQ Nordic AB, while Nordic Games GmbH became THQ Nordic GmbH.[18][19] 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.[18] 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.[20]

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 EUR121 million.[21] Koch Media was set to operate independently under THQ Nordic, separate from THQ Nordic GmbH.[21] 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.[21] In June 2018, the company issued 7.7 million new Class B shares to raise $168 million, which would be used for future acquisitions.[22] 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.[23] Coffee Stain became THQ Nordic's "third leg", operating independently like Koch Media.[23] 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.[24] In December 2018, gaming business website GamesIndustry.biz named Wingefors as one of their People of the Year 2018.[10] In February 2019, THQ Nordic issued 11 million new Class B shares, raising 2.09 billion kr ($225 million).[25]

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.[26] In August 2019, the company acquired investment company Goodbye Kansas Game Invest (GKGI) for 42.4 million kr.[27] 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.[27] GKGI's investments in Bearded Dragons, Goodbye Kansas VR and IGDB were retained by its previous parent company, Goodbye Kansas.[27] GKGI had been founded in 2016 and by the time of the acquisition had four full-time employees.[28] 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.[29][30] 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.[31]

GKGI was rebranded Amplifier Game Invest in January 2020 to better reflect its new ownership under Embracer Group.[32] 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.[33][34] 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.[35] Embracer raised $164 million in April 2020, to be used for future expansion.[36]

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.[37][38] The group, under Koch Films, also acquired Sola Media, a Stuttgart-based television-and-film licensing group focusing on children and family properties.[37][39] 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.[40] 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.[41]

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,[42] Easybrain for $640 million which will become the eighth major holding label,[43] and Aspyr Media for $450 million which will be a subsidiary under the Saber Interactive label.[44] The acquisitions were formally completed in April 2021.[45]

The company began issuing additional stock in March 2021 as to raise another $890 million for strengthening its finances and continue its acquisition strategies.[46]

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.[47] Later that month, Embracer announced their intentions to build a huge games archive to "embrace the history of games."[48]

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.[49] In 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.[50]

In December 2021, Embracer launched its intent to acquire Asmodee for EUR2.75 billion, as to incorporate it wholly as Embracer's ninth operational group and allowing Embracer to expand into the board game market.[51] 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.[52] 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 Sabre group, and Spotfilm Networx, a German video-on-demand service, as part of Koch Media.[53][52]

Subsidiaries

As of December 2021, Embracer Group has ten operative groups consisting of 111 internal studios and publishers and the overall group had a total of about 12,150 employees in 45 different countries.[54][35][55]

Parent group Name Location Founded or acquired Ref(s).
Amplifier Game Invest C77 Entertainment Seattle January 2020 [56]
DestinyBit Ravenna May 2020 [57]
Fall Damage Stockholm 2017 [58]
Frame Break Skövde May 2021 [47]
Framebunker Copenhagen 2019 [58]
Goose Byte Montreal October 2021 [59]
Green Tile Digital Skövde December 2021 [60]
Kavalri Games Stockholm 2019 [58]
Misc Games Stavanger 2019 [61]
Palindrome Interactive Skövde August 2020 [37]
Plucky Bytes Karlstad November 2020 [62]
Rare Earth Games Vienna August 2020 [37]
River End Games Gothenburg January 2020 [63]
Silent Games Newcastle upon Tyne November 2020 [64]
Tarsier Studios Malmö December 2019 [65]
Vermilia Studios Madrid August 2020 [37]
Zapper Games Raleigh, North Carolina October 2021 [66]
Asmodee Guyancourt, France December 2021 [51]
Coffee Stain Holding Box Dragon Gothenburg August 2021 [67]
Coffee Stain North Stockholm November 2018 [68]
Coffee Stain Publishing Skövde
Coffee Stain Studios [68]
Easy Trigger Trollhättan August 2021 [49]
Ghost Ship Games Copenhagen August 2021 [49]
Lavapotion Gothenburg November 2018 [68]
Dark Horse Media Dark Horse Comics Milwaukie, Oregon December 2021 [53]
Dark Horse Entertainment December 2021 [53]
DECA Games A Thinking Ape Entertainment Vancouver November 2020 [64]
CrazyLabs Israel August 2021 [49]
IUGO Mobile Entertainment Vancouver November 2020 [64]
Jufeng Studio Beijing October 2021 [69]
Easybrain Limassol April 2021 [43]
Gearbox Entertainment Gearbox Publishing Frisco, Texas April 2021 [42]
Gearbox Software
Gearbox Studio Québec Quebec City
Gearbox Studio Montreal Montreal August 2021 [70]
Perfect World Entertainment Cryptic Studios Redwood City, California December 2021 [52]
Koch Media Deep Silver Dambuster Studios Nottingham February 2018 [71]
Fishlabs Hamburg February 2018 [71]
Free Radical Design Nottingham May 2021 [72]
Volition Champaign, Illinois February 2018 [71]
Warhorse Studios Prague February 2019 [73]
DigixArt Montpellier August 2021 [49]
Flying Wild Hog Warsaw November 2020 [64]
Milestone srl Milan August 2019 [74]
Prime Matter Munich June 2021 [75]
Spotfilm Networkx December 2021 [53]
Vertigo Games Vertigo Arcade Rotterdam / Los Angeles September 2020 [76]
Vertigo Publishing
Vertigo Studios
Force Field Amsterdam August 2021 [77]
Ravenscourt Voxler Paris / Marseille February 2020 [78]
Saber Interactive 34BigThings Turin November 2020 [64]
3D Realms Aalborg August 2021 [49]
4A Games Sliema August 2020 [37]
Aspyr Austin, Texas April 2021 [44]
Bytex Saransk September 2021 [79]
Demiurge Studios Cambridge, Massachusetts August 2021
Digic Pictures Budapest December 2021 [52]
Fractured Byte Estonia August 2021
Mad Head Games Belgrade November 2020 [64]
New World Interactive Denver August 2020 [37]
Nimble Giant Entertainment Buenos Aires November 2020 [64]
Shiver Entertainment Miami December 2021 [53]
Slipgate Ironworks Aalborg August 2021 [49]
SmartPhone Labs Russia
Snapshot Games Sofia November 2020 [64]
Zen Studios Budapest [64]
THQ Nordic Alkimia Interactive Barcelona 2018 [80][81]
Appeal Studios Belgium May 2021 [47]
Ashborne Games Brno November 2020 [82]
Black Forest Games Offenburg August 2017 [83]
Bugbear Entertainment Helsinki November 2018 [68]
Experiment 101 Stockholm November 2017 [84]
Gate 21 d.o.o. Sarajevo May 2021 [47]
Grimlore Games Munich December 2013 [85]
Gunfire Games Austin, Texas August 2019 [86]
HandyGames Giebelstadt July 2018 [87]
Kaiko Frankfurt May 2021 [47]
Mirage Game Studios Karlstad 2016 [88]
Nine Rocks Games Bratislava February 2020 [89]
Pieces Interactive Skövde August 2017 [90]
Piranha Bytes Essen May 2019 [91]
Pow Wow Entertainment Vienna August 2020 [37]
Purple Lamp Studios Austria November 2020 [64]
Rainbow Studios Phoenix, Arizona 2013 [92]
THQ Nordic France SAS Paris May 2021 [47]

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