Skip to main content

What is Embracer Group? Gaming’s new megapower, explained

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 likely has a hand in it. The company made a big move earlier this year when it acquired major franchises like Tomb Raider after buying Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, and Square Enix Montreal. Now, it’s continuing to assert its dominance with the acquisition of physical game manufacturer Limited Run Games and the rights to The Lord of the Rings IP. 

These acquisitions speak to the continued growth of Embracer Group, which looks like it will become a bigger player in the AAA gaming space in the years to come. While 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.”

The logo of Crystal Dynamics' parent company Embracer Group.

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, though 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 platform 8Chan 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 11 operating groups that it owns. Here’s a look at what the group currently owns.

  • THQ Nordic
  • Plaion
  • Saber Interactive
  • Gearbox Entertainment
  • DECA Games
  • Coffee Stain
  • Amplifier Game Invest
  • Easybrain
  • Asmodee
  • Dark Horse Media
  • Freemode

Each operating group focuses on something slightly different. For example, Embracer Group says Freemode, which was formed alongside the Lord of the Rings IP acquisition, will focus on retro or historic franchises, bringing them into the modern era. Companies like Saber, THQ Nordic, and Gearbox also have the autonomy to make their own acquisitions, further fueling growth for Embracer Group. While this approach means that not many gamers will know the name “Embracer Group,” it’s very likely that they at least know of a game or franchise that falls under this publicly traded company’s 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. Then, on August 18, Freemode was formed, companies like Tripwire Interactive and Limited Run Games were purchased, and Embracer Group obtained the rights to make Lord of the Ring movies, video games, board games, merchandise, theme parks, and stage productions. This has all brought more attention Embracer’s existence than ever in 2022. “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.

Meanwhile, The Saul Zaentz Company COO Marty Glick said that “we could not be more thrilled that it is Embracer now taking up the responsibility and we are confident their group will take it to new heights and dimensions while maintaining homage to the spirit of these great literary works,” after selling it the rights to Middle-earth Enterprises. While those are highly positive interpretations of Embracer Group’s strategy, it speaks to how big Embracer is despite its relative obscurity.

Embracer’s  Square Enix 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.

The crew of the Saints Row reboot stands against a wall.

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.”

Those acquisitions bring more AAA-level studios that employ over 1,100 developers under its belt. Meanwhile, owning Middle-earth Enterprises gives Embracer the ability to do as they please with one of the most popular fantasy series ever. Franchises like The Lord of the Rings, Tomb Raider, and Deus Ex produce multimillion seller games and even have potential outside the gaming industry, 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 Square Enix 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 and Middle-Earth Enterprises are big steps in making that happen.

Valheim Wolf Armor

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 their ownership of The Lord of Rings outside of gaming, and Embracer Group will only become more prominent and more relevant in and outside of video games for years to come.

While Embracer mainly has been acquiring studios and IP in the minor leagues for years, it’s a company 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 Embracer Group. Take a look at everything it owns; you just might be surprised. In a few years, one of the biggest AAA games, comics, and movies of the year might have some connection to Embracer Group. 

Editors' Recommendations

Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse features an incredible video game Easter egg
Miles Morales falls through a multiverse portal in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is out now and it contains a wealth of Easter eggs for video fans to obsess over. It's full of references to Spidey's history, from his comic books to cartoons and beyond. The animated sequel even includes some nods to the franchise's video game history, leading to one of its best (and most obscure) references: Spider-Man for the Atari 2600.

(A quick heads up if you're afraid of spoilers: This article contains some very light story details for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.)

Read more
Best gaming laptop deals: Portable gaming rigs from $600
The Alienware x17 R2 Gaming Laptop viewed from the back.

If you're keen to game while on the move, you need a sweet gaming laptop. Regular laptop deals won't cut it as you need something with a dedicated graphics card and maybe even something with some cool gamer looks too. Gaming laptops aren't cheap but that doesn't mean there aren't some great deals around. If you're looking to invest in a cool new gaming laptop, we've picked out the current best deals around right now. We've considered different budgets as well as different requirements so there's something for everyone below. Take a look and see what appeals to you.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 -- $600, was $900

Known as one of the best laptop brands for both gaming and business purposes, Lenovo knows how to make a robust system. The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 packs a lot into its great price tag. It has an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H processor, 8GB of memory and 256GB of SSD storage. More storage space would be nice but if you're fine just having a few games installed at once, this won't slow you down. It also has an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card which is great for playing the latest games if you don't mind tweaking the detail level. As well as that, there's a 15.6-inch full HD screen, white backlit keyboard and a cool-looking style to the laptop.

Read more
Nintendo Switch’s weirdest launch game is getting a surprise sequel
Key art for Everybody 1-2-Switch!

Nintendo has quietly announced Everybody 1-2-Switch!, a sequel to one of the oddest launch titles for Nintendo Switch.
1-2-Switch! was a Nintendo Switch launch title that served as a tech demo of sorts for the Joy-Con controllers, with players completing minigames based on direction from actors in live-action clips. It's a very quirky and critically divisive Nintendo Switch game, so it's a bit surprising to see a follow-up. According to the eShop listing for Everybody 1-2-Switch!, this game lets players use their Joy-Cons or smartphones to complete a variety of team-based minigames. And that's about all we've seen or know about this $30 game ahead of its June 30 launch alongside some new pastel Joy-Cons.

Everybody 1-2-Switch!'s announcement was quite unorthodox for Nintendo. It simply tweeted about the game's existence and opened up preorders on the eShop. This all happened with no reveal trailer less than a month before the game's launch. It's unknown why Nintendo's taking this approach instead of including the game in a Nintendo Direct or other major showcase, but a 2022 report from Fanbyte may reveal the answer. According to that report, Everybody 1-2-Switch! tested horribly, and Nintendo worried that the game could "damage the company’s reputation as a great software developer." 
Almost a year after that report, it seems that the game has improved enough to release, or maybe Nintendo is just willing to take the hit after the impressive launch and critical reception of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Either way, this is a weird sequel to a weird Nintendo Switch launch game that's being mutedly marketed so it doesn't elicit much hype. We'll just have to wait and play it for ourselves if we want to know whether Everybody 1-2-Switch! is an enjoyable game or not.
Everybody 1-2-Switch! will be released physically and digitally for Nintendo Switch on June 30.

Read more