Embracer’s Acquisition Stampede: A Recruiter’s Odyssey Through Talent, Turmoil, and the Future of Gaming

The past few years have seen the gaming industry caught in a whirlwind, and at the center of this storm stands Embracer Group, formerly THQ Nordic. Their whirlwind of acquisitions, reminiscent of Pac-Man on steroids, has left everyone – from passionate developers to seasoned recruiters like myself – grappling with mixed emotions and a head full of questions. While headlines blare about the rise of a “gaming giant,” the reality on the ground is far more intricate, painting a picture of a double-edged sword with exciting opportunities on one side and potential pitfalls on the other. Allow me, a veteran recruiter who has dedicated my career to guiding developers towards their dream roles and attracting studios for them, to share my perspective on this intricate journey.

First off, lets see how it started, and how the acquisition journey of the Embracer Group progressed:

Embracer Group: A Chronological Overview

Embracer Group (formerly THQ Nordic AB) has been on an active acquisition spree in recent years, building a massive portfolio of gaming studios and intellectual properties. Here’s a breakdown of their activities:

Early Acquisitions (2011-2016):

  • 2011: Founded as Nordic Games Publishing AB, acquiring several bankrupt studios and IPs, including THQ, Milestone, and Jowood.
  • 2013: Acquired Bugbear Entertainment (FlatOut series).
  • 2016: Rebranded as THQ Nordic AB.

Growth and Diversification (2017-2021):

  • 2017: Acquired Koch Media (Saints Row, Metro), Deep Silver (Dead Island, Homefront), and Amplifier Game Invest (Darksiders).
  • 2018: Acquired Coffee Stain Studios (Goat Simulator) and Plaion (Warhammer 40,000 series).
  • 2019: Acquired Saber Interactive (TimeShift, Redout), Gearbox Software (Borderlands, Homeworld), and Embracer Freemode (best known for publishing retro games).
  • 2020: Acquired DECA Games (Catan, Ticket to Ride) and Easybrain (mobile games).

Recent Major Acquisitions and Controversies (2022-present):

  • 2022: Acquired Crystal Dynamics (Tomb Raider), Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex), Square Enix Montreal (Sleeping Dogs), and Middle-earth Enterprises (Lord of the Rings & Hobbit IPs). This deal sparked controversy due to the $300 million price tag and subsequent studio closures and layoffs.
  • 2023: Acquired Tripwire Interactive (Killing Floor), Limited Run Games (physical game distributor), and Tatsujin Co. (Toaplan IPs).
  • 2024: Cancelled Deus Ex game and closed Onoma studio, further fueling criticism of the company’s acquisition strategy.

Performance of Studios:

  • Positive: Some studios like Gearbox (Borderlands 3) and Coffee Stain (Satisfactory) have flourished under Embracer, seeing increased development budgets and critical acclaim.
  • Mixed: Others like Koch Media (Saints Row reboot) and Saber Interactive (Redout 2) have had mixed reception, with some releases performing well and others falling short.
  • Negative: The cancellation of Deus Ex and closure of studios like Onoma have raised concerns about Embracer’s commitment to creative freedom and employee well-being.

Best-Known Games by Acquired Studios:

  • Crystal Dynamics: Tomb Raider series, Deus Ex series
  • Gearbox Software: Borderlands series, Homeworld series
  • THQ Nordic: Saints Row series, Metro series
  • Deep Silver: Dead Island series, Homefront series
  • Coffee Stain Studios: Goat Simulator, Satisfactory

The Talent Magnet: A Smorgasbord of Opportunities Beckons

There’s no denying the magnetic pull Embracer exerts on talent. Their diverse portfolio, encompassing AAA giants like Tomb Raider (acquired May 2022,) and quirky indie darlings like Goat Simulator (acquired August 2021), presents a veritable smorgasbord of opportunities for aspiring developers.

Imagine a young programmer, eyes gleaming with ambition, transitioning seamlessly between crafting intricate narratives in Deus Ex (acquired May 2022,) and designing wacky contraptions in Goat Simulator 3 (announced September 2022,). This variety fosters career growth and mobility, allowing individuals to hone their skills across diverse genres and projects. It’s like offering a musician the chance to explore everything from a classical symphony to a rock concert, empowering them to express their creativity in multifaceted ways.

The Stability Factor: A Safe Harbor in the Stormy Seas of Development

Let’s face it, our beloved industry can be fickle.

Studios close their doors unexpectedly (e.g., Telltale Games in 2018), projects get shelved at the whim of market forces (e.g., Star Wars 1313 cancellation in 2013), and developers can find themselves unemployed in the blink of an eye. In this turbulent landscape, Embracer, with its vast resources (estimated $11 billion market cap as of October 2023, ) and long-term vision (e.g., ten-year plan outlined in their annual report), emerges as a safe harbor.

Seasoned developers seeking a secure environment to refine their craft and contribute to established franchises find immense appeal in this stability. Think of it as a lighthouse amidst the stormy seas, guiding experienced developers towards a haven where they can focus on their passion without the constant fear of instability.

The Collaborative Symphony: A Chorus of Studios, A Symphony of Innovation

One of Embracer’s key selling points is its “decentralized” approach, allowing acquired studios to retain creative autonomy (as stated by Embracer CEO Lars Wingefors in an interview. In theory, this fosters collaboration and knowledge sharing across their vast network. Imagine seasoned veterans from Gearbox (acquired February 2022) mentoring bright minds at Crystal Dynamics (acquired May 2022,), leading to a cross-pollination of ideas and pushing the boundaries of game design. It’s like bringing together musicians from different orchestras, each with their unique styles and techniques, to create a truly groundbreaking symphony.

But Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Concerns and Cautions Emerge

However, as every silver lining has a cloud, concerns regarding Embracer’s strategy lurk beneath the surface. The rapid acquisitions, while exciting, can create a confusing “talent merry-go-round.”

Imagine a talented artist joining Studio A for their dream project, only to be reassigned to Studio B months later due to internal restructuring (e.g., Volition Games closure in June 2023).

This instability can be disruptive to both career development and morale, akin to being cast in a play, only to have the director change the script and the set mid-performance.

Creative Conundrum: Freedom’s Symphony or Financial Harmony?

Recent controversies surrounding studio closures and project cancellations (e.g., Square Enix Montréal closure in November 2022), and the shelving of several mobile titles after the Asmodee acquisition in December 2021) raise questions about Embracer’s commitment to artistic freedom. Will their “decentralized” model survive financial pressures and shareholder expectations (as expressed by CEO Lars Wingefors in a Q&A,)?

Developers hesitate, fearing their creative vision might be compromised, like being handed a pre-painted canvas instead of the promised blank one (e.g., concerns raised by developers after the Crystal Dynamics acquisition,).

Consolidation Conundrum: Homogeneity or Diverse Symphony?

Embracer’s dominance raises concerns about industry consolidation (as discussed in this GamesIndustry.biz article,). With increasing control over talent and IPs, will we see a homogenization of game design and a stifling of creative diversity?

While bigger isn’t always bad, we must remain vigilant to ensure the industry maintains its vibrant tapestry of voices and experiences. Imagine a world with only one genre of music, one style of painting – a bland and uninspired place where unique voices are silenced.

The Future Symphony: Balancing Opportunity, Stability, and Creativity

Embracer’s model presents a complex symphony, weaving together opportunity, stability, and creative freedom. While concerns linger, the company’s potential to nurture talent, foster innovation, and secure jobs in a volatile industry cannot be ignored. The true test lies in striking a harmonious balance between these elements, ensuring a future where developers can thrive while the industry continues to deliver diverse and captivating experiences for all.

Navigating the Maze: A Recruiter’s Guide

Recruiters navigate a fascinating but complex landscape. The talent market sees Embracer as a significant player, offering both enticing opportunities and potential pitfalls. Our role is to advise candidates carefully, ensuring they understand the full picture before making a career move. We must weigh stability and diverse opportunities against concerns about creative freedom, talent mobility, and industry consolidation.


The Embracer Group presents both exciting opportunities and potential drawbacks for developers. Recruiters play a crucial role in guiding them through this complex landscape, ensuring they make informed decisions that align with their career aspirations and risk tolerance. As the industry evolves, we must remain vigilant about the delicate balance between financial success and creative freedom, ensuring a diverse and vibrant gaming landscape for generations to come.

What does this mean for gaming studios trying to acquire top talent?

The Double-Edged Sword:

Embracer’s presence creates a complex situation for studios seeking top talent. Here’s a breakdown:


  • Wider Talent Pool: Access to Embracer’s vast network of studios and diverse talent opens doors to skilled individuals across various disciplines.
  • Collaboration Potential: Cross-studio collaboration fostered by Embracer’s “decentralized” approach can attract talent seeking interdisciplinary learning and innovation.
  • Financial Security: Partnering with Embracer offers potential financial stability and resource backing, appealing to studios navigating a volatile industry.


  • Competition: Embracer’s significant resources and diverse offerings raise competition, making it harder for smaller studios to attract top talent.
  • Uncertainty: Concerns about creative freedom, internal restructuring, and talent mobility under Embracer can deter some highly skilled individuals.
  • Potential Homogenization: Increased industry consolidation under Embracer might lead to homogenization of design and stifle smaller studios’ unique voices.

Navigating the Landscape:

Studios should:

  • Highlight Strengths: Emphasize what sets their studio apart from Embracer, be it specific projects, creative freedom, or company culture.
  • Network Strategically: Leverage connections within and outside Embracer’s network to reach ideal talent.
  • Offer Competitive Packages: Provide attractive compensation, benefits, and career growth opportunities to compete effectively.
  • Focus on Uniqueness: Clearly communicate their studio’s unique identity, values, and creative vision to attract talent seeking specific experiences.

What does this mean for top talent in the gaming industry looking for a job?

Exploring the Options:

Top talent faces a diverse landscape with both established giants like Embracer and smaller, independent studios. Here’s what to consider:

Opportunities with Embracer:

  • Variety and Growth: Exposure to diverse projects, studios, and talent across Embracer’s network fosters diverse experience and skill development.
  • Stability and Security: Joining a financially stable giant like Embracer offers potential long-term security and resource backing.
  • Innovation Potential: Contributing to a decentralized system with cross-studio collaboration could lead to groundbreaking innovation.

Challenges with Embracer:

  • Creative Freedom: Concerns exist about potential limitations on creative autonomy under Embracer, especially after studio closures and project cancellations.
  • Stability Concerns: While financially stable, internal restructuring and talent reassignments create uncertainty for individual career paths.
  • Homogenization Fears: The industry’s consolidation trend under Embracer raises concerns about stifling creative diversity and unique studio voices.

Making Informed Decisions:

Top talent should:

  • Research Thoroughly: Deeply research Embracer and individual studios within their network, understanding their work culture, values, and creative freedom.
  • Seek Clarification: Ask direct questions about creative freedom, project involvement, and potential reassignments during interviews.
  • Weigh Options Carefully: Compare opportunities offered by Embracer with those from independent studios based on personal career goals and risk tolerance.
  • Prioritize Your Values: Choose the opportunity that best aligns with your creative vision, desired work environment, and long-term career aspirations.

Ultimately, both gaming studios and top talent navigating this complex landscape require careful consideration, research, and prioritization to make informed decisions that align with their respective goals and values

Full list of acquired companies by the Embracer group and their current operational status based on publicly available data:

DateCompanyParent company
August 2017Black Forest GamesTHQ Nordic
Pieces Interactive
November 2017Experiment 101
February 2018Koch MediaDambuster Studios
July 2018HandyGamesTHQ Nordic
November 2018Coffee Stain HoldingCoffee Stain Studios
Coffee Stain North (60%)
Ghost Ship Games (35%)
Lavapotion (60%)
Other Tales Interactive (20%)
Coffee Stain Holding
Bugbear Entertainment (90%)THQ Nordic
February 201918Point2Plaion
Warhorse Studios
May 2019Piranha BytesTHQ Nordic
August 2019KSMPlaion
Gaya Entertainment
Gunfire GamesTHQ Nordic
Goodbye Kansas Game InvestFall Damage (50%)
Framebunker (21%)
Kavalri (21%)
Neon Giant (24%)
Palindrome Interactive (50%)
Amplifier Game Invest
December 2019Tarsier Studios
February 2020Saber InteractiveSaber Belarus
Saber Porto
Saber Russia
Saber Spain
Saber Sweden
Saber Interactive
May 2020DestinyBitAmplifier Game Invest
August 20204A GamesSaber Interactive
New World Interactive
Rare Earth GamesAmplifier Game Invest
Vermila Studios
Palindrome Interactive (remaining 50%)
Pow Wow EntertainmentTHQ Nordic
DECA GamesDECA Games
Sola MediaPlaion
September 2020Vertigo Games
November 2020Flying Wild Hog
Purple Lamp StudiosTHQ Nordic
Zen StudiosSaber Interactive
Snapshot Games
Nimble Giant Entertainment
Mad Head Games
Sandbox Strategies
A Thinking Ape EntertainmentDECA Games
IUGO Mobile Entertainment
Coffee Stain North (remaining 40%)Coffee Stain Holding
Silent GamesAmplifier Game Invest
Quantic Lab (95%)
February 2021Gearbox SoftwareGearbox Studio QuébecGearbox Software
AspyrSaber Interactive
May 2021KaikoTHQ Nordic
Massive Miniteam
Frame BreakAmplifier Game Invest
August 20213D RealmsSaber Interactive
Slipgate Ironworks
CrazyLabsDECA Games
Force Field
Ghost Ship Games (remaining 65%)Coffee Stain Holding
Easy Trigger
Grimfrost (70%)THQ Nordic
Demiurge StudiosSaber Interactive
Fractured Byte
SmartPhone Labs
September 2021Bytex
October 2021Jufeng StudioDECA Games
Splatter ConnectPlaion
December 2021AsmodeeAtomic Mass Games
Bezzerwizzer Studio
Catan Studio
Days of Wonder
Edge Entertainment
Fantasy Flight Games
The Green Board Game Company
Lookout Games
Pearl Games
Plan B Games
Purple Brain
Rebel Studio
Repos Production
Space Cow
Space Cowboys
Unexpected Games
Z-Man Games
Green Tile DigitalAmplifier Game Invest
Perfect World EntertainmentCryptic StudiosGearbox Software
Spotfilm NetworkxPlaion
Shiver EntertainmentSaber Interactive
Digic HoldingsDigic Pictures
Digic Services
Dark Horse MediaBerger Books (50%)
Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse Entertainment
Dark Horse Games
Dark Horse Manga
DH Press
Kitchen Sink Books (50%)
Things From Another World
Dark Horse Media
February 2022A Creative EndeavourAmplifier Game Invest
MetricmindsTHQ Nordic
March 2022Development Plus Inc.Plaion
Invisible WallsAmplifier Game Invest
April 2022BeamdogSaber Interactive
Lost Boys InteractiveGearbox Software
May 2022Assets of Square Enix EuropeCrystal Dynamics
Square Enix Montréal
CDE Entertainment
August 2022Tripwire InteractiveSaber Interactive
Tuxedo Labs
Middle-earth EnterprisesEmbracer Freemode
Limited Run Games
Bitwave Games
October 2022Anime LimitedPlaion Pictures
VR DistributionAsmodee
January 2023Captured DimensionsGearbox Software

Shane Shown

The entrepreneurial spirit burns brightly in Shane Shown, whose business journey began as a young child creating and selling Pokemon Bookmarks. His ambition and tenacity have propelled him to work with major international companies including Facebook, The Climate Corporation, Zillow, and College Works. In 2017 he launched Nxt Level Recruiting which specializes in high-level head hunting for the Technology and Video Game sectors with highly customized recruitment services. The year 2020 saw a successful move into Nashville for the company. 2023 brought the launch of three new divisions, Nxt Attorney, Nxt Level Civil Engineering, and Nxt Level HealthTech. Outside of the office, he serves as Co-City Leader for Founders Live: an international pitch competition empowering entrepreneurs around the world with funding opportunities.

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