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'Embracer' is the latest in the games consolidation trend

I woke up Thursday morning, grabbed my phone, and did what I do most mornings, for better or worse—I opened up Twitter. And instead of the memes and bad political takes I usually see, I saw half a dozen press releases announcing that a bunch of game studios had just been bought by Embracer Group.

I wasn’t really familiar with Embracer, so I did some reading. It started out in Sweden as a local game store called Nordic Games in the 1990s. After a bankruptcy, it was reformed as a game publishing company that focused on filling unserved niches, like Karaoke games for the Nintendo Wii. Since then, they have been snatching up all sorts of gaming-related properties, especially in 2013, when they purchased the bankrupt developer THQ.

They’ve acquired a huge number of game studios in the decade since, from 3D Realms - best known for the Duke Nukem PC games, to Borderlands developer Gearbox Software. And earlier this month, Embracer bought Crystal Dynamics and Eidos-Montreal from Square Enix for $300 million. That includes some big franchises, like Tomb Raider and Deus Ex.

That brings us back to Thursday, when I saw that flurry of press releases from Embracer. They first announced their acquisition of Limited Run Games, a small boutique publisher that makes small physical runs of games that would otherwise only be sold digitally. Following press releases detailed their purchases of six other studios. By my count, this brings Embracer Group’s holdings to 120 game design studios.

These acquisitions aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but it follows a trend of consolidation in the games industry, with Microsoft and Sony trying to bring bunches of studios under their own umbrellas. It worries me that such a small number of companies control such a large percentage of the industry, but we’ll just have to wait and see what they do with this glut of creative talent.

Samuel McConnell is a games enthusiast who has been playing games in one form or another since 1991. He was born in northern Maine but quickly transplanted to Wichita.