Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 looks like it’s not happening, as Square Enix sells its developer, plus Tomb Raider and its studio, for $300 million.
Forget Microsoft buying Bethesda and Activision Blizzard, the most shocking game news of the year so far is that Square Enix has sold all of what used to be British publisher Eidos to Embracer Group for $300 million.
The deal includes multiple famous franchises, including Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, Thief, and Legacy Of Kain, as well as the developers that make them, namely Crystal Dynamics and Guardians Of The Galaxy maker Eidos-Montréal.
They’ve all been sold to Embracer Group for $300 million (£239m), the Swedish media giant that has been buying up games and other companies for years, including THQ Nordic, Koch Media, Gearbox Entertainment, and many smaller studios.
As unexpected as all this is perhaps the strangest element is why Square Enix says they did it, which is to enable ‘the launch of new businesses by moving forward with investments in fields including blockchain, AI, and the cloud’.
They’ve been talking about this, and interest in NFTs, for a while now, even if most fans hoped it was just them trying to appear fashionable to investors, especially as they’ve never previously given any hint that they were about to sell all their Western IP and developers.
They will still publish some Western games, but the two franchises they mentioned in the announcement – Outriders and Life Is Strange – are both by external developers that they don’t own.
‘Going forward, the company’s development function will comprise its studios in Japan, Square Enix External Studios, and Square Enix Collective’, the company said.
While some fans will no doubt be pleased that this seems to refocus Square Enix primarily on Japanese made games, what exactly they intend to do in terms of blockchain games, and the other buzzwords, is currently a mystery.
Although not well known by most gamers, Embracer is worth almost $10 billion (£8m) and owns 115 separate game studios, even though you’d never guess that from their output.
‘Embracer is the best kept secret in gaming: a massive, decentralised collection of entrepreneurs whom we are thrilled to become a part of today’, said soon-to-be-ex Square Enix American and Europe CEO Phil Rogers.
‘It is the perfect fit for our ambitions: make high-quality games, with great people, sustainably, and grow our existing franchises to their best versions ever. Embracer allows us to forge new partnerships across all media to maximize our franchises’ potential and live our dreams of making extraordinary entertainment.’
As surprising as the news is, it’s not out of character for Square Enix, who suddenly sold Hitman and developer Io-Interactive in 2017 when their games failed to sell as much as hoped.
Although its reputation has only increased since, Guardians Of The Galaxy also sold poorly at first, while the Avengers game has been a disaster since the start – to the point where Square Enix admitted Crystal Dynamics were the wrong studio for the job.
Since Eidos-Montréal has only recently finished work on Guardians Of The Galaxy it’s not clear what they’re working on next but Crystal Dynamics is already a few years into a new Tomb Raider and has been called in to help out Microsoft with its Perfect Dark reboot.
That alone makes it surprising that Microsoft didn’t attempt to buy the studios, especially as they once paid for Xbox exclusivity for Rise Of The Tomb Raider. Although perhaps that experience was what put them off.
Either way $300 million seems a steal for two such talented developers and the whole of the Tomb Raider IP, and relative pocket change compared to the £50 billion Microsoft paid for Activision Blizzard.
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