As of today (May 2), Tomb Raider is officially under new management. Square Enix, which had been publishing TR games since 2010, has sold off three major Western studios, as well as at least four major franchises, to a company called Embracer Group. What’s more: Square Enix did this specifically because it wanted to free up more money to invest in blockchain technology. The deal will net Square Enix $300 million altogether.
To learn about the acquisitions firsthand, you can check out a press release from Embracer Group, as well as a share transfer agreement from Square Enix. The bottom line is that Square Enix sold three of its studios to Embracer: Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montréal and Square Enix Montréal. Embracer has also acquired the rights to the Tomb Raider, Deux Ex, Thief and Legacy of Kain franchises, along with “more than 50 back-catalogue games from Square Enix.”
From a practical standpoint, it’s hard to tell how this will affect any games currently in development, including the latest Tomb Raider entry. Embracer will determine how many resources each studio merits, and that could be different than what Square Enix had in mind, for better or worse. At present, Embracer also owns a number of other publishers and studios, including THQ Nordic, Deep Silver, Coffee Stain and Gearbox. There seems to be a wide range of support, from big-budget titles to indie darlings. A big series like Tomb Raider, at least, will probably get what it needs.
Arguably, the more interesting part of the deal is why Square Enix wanted to offload these three studios. According to its share transfer agreement:
“The Transaction enables the launch of new businesses by moving forward with investments in fields including blockchain, AI and the cloud.” Square Enix has promised to provide more detailed information about its blockchain plans on May 13.
This isn’t the first time that Square Enix has expressed interest in blockchain technology. Back in January, the company’s president envisioned the future of gaming as a hotspot for NFTs, and reiterated his comments as recently as two weeks ago. However, NFTs have proven wildly unpopular in console gaming so far. Ubisoft, for example, faced intense backlash for trying to integrate this blockchain technology into Ghost Recon Breakpoint.
It’s not clear why Square Enix wants to invest so heavily in blockchain, or why it’s willing to jettison one of its most recognizable franchises in order to do so. But we’ll know more on May 13, even if we ultimately don’t like the answers.