Swedish publishing conglomerate Embracer Group has been on a tear. Following its announcement in May to buy most of Square Enix’s western development arm for $300 million, the company revealed in mid-August that it’s acquiring several more gaming companies along with Middle-earth Enterprises for a grand total of $788 million. Middle-earth Enterprises is a part of The Saul Zaentz Company, which controls the rights to movies, video games, board games, stage productions, theme parks, and any merchandise connected to JRR Tolkien’s literary works. The company will officially become part of a new operative group called Embracer Freemode.
The gaming acquisition list includes Tripwire Interactive, Limited Run Games, Tuxedo Labs, Bitwave Games, Tatsujin, Gioteck, Singtrix, and “another company within PC/Console gaming that, for commercial reasons, is not disclosed today.”
It’s worth noting that Embracer already owns THQ Nordic, Koch Media/Deep Silver, Saber Interactive, and Gearbox Software. Last December, it picked up French tabletop specialist Asmodee, and that was quickly followed by the purchase of Dark Horse Comics this March. As we’ve seen with Netflix, tabletop gaming can be one component of a larger transmedia strategy. With full Tolkien rights at Embracer’s disposal, it can look to tabletop and video games as well as comics, all while the source material likely gains a considerable boost thanks to Amazon’s heavy investment in its new streaming show, The Rings of Power (which is already off to a great start).
In fact, in its press release, Embracer specifically noted that the move was part of its “IP-driven transmedia strategy.” While no concrete plans were laid out just yet, Embracer did hint at the possibility of creating movies around some of Tolkien’s characters from The Lord of the Rings along with future board and/or video games. Before Asmodee joined Embracer last year, the firm had already demonstrated a strong ability to leverage a license to The Lord of the Rings, having published over a dozen games with over 100 expansions since its first release tied to the franchise over 20 years ago.
According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit remain among the most popular franchises across the entertainment sphere. While they trail other juggernauts like Star Wars or Marvel in terms of fanship, Tolkien’s IP is ahead of Game of Thrones and is currently tied with Netflix’s red hot Stranger Things IP. And with the last several months of anticipation for Amazon’s show, Interpret’s data shows fanship trending upwards, climbing to one-quarter of US consumers in Q2 of this year.
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