On the latest episode of Thanks for the Knowledge, John’s joined by our very own Nicholas Grayson to discuss all of the latest mergers and acquisitions, merging and acquiring in all of the entertainment industries. At least that’s what it feels like to us. Is Embracer Group just embracing everything in the hopes of releasing its own Smash Bros. clone? Does Amazon’s Lord of the Rings show have a chance against the newest Game of Thrones show? Who knows. It’s a great conversation either way so listen down below or on your preferred podcast player.
John: This week, we’re debuting a brand new segment called Hey, What Happened, Niki? [Niki laughs] And here with me to debut this segment is Niki Grayson. Hi, Niki.
Niki: Hey, it’s me, from the hit segment What Happened, Niki?
John: What Happened, Niki? You know, I want…sometimes stuff happens in the news, and I’m just like, I think Niki’s uniquely [Niki: “Mm”] positioned to tell me about, you know, goings on.
John: You know, you’ve got like, you know, like if something happened with like a new car that seems kind of cool or you unique [Niki: “Mm-hmm”] or like a piece of technology that, you know, I, you know, I’m not really familiar with, or like…
John: You know, something that’s happened in like, you know, women’s soccer [Niki: “Mm-hmm, mm-hmm”] that I might be unfamiliar with. And then it’s just really big business transactions.
John: I go like, I think like, you’re…
Niki: Mergers and acquisitions are my middle name.
John: Yeah. Right. Niki M&A Grayson is what we do call you [Niki laughs] around the water cooler and the Slack and all that stuff. And when I woke up on Thursday morning, I had like a genuinely like hilarious number of Slack messages to wake up to that were just like, “Embracer Group bought this,” “Embracer Group bought this.” And they’ve done this before, the old THQ Nordic holding company that rebranded to Embracer. What the fuck did they do this week?
Niki: Okay. So, they forgot, I think, that most of the games press is based in the United States of America.
John: Yeah. They seemed to release the information when Sweden cared about it, not when like…
Niki: Yeah, which is fair. Like, I get it.
John: Yeah. Right.
Niki: Like, your company is based like half in Sweden and half in Austria.
John: Uh huh.
Niki: Like I get it. That’s totally fine. However, there are times of the day where it overlaps, [John: “Uh huh”] where it’s daytime for both of us.
Niki: So releasing this information at midnight Eastern Standard Time [John: “Uh huh”] was a choice, [John: “Uh huh”] I think.
Niki: But yeah, I guess they realized that they needed to spend money.
John: They needed to spend, uh, one second, 8.2 billion SEK, which is roughly 800 million–
Niki: Yeah, which is like 45 dollars.
John: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah, it’s 45 bucks. Yeah. [Niki laughs] It’s about $800 million.
Niki: Now, that’s a lot of money.
John: Yeah, sure. Yeah.
Niki: That’s a lot of money.
Niki: And they spent it on stuff that I did not know was for sale.
John: Uh huh! Sure, yeah.
Niki: [laughs] And I think that’s my favorite–
John: Yeah, I also was surprised by most of these.
Niki: I think that’s my favorite thing about Embracer [John: “Uh huh”] is that they will buy things that no reasonable person would ask are for sale.
John: Uh huh. Right.
Niki: And the biggest one of these I will discuss last, but is the Lord of the Rings franchise, [John: “Yes”] which apparently was up for sale.
John: Uh huh. Yep.
Niki: And Embracer swung in and beat Amazon for it [John: “Mm-hmm”] and bought it.
Niki: But they… [laughs quietly] I’m gonna read you the…this is their primary press release.
John: Okay, good.
Niki: They released like 10 press releases last night.
John: They did. They released 10 separate bespoke press releases, but they also released like a wrap up.
John: Which is like, you know, that’s like our philosophy too, like do little breakouts, but let’s also do, you know, a full recap.
Niki: Mm-hmm. A big one.
Niki: Yeah. They’re learning from the best.
John: They’re learning from the best, yeah.
Niki: This is a headline that tells me that you have too much stuff happening at your company. [John laughs] “Embracer Group Announces the 11th Operating Group: Embracer Freemode.” [John laughs] Now, this is the 11th operating group within Embracer. Here is just what this one, the 11th one, here are the things, the only things that it’s in charge of.
John: Mm-hmm. [both laugh]
Niki: Retro, classic, and heritage gaming; game development and production.
John: Now, heritage gaming [Niki: “Yeah, heritage gaming”] is a blood-chilling, blood-chilling name. [Niki laughs] Anyway, go ahead.
Niki: Yeah, they’re the heirloom games.
John: Uh huh.
Niki: Game development and production, devices, gear and collectibles, community and Ecommerce, new idea technology incubation, and production services. Now, that, to me, seems like you’ve just—
[whooshing, fire alarm beeping]
John: Embracer’s coming through the window! [siren] Oh, fuck!
[whooshing ends in sci-fi abduction sound]
Niki: I got embraced, folks. [both laugh]
John: I can’t believe it. Glad you’re okay.
Niki: Yeah. Thanks. Sorry about the noise.
John: No, it’s okay. It’ll make its way into the episode, I’m sure.
Niki: Just fucking… [both laugh] This waveform is fucking disgusting.
John: [laughs] I bet! Yeah, yeah, yeah. Good point. Now, Niki, do you want to hit me with the text from that?
Niki: Yeah, for sure.
John: Now that you’ve been embraced.
Niki: Yeah, now I know it.
John: Now that you know it.
Niki: It’s deep in my mind.
Niki: So, these broad and diverse market segments include: Retro/Classic/Heritage Gaming & Entertainment, [John: “Good Lord”] Game Development & Production, Devices, Gear & Collectables, Community & Ecommerce, New Idea & Technology Incubation, and Production Services. Which, to me, just sounds like a studio to me.
John: [laughs] It just sounds like so many things. Why do you need 11 subsidiaries or whatever to do all of this? Like, what do the rest of them do?
Niki: Like, you don’t need this. Now, here’s another thing that I’ve found.
Niki: The person who is the CEO of Freemode.
John: Uh huh.
Niki: Imagine being one of 11 CEOs, [John laughs] for whom you’re still not the boss.
John: Uh huh. Yeah. [both laugh] Yeah. What’s the fucking hierarchy of CEOs?
Niki: [laughs] Yeah, like is the THQ CEO more or less powerful to the Freemode CEO?
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Niki: Like, what’s the…
John: Is it just based on tenure? Is it based on…
Niki: Yeah, what’s the…what’s it called? If the president dies and the vice president dies?
John: Succession plan, yeah.
Niki: Yeah, what’s the succession plan?
Niki: Like, how many people have to die before a Lee Guinchard [both laugh] becomes Embracer’s real CEO? Anyway, he used to be the Vice President of Hardware at…Activision.
Niki: Now, Activision [John: “Mm-hmm”] does not make hardware.
John: [laughs] You know what? Some have made this point and noticed this before, but you’re right.
Niki: [laughs] So.
John: But yeah, they don’t do that.
Niki: They don’t make hardware, and they– now, I will say they did make hardware.
Niki: If you count Guitar Hero controllers [John: “Sure. Yep”] and Skylanders as hardware. [laughs quietly]
John: Uh huh. Yep.
Niki: Neither of which they produce in house. [laughs quietly]
John: Mm-mm, no.
Niki: But okay.
John: Can you imagine Bobby Kotick walking around the fucking Guitar Hero controller factory? “Ah, yeah, the flippers’ looking pretty good. Flippers’ feeling pretty good in my hands.”
Niki: “I don’t like the feel on this orange button, though. Can we get this a little tighter?”
John: [singing] “More than a feeling. [Niki laughs] More than a feeling!”
Niki: Okay, so that’s the thing that they, quote, unquote, “started” yesterday.
Niki: Now, under that umbrella is some weird stuff, like Singtrix, [John: “Right”] which is an audio processing company [John: “Uh huh”] that has worked on, as far as I can tell, a Guitar Hero.
John: Uh huh. Yes.
Niki: And I think they– it tells– it’s the middle layer when a person sings into microphone [John: “Yeah”] that tells video game what notes are being hit.
Niki: I don’t know why you need to buy a company for that.
John: That does that? It’s shocking that that company exists, in a way.
Niki: Yes. Still.
Niki: Like I feel like, I don’t know. They bought Limited Run Games, so rest in peace to that small business. [laughs]
John: Yep. I think that’s maybe the biggest bummer for me is like, [Niki: “Yeah”] ah, all right, so this is just done. All right, cool.
John: All right.
Niki: And then I guess congrats to Iam8bit for winning the war.
John: Mm-hmm. Yep.
Niki: And then they bought Tuxedo Labs, which as far as I can tell is one or two guys. They’re the studio that made Teardown, the voxel…
John: They did Teardown, which is very cool.
John: I like that game.
Niki: And they also bought Tripwire Interactive.
John: And they made Maneater, [Niki: “Killing Floor”] which is the shark game.
Niki: Yeah, the shark.
John: Which I did not like. Some people liked, I did not like that game.
Niki: No, that’s because it was not good.
Niki: When I played it at PAX East this year, [John: “Yeah”] because it was on the show floor this year…
John: My God.
Niki: [laughs quietly] I was like, oh, it’s not good.
Niki: They’re just– Embracers really just kind of leaning into we only make B games.
Niki: Except, according to the longer press release, they have 220 games in development right now. [John laughs] 220. 25 of those are, quote, “AAA games that will be released between now and the end of fiscal year 2026.”
John: Yeah. 25 AAA games.
Niki: So 25 games over four years.
John: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Niki: They have multiple announcements coming at Gamescom, which I guess you gotta talk about these 25 fucking games.
John: Right. Jeff Grubb, friend of the site, [Niki: “Mm-hmm”] posted a poll on Thursday morning that was basically like, “Without looking it up, can you tell me one game that Embracer Group is publishing that you’re like excited about?”
Niki: Excited about?
John: Can you tell me one game they’re making?
Niki: The SpongeBob game.
John: All right. [Niki laughs] Okay.
Niki: Do they own Gearbox?
John: My answer box is whatever Gearbox is making, is like…
John: Not what I’m excited about, but I just know…that’s all I really know.
Niki: When did Gearbox buy…no, Embracer buy Gearbox? Was that last year?
John: Yeah, I believe it was about 18 months ago. Let me…
Niki: How much money did 2K make on that?
John: Wow, I was almost dead on. Yeah, February 2021.
Niki: Damn. Oh, sure. I just– like, my big thing about this is like, for what? Like, why? Like, why did you…like, sure, now you have 220 games in development.
John: It is the…in my view…there’s a big difference here, and we can talk about it. I also want to do the ethical thing to be like: Hey, like, we are still owned by them, so, blah blah blah.
John: But I think it’s mostly the same philosophy that Tencent is making, [Niki: “Mm-hmm”] where it’s just like, let’s buy so many things that the bad investments will be so quiet.
Niki: One of them’s gotta fucking hit.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s like…
Niki: Put it on red and black. [laughs]
John: There will be– yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, but it’s like, hey, it’s good work, if you can get it. If you can buy the whole fucking thing, then you’re basically just hedging your bets constantly.
John: But I think the big difference, though, is that Tencent’s been making kind of big swings in AAA markets and more or less leaving these studios alone for the most part.
John: I don’t know what Embracer’s philosophy is on that, and also–
Niki: That’s because they don’t have one, as far as I can tell.
John: I think that’s…I agree with that, is like, I don’t…I think in a lot of ways, both of these holdings companies—there’s Embracer, there’s Tencent, there’s a few other big publishers I would probably lump into this. Their identity is basically: we’re big.
John: Like, we own a lot of stuff, so we kind of have our hands in a lot of pies. But Embracer is weird in the sense that I don’t think they have any of the overall brand cache that some of these bigger publishers have with their studios, where it’s just like, you know, Microsoft owns a ton now, you know, and so [Niki: “Yeah”] I would lump them into this as well, but I can also tell you the identities of a lot of those individual studios and…
Niki: And also like what they’re for.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Niki: Like, those purchases are in service of making games big and small for Game Pass.
John: Right. Yep.
Niki: Like, but Embracer can like– you know what I feel like, [John: “Mm”] is like Embracer is like six months away from being like, “We made Steam.”
Niki: For all 220 of our upcoming games. [laughs quietly]
Niki: You’re gonna have to– if you want to play Saints Row– I think that’s them.
Niki: If you want to play Saints Row, you’re gonna have to use the Embracer launcher.
John: You’re gonna have to download, uh, fucking, Vapor. Hi, Embracer Vapor.
Niki: [laughs quietly] Is there an O in there or is it V-A-P-R?
John: Uh, it’s V-A-P-R.
Niki: Damn. That sucks.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Niki: You’re right, and it sucks. [both laugh]
John: It’s V-A-P-R, and it’s coming. It’s coming right around the corner. But it’s like, some people might point to this one piece of the acquisition puzzle that they did this week as saying like, oh, like there’s some identity here, but the purchase of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit intellectual properties actually confused me more.
Niki: Yes. I don’t– for what?
John: And also, I just straight up thought Jeff Bezos owned this already, [Niki: “So–”] which was a misunderstanding on my part, for sure.
Niki: Yes. So– sorry. Did y’all hear the fire truck?
John: No, but they’re pulling up!
Niki: They’re pulling up, baby. So yeah, here are the specific things that– I’m just gonna– no, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna go Stephen Totilo’s Twitter account, [John: “Yeah”] because he found a JPEG in a slide somewhere. [laughs quietly]
John: He found the good JPEG. Yeah.
Niki: Okay. The year is 1969. [both laugh] United Artists acquires the film, television, stage, and merchandising rights to two things: The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
Niki: From the man Jrr Tolkien.
John: [laughs] Jrr Tolkien.
Niki: Jrr Tolkien. But Jrr Tolkien retained the book publishing rights.
John: Uh huh.
Niki: In 1976, Saul Zaentz Production Company acquires the film and, quote, “other rights,” [John: “Mm-hmm”] for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings from United Artists.
John: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Niki: Then Saul Zaentz’s company turns into Tolkien Enterprises.
Niki: The Silmarillion is published in 1977. In 1978, the animated motion picture The Lord of the Rings comes out.
John: That’s a Ralph Bakshi joint.
Niki: Yes. And then it goes to sleep for many years.
Niki: In 1997, the Saul Zaentz Company options their film and merchandising rights—but crucially not the television or stage rights, just the film and merchandising rights—to Miramax.
Niki: Who immediately is like, “I don’t want this,” [both laugh] and then gives it to New Line Cinema under the Warner Brothers brand, and then they immediately start production on Fellowship of the Ring, which comes out in 2001.
Niki: The Two Towers comes out in 2002—make you think—and then The Return of the King comes out in 2003. And then, this to me is the weirdest insertion here.
Niki: There were many, many Lord of the Rings video games.
John: There were so many.
Niki: The first one that Embracer has decided to tell everyone about [John laughs] is Battle for Middle Earth, an RTS game that EA made in 2004. [John laughs] And then they’re like, oh, also the musical premiered in Toronto in 2006.
John: Sure. Gun to my head, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that that existed, but yeah.
Niki: Nope. Nope. A company I’ve never heard of, Turbine Incorporated, released an MMO that is based on the books The Lord of the Rings [John: “Mm-hmm”] called The Lord of the Rings Online.
John: Okay. Yes.
Niki: In 2010, Tolkien Enterprises—which, just to be clear, contains at this point just the television and stage rights, I think.
Niki: And also…well, maybe and also the film rights? No one’s quite sure, ’cause when they optioned it to Miramax– whatever. Whatever. [John laughs] They changed the name of the business in 2010.
Niki: And then the Hobbit movies came out, which were all bad.
Niki: 2012 was the first Hobbit. 2013 was Desolation of Smaug.
Niki: And then 2014 was a huge year for the Harry Potter series.
John: Huge year.
Niki: Huge year for Harry Potter. Nope. What’s this one? Lord of the Rings?
John: Lord of the Rings? Yeah.
Niki: Same shit. [both laugh]
John: Crucially, listeners, they are not the same.
Niki: They’re not not the same.
John: J. R. R. Tolkien is not the same kind of person.
Niki: Is he fine?
John: Yeah, he’s fine.
Niki: Oh, okay, well.
John: Yeah, he’s fine.
Niki: Is he still kicking? No, probably not, huh?
John: No, no, no. He’s super, super dead.
Niki: He had written the whole book in 1969, I guess, so, probably not.
John: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, he’s been long toast, yeah.
Niki: The third Hobbit movie comes out. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor comes out, [John: “Yeah”] a Warner Brothers property.
Niki: And then the Lego Hobbit video game is also released, because that’s also a Warner Brothers property.
Niki: In 2017, Amazon announces that they are going to make a Lord of the Rings television show, and then the assumption was that that meant that they had all of it.
John: Right. But they did not.
Niki: They did not, as everyone learned yesterday.
John: They only had, I guess, the rights to an episodic production that was more than four episodes, which is so specific.
Niki: [laughs] I don’t– if you’re Jeff Bezos, why do you sign that?
John: Because I guess he was just like, “I want to make one show, and that’s it. That’s all I want from the whole shebang.”
Niki: It’s just like, I feel like if you’re…it is clearly like they were like, oh, Game of Thrones is gonna end.
John: Right. We need something to fill that space.
Niki: Game of Thrones is gonna end, and they’re definitely not gonna make anymore Game of Thrones. [laughs]
John: Certainly Game of Thrones won’t come back the week the new Lord of the Rings show starts. Certainly not!
Niki: That would never happen.
John: That would never happen!
Niki: And then they didn’t actually– they didn’t have any of that.
Niki: They just had, like you said, the rights to TV shows over four episodes long.
Niki: Amazon was in the process of trying to buy the entirety of the franchise, [John: “Uh huh”] and then Embracer Group, makers of the SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom video game, [John laughs, “Uh huh”] bought the entirety of the rights.
John: The entire thing!
Niki: Asterisk. [laughs quietly]
John: They just, they bought…they bought just like Middle-earth Enterprises, I think?
John: And that’s it. That’s the whole thing.
Niki: So they own now, here are the things that they can make with these rights that they got, the developers of SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom can now make commercial video and board games based on Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. They can make movies related to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and TV shows in four or fewer episodes. [laughs quietly]
John: Uh huh, yes.
Niki: They can sell– they have merchandising rights, so they can make a hotel and a restaurant, which you don’t make those very explicit calls unless you’re going to do both of those things, ’cause it says…
John: Yeah, unless you’re gonna open the Shire in Sweden.
John: Come to the Shire.
Niki: Yeah, it says merchandising rights (including services such as hotels and restaurants) with respect to the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Theme parks and experiences, another specific call: jointly controlled rights to license, develop, and adapt Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for theme parks. They also own the stage rights to the program. [sighs]
Niki: And matching rights, which means that if the will…
Niki: If the will of the dead man says that a book is Lord of the Rings, then they own it. [laughs]
John: Uh huh, which is wild to me. It’s so wild.
Niki: So that’s all they…that’s all they got.
John: I just like, I so badly…I think, you know, I think the science to like resurrect the dead is, you know, controversial, right?
Niki: Yeah, definitely.
John: Like, we shouldn’t do it. We can’t play God. You know what I mean?
John: We just can’t.
Niki: Yeah. But…
John: I would just, I would pay an embarrassing amount of money to see like Walt Disney and J. R. R. Tolkien [Niki: “Yeah”] just get resurrected and then just force them to watch a presentation on what kind of their estate amounts to. Like, just what’s going on.
Niki: [laughs] Okay, wait, if you’re bringing back Jrr Tolkien, right?
John: Uh huh. Yeah.
Niki: Are you just like, “Hey, Jrr, like here’s some of the pieces of media that exists now,” right?
Niki: And then you show him the trailer for Saints Row–
John: And he goes, “What is this fucking treachery?!”
Niki: [laughs] You show him the trailer for Saints Row 3. [both laugh] You show him two episodes of SpongeBob.
John: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Niki: And then you show him the opening scene of the first Lord of the Rings movie.
Niki: And then you say, “This is all the same thing, baby.”
John: It’s all the same.
Niki: It’s all together. [John laughs]
John: Now, it does mean this. Now, I just didn’t think about this for a second.
John: It does mean that we might get a game where Gandalf can RKO someone.
Niki: Yes. Okay, so that is the beautiful thing, right?
John: That’s beautiful.
Niki: They can now put this stuff in. They have enough IP [John: “Oh my God”] to make a bad Smash game now.
John: They do. Yeah, they do.
Niki: Which is great.
John: Claptrap is in it. There’s Frodo.
Niki: Yeah. So like, that’s coming, I assume, in the next two years.
Niki: Because I feel like they spun up Multiversus pretty quick.
Niki: From like announcement to when that game was out, I feel like, was pretty fast. And again, if you have studios working on 220 fucking games, law of large numbers dictates that maybe even 10 of those things are Smash Brothers clones. [John laughs] So, who knows?
John: Who knows? Okay, what’s the big Embracer Multiversus game called?
Niki: It’s Multiverses, except it’s spelled correctly.
John: Ah, all right! [Niki laughs] Just trying to get in on that, what if people misspelled Multiversus and stumbled onto the SEO of the other one?
Niki: And then this is all in immediate concert with the fact that Weta Workshop, who worked on the motion pictures, [John: “Correct”] who were contracted by Warner Brothers to work on the motion pictures, [John: “Mm-hmm”] and contracted by Amazon to work on the motion pictures, announced yesterday—or two days? no, two days ago—that they were partnering with Private Division owned by 2K [John: “Uh huh”] to make a video game based on the Lord of the Rings franchise. [laughs]
John: Correct. Yeah. And I had to like go deep into a rabbit hole to make sure that Private Division was not also owned by Embracer somehow.
Niki: Yeah, somehow, yeah.
John: And I was like, no. No. No, they’re just their own thing with 2K
Niki: They’re their own thing with 2K, and there’s no way any of this goes wrong, I think.
John: [laughs] There’s no way. Well, you know, statistically, like 51% of things could go right, [Niki laughs] and they could still just say it’s fine.
Niki: And they still come out on top.
John: You know? 49% of their investments could just completely go bye bye.
Niki: Embracer Group…
John: They could have 112 games fucking eat it.
Niki: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And they’d still be okay.
John: And they’d still be okay, based on those numbers. Anyway. You know what? I asked you to do research. I mean, you really did it.
Niki: The Wikipedia page of studios that [John: “It’s so funny”] Embracer Group owns [John: “Uh huh”] is longer than most people’s.
John: It’s so– it’s like longer than Nicola Tesla’s.
John: I mean, it’s crazy. We did read this list on another show at some point. Maybe it was this one.
Niki: They own Dark Horse Comics.
John: Yeah, they do. Yeah. They do. I mean–
Niki: And Crystal Dynamics. They bought them three months ago.
Niki: For like $45.
Niki: Like, actually. They bought Tomb Raider, Thief. Fuck, dude, that Smash Brothers clone is coming in like six months. [both laugh] It’s coming in like six fucking months, dude. It’s gonna have Deus X, Tomb Raider. They’re gonna make Tomb Raider two characters. You can be triangle tit Tomb Raider or regular Tomb Raider. [John laughs] They’re gonna let you be that fucking racist hamster from Biomutant. That’s them.
John: Oh, yeah!
Niki: You can be…oh my God.
John: Fucking Biomutant. Ugh.
Niki: They’ll let you be the pinball machine from the pinball games, ’cause that’s them also.
John: Yeah, that’s them. You could be, uh, the Mac port of anybody, [Niki laughs] because they own Aspyr and Aspyr’s made the Mac port of every video game.
Niki: They spent more on Aspyr than they did for Tomb Raider.
John: Yeah. Yeah, they did. And…and this is kind of late breaking, I’m gonna say news.
John: I’m gonna say this is a true story, although it has not been widely confirmed, that part of all this, they announced– Embracer Group announced that a big AAA game that they’re making is trading AAA studios. The internal scuttlebutt is that Aspyr has been stripped of the KOTOR remake [Niki: “Wow”] and it’s moving to a different AAA company. Now, Aspyr, again, all they really did for the first like 20 years of their existence was port like PC and console games to Mac.
John: And they were good at it. I mean, they made a good living doing it, and you know, they did work with like big games to put them on Macs. Like, they did that with…
Niki: Stubbs the Zombie. [laughs quietly]
John: They did that with Stubbs the Zombie, but they also did it with like the iOS port of like Knights of the Old Republic: Jade Empire, [Niki: “Mm-hmm”] and they also updated KOTOR II. So it’s like, they had this, you know, longstanding thing of this thing, but like they’d never really built a AAA game from scratch, and so they were gonna remake this KOTOR game, and apparently they…
Niki: They fucked up.
John: They fucked up. They like fired two people that were directing the game, like fairly recently, and it just seems like a shit show. And the rumor is that a part of all this stuff is that one of those new big studios is gonna take it.
Niki: One of the 800 fucking things they just bought.
John: One of the 800. Yep, exactly. So, very interesting.
John: But yeah.
Niki: See, here’s the thing. Sometimes I get sad when consolidation happens, ‘cause I’m like, “Ah, the thing I like got got.”
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Niki: I don’t care about literally any franchise that this fucking company owns.
John: I know!
Niki: At all.
John: I know.
Niki: And like, they seem totally fine with that. They’re like, what if we owned all of the things that you forgot about?
John: Yeah. I mean, I feel like their philosophy is going to be we bought the infrastructure of a ton of teams that have the ability to make something cool and transcendent, but they just haven’t yet.
John: And with our money and guidance, they will begin to make things that people by and large care about.
Niki: For sure, definitely. Absolutely. You know what, John, the new CEO of the eighth division of Embracer Group?
John: Haha! Thank you. Thanks for acknowledging I’m finally moving up in the world.
Niki: You’re so right. People are gonna burn down Targets and Walmarts trying to get the newest, hottest Embracer Group title this holiday season.
John: The newest Mad Head Games video game. [Niki laughs] The newest 4A games video game. The newest–
Niki: Yeah, I can’t wait.
John: Hold on, hold on, hold on.
Niki: I love Neon Giant.
John: The new Ravenscourt video game. The new Cryptic Studios video game. The new CrazyLabs video game.
John: The new Ghost Ship, the new Coffee Stain, the new–
Niki: Bugbear Entertainment.
John: Framebunker. [both laugh] What the fuck do these people make? What do they make?
Niki: Nothing! They don’t make– they own a studio called SmartPhone Labs.
John: We’re gonna fucking find out that 80 of these studios came together to make the fucking Mark Zuckerberg art that we’ve seen this week, [Niki laughs] and it’s just a big grift. Embracer’s been paid billions of dollars by Meta to create these goddamn Mark Zuckerberg tableaus, and it’s just a big grift. That’s what we’re gonna find out.
Niki: Can I read you a press release that I just found from August 18, 2021?
Niki: Which is a year ago literally today.
John: That is a year ago. Yep.
Niki: “Embracer Group, through its wholly owned subsidiary Saber, has entered into an agreement to acquire 100% of the shares in Russian-based SmartPhone Labs, [John laughs] an independent software testing and games development company for mobile, PC, consoles, and VR.” You’ve named your company poorly, A, number one.
John: A, yeah.
Niki: SmartPhone Labs—camel cased, by the way [John laughs]—you make PC, console, and VR games. You fucked up.
Niki: John Warren.
Niki: Video game industry professional for literally over 15 years.
John: Uh huh.
Niki: Have you ever heard of a video game produced or published or tested by SmartPhone Labs?
John: No, I haven’t. No.
Niki: You know who also hasn’t? [John laughs] Embracer Group, because they don’t list any fucking games in this press release.
John: [laughs] It’s just like, it’s shells on shells on shells.
John: There are…
Niki: Yeah, one of them is Northrop Grumman.
John: Uh, excuse me? What did you just call me?
Niki: Northrop– [laughs, pronounces slowly] Northrop.
John: Uh huh.
John: Yeah, Northrop.
John: [typing] North…
Niki: The aerospace and defense company?
John: Oh, sure.
Niki: Make bomb?
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Niki: And plane.
John: Yeah. They make bomb and plane, yeah.
Niki: That’s also Embracer Group. [laughs]
John: [sarcastic] Oh, that’s cool. So they really are building their own private army to swing in through your windows when we start talking shit about their press releases.
Niki: Yeah. Gonna get killed by a fucking…
John: The private Embracer army.
Niki: Yeah. Fucking your arms and legs cut off with a very sharp copy of the original version of SpongeBob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom. [John laughs] Whatever other fucking THQ games they found in the warehouse.
John: We’ve loaded Teardown onto your computer, but it’s got spyware on it. [Niki laughs] We’re listening to every word you say. Okay, well.
Niki: THQ died for this, John.
John: I know! I know.
Niki: Can you believe they didn’t name the company THQ?
John: No, I can’t.
Niki: Would you feel differently about this entire thing [John: “If it was called THQ”] if the company was named THQ instead?
John: I would feel…I would feel a little bit differently. I think like, you know, I think we would be having more productive conversations about what THQ’s strategy would be.
John: And kind of looking at it through a lens of like where they were in terms of an IP holder and kind of where they had missteps and maybe where they could be going forward. Like, I think that conversation would be more like coherent.
John: But I think there’s a reason they–
Niki: Because of history.
John: Because of history. But, you know, I also think someone up the chain must have thought the THQ name, in terms of a recency bias, is not that hot. It was known more for its missteps than its successes over the past like…
John: Over the last like five years of its like core existence. I can see that conversation. Like, I can definitely see that conversation taking place, and I can see it ending up where it ended up. Now, that conversation should have also included: well, how are people gonna feel about this in 10 years?
John: Are they really gonna know what the Embracer Group stands for? And they probably all went–
Niki: Are they?
John: They probably all went, “Yeah,” but the real answer is: no, absolutely the fuck not.
Niki: And no one asked, “Is the word Embracer Group going to be– [John laughs, “Right”] like, have a positive or negative connotation to human beings?”
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, literally–
Niki: If our strategy is buy everything, [John laughs] can we call the business Embracer Group?
John: Embracer. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. It’s not a good name, and it is one of the most like, “fictional conglomerate is here to inject you with alien cells and you’re gonna grow a Xenomorph out of your head,” kind of name. Like, it is…it does not instill trust or positivity to me. No.
Niki: I’m trying to figure out what real business has a similar number of employees as Embracer Group.
John: Mm. Mm.
Niki: What about Kroger?
Niki: Kroger number of employees… [John sneezes] Oh, God bless you.
John: I was gonna announce I was gonna sneeze, but I sneezed already.
Niki: Well. Okay. Now, we should go, [John: “Yeah, we should go”] but I have four questions for you.
John: Yeah, what’s that?
Niki: How many people does Kroger employ?
John: Oh my God.
Niki: The grocery store chain.
John: The large grocery store chain.
John: Um…oh, man. I’m not gonna be good at answering this question, but I’m gonna say…uh, 20,000 people?
Niki: 465,000 people.
John: Oh, so I was like–
Niki: How many people–
John: I was way off, then, huh?
Niki: Uh huh. How many people does Walmart employ?
John: Oh, like…what was Kroger? 400,000?
John: Uh, Walmart’s probably like 600.
Niki: 2.3 million people.
John: Okay, way off on that one, too.
Niki: How many people does a HEB employ?
John: Oh, not…
Niki: Which is a grocery store crucially only…
John: In Texas.
Niki: In Texas, and I guess there are some in Northeast Mexico.
Niki: 100,000 people.
Niki: None of it makes any sense.
John: No, none of it makes sense. [laughs]
Niki: None of these numbers make any sense.
John: No, they don’t. [laughs]
Niki: You’re telling me that Walmart employs more people than live in New York City? No, sorry. A few million people– wait. What? No.
John: [laughs] No. No.
John: They don’t employ New York City, no.
Niki: They employ like Brooklyn.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it’s still a huge number. And like 500,000 of them, I think, live in Arkansas where I am.
Niki: Yeah. Brooklyn has 2.5 million people in it.
Niki: And the Walmart number is three years old, so.
John: Yeah. Embracer Group apparently only has 12,000 people, or around 13,000.
Niki: That cannot be true. They’re fucking lying.
John: I mean, that’s what it says. I don’t know. I don’t know if that includes subsidiaries. I mean, I think it would have to.
Niki: It’s gotta, right?
John: It’s gotta.
Niki: What stadium– I think like we should just count things by which stadiums in this country they could fill up, you know? Like, that’s the only way I can quantify.
John: Well, Embracer could fill up StubHub Stadium.
Niki: Yes, absolutely.
John: That’s about it.
Niki: Better than the Chargers.
John: Yeah, better than the Chargers did.
Niki: Like, the only reason I know what 100,000 people looks like is because of the Rose Bowl.
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, Rose Bowl…
Niki: In other contexts, I don’t know.
John: The standing room addition to AT&T Stadium.
Niki: Uh huh.
John: That’s about 100,000. Yeah. Yeah, wow. Wow.
John: Anyway, Hey, thanks for telling me about– Hey Niki, What Happened?
Niki: Yeah. You’re welcome.
John: Thank you for telling me what happened.
Niki: I’m gonna forget literally all of this as soon as I hit stop.
John: That’s great. You’ll have this recording to go back to you to remember it whenever you need it.
Niki: Great. Even all eight minutes where the fire alarm’s going off?
John: All you gotta do is listen, and it’ll be right here for you.