Friday, August 19, 2022

Embrace The Future!

I've been thinking a lot recently about the old "One Game to Rule Them All" trope. OMG! A Lord of the Rings reference! Get out of here!

Way to go to derail your own post in the opening paragraph, Bhagpuss, but did everyone see that news item yesterday? Of course you all did. You could hardly miss it. It was everywhere, even in the mainstream press. Tolkein is a globally bankable name.

Embracer Group though? Not so much, although I guess we're starting to get familiar with it. It does keep cropping up, doesn't it? And doesn't it sound sinister? Reminds me of the Tyrell Corporation from Blade Runner or maybe Omni Consumer Products from Robocop.

Who the actual hell are they, though? According to Wikipedia, they're "a Swedish video game and media holding company based in Karlstad", which I have to admit doesn't really sound all that terrifying. 

Whoever they are, they seem to be on some kind of pop culture buying spree right now. It seems to have begun with a whole load of companies I'm fairly certain most people reading this have never heard of - I certainly hadn't - but last year they started making raids into our hinterland, acquiring Gearbox, Perfect World/Cryptic, Dark Horse Media and Asmodee.  

If you missed all that, you probably sat up when, earlier this year, Embracer Group scooped up a bunch of stuff Square Enix had lost interest in, a bumper bundle that included IPs like Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, Thief and, I believe, Oxford University's current focus of interest, PowerWash Simulator

It's an impressive line-up but they all seem like opening acts compared to the headliner, Middle Earth Enterprises, which "gives the company IP rights to Tolkien’s literary works related to The Lord Of the Rings and The Hobbit" including "movies, tv shows, games, theme park rides, board games and merchandising". 

The NME article includes a quote from EG that specifically refers to "the mobile game The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth" published by Electronic Arts but Lord of the Rings Online doesn't get a mention. LotRO is, of course, owned and operated by Standing Stone Games, who, as we only recently learned for sure, are owned by Daybreak Games, who were acquired by Enad Global 7, another expanding Scandinavian media aggregator, who may themselves have been reverse-taken-over by whoever the fuck it is that really owns Daybreak...

Vic! I've fallen down a conspiracy rabbit hole and I can't get up!

I'm no expert on LotRO (I'm no expert on anything...) but it's always been my impression that there's some kind of grey area around what part of the Tolkein legacy rights ownership it falls under. People always seem to have some get-out clause they throw around to make everyone feel safe when, as often happens, talk turns to rights renewals and possible repercussions for the game. 

If so, maybe none of this directly affects either the mmorpg or SSG but I can't help wondering just what it means for EG7/Daybreak. The whole thing is more than confused enough already without factoring some kind of slap fight between Scandinavian would-be media giants.

Who would win in a fight between Embracer Group and Enad Global 7? Um.... I think we can guess.  It'd be like a fight between a wolverine and a lemming. (Both Scandinavian animals. I checked.)

I'm not honestly sure I care all that much. To loop back around to where I started, before all this research took over (I wish there was a typographical convention for expressing sarcasm or contempt - italics don't always cut it.), I'm beginning to think that getting all wrapped up in a single game for months or years isn't necessarily the universal good we always believed.

We all do it, don't we? Some of us more than others, naming no names (Points at self.) One minute it's Valheim, Valheim, Valheim, then Lost Ark is the best game ever made and no-one's ever going to need anything else (Yeah, that wasn't me.) Game after game, month after month, year after year, individually and collectively, we get obsessed, talk about nothing else, play every hour we can snatch, then...

Silence. The toy goes back in the box. Once in a while we get it out, play with it for a few minutes, put it away again. Eventually it disappears, lost, no-one remembers where, or cares.

I forced myself to play EverQuest II yesterday. I didn't much want to but I felt I ought. I hadn't finished the Oceansfull dungeon (Still haven't. Can't beat the second boss.) or even filled my bags with freebies from the clams (Still not done that, either.) and there's only a few days left. 

What I wanted to be playing was, of course, Noah's Heart. It is literally the only game I've played since I got it apart from things I've logged into out of a sense of duty or for a blog post. I was in the middle of several single-player titles on Steam as well as at least three mmorpgs I was actively playing and now I've abandoned the lot of them. 

I haven't even logged into New World to check out the Summer Medleyfare or the music system. Guild Wars 2 has the long-promised Steam launch and the tenth anniversary celebrations incoming and I have no interest in either of them. There's that new game, Tower of Fantasy, that everyone's talking about (Actually, surprisingly few people seem to be talking about it...maybe just Belghast). 

It almost feels like a dereliction of duty  to ignore it all, particularly because of an obsession with a game I know for certain I won't be playing in a few weeks. (Do I know that, though? Do I really?)

Or maybe it's a sign of good mental health. Video games are meant to be fun, aren't they? Not work, not responsibility, not duty; fun. And it's got to be a good thing, not getting too emotionally attached to any of them. It's not a marriage. Play the field, as they used to say in the godawful '70s.

If the putatively evil Embracer Group (I'm sure they're not evil. I'm sure they're all lovely, really.) guts LotRO like a fish (Has anyone ever gutted a fish? It's a disgusting analogy. Why do we keep using it?), ought that to be a tragedy? Or is it just entropy rolling ever onward towards the heat death of the universe, another Ozymandian signifier that all, all is vanity?

Well don't look at me! I'm not Alain de Botton, thank the Lord. I just know it'd spoil my week if LotRO closed down and I barely play the game.

It won't happen though, will it? I'm sure everything will be fine. Game companies are our friends, right? They wouldn't do anything bad...


  1. Same day as the LOTR stuff was news that Embracer is buying Tripwire (Killing Floor, Maneater, Chivalry II among others). I think they probably ARE evil.

    1. It's one of those "When will they stop?" moments, isn't it?


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