The Video Game Industry's Acquisition Fever: 2022 Was A Year Full Of Giant Purchases And A Few Disappointments

The Video Game Industry's Acquisition Fever: 2022 Was A Year Full Of Giant Purchases And A Few Disappointments

By Flor Orsetti

The year when Sony Group Corp SONY bought Bungie, Microsoft Corp MSFT got hold of Activision Blizzard Inc ATVI and the giant Embracer Group THQQF acquired more than 5 companies, including IPs like “The Lord of The Rings,” is finally coming to an end.

During the first nine months of 2022, 976 purchases were announced or closed in the gaming sector worldwide, according to the last report by the investment and technology bank, Drake Star.

The figures are in the millions, but what is the big picture?

It’s not all roses in the gaming industry.

Swedish publisher Embracer Group AB (which acquired Tripware Interactive, Eidos Montreal, Crystal Dynaics, among others this year) recently announced it is closing down Onoma, a videogame studio operating in Montreal, which might be known by no one but is basically Square Enix Montreal.

This team was known for creating the “Go” game series for mobiles, with titles like “Hitman Go.” Nevertheless, the company recently announced to its personnel that many employees were going to be transferred to a twin studio named Eidos Montreal and that another 200 employees would be dismissed.

The closing comes as a shock and as something unusual (even scary), particularly due to the moment when it’s happening. Onoma was purchased in May; on the 10th of October, a new name and brand were announced. Just a few weeks after that, Embracer decided to shut it down.

Embracer, whose headquarters are in Sweden, has focused on purchasing big and small companies from the videogame sector over the last few years. And although the Onoma news is disheartening, the entire outlook is not.

Adding to the previously mentioned, one of the highlighted acquisitions is the Argentine studio Nimble Giant in 2020, which has only grown since then and has been able to expand to the point of opening offices in Spain and other Latin American countries.

On the other hand, Eidos Montreal, the remaining studio, is still untouched but did face some budget adjustments. The Onoma closing and these budget cuts are clear examples of how Embracer is seeking cost reductions. Eidos Montreal dwindled the scope of a project that hasn’t been announced and shut down another. What remains in force is their role as a co-developer, since the company is expected to work with Microsoft in the development of some games, including one of the “Fable” franchises, run by the British company Playground Games.

News like that of Onoma is clearly making personalities like Hideo Kojima give clear-cut statements about the topic: “as long as I live, I don’t think I’ll take these offers.”

In the last episode of “Brain Structure Podcast,” the Japanese creative assured that Kojima Productions is an independent studio and it will remain that way.

"We have no affiliation whatsoever and are not supported by anyone,” he said. Kojima disclosed that he has received purchase offers for the studio, but was very blunt with the fact that he founded Kojima Productions “to work on what he wants to do.” As is to be expected for a studio run by a creative giant like him, some of the offers he received are ridiculously high-priced.

It is very probable that Kojima is referring to creative freedom (when he claims he’ll do what he wants to do), especially after everything that happened with Konami Group Corp KNAMF, which not only canceled “Silent Hills,” but also took away the classic “A Hideo Kojima Game” from the cover of “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.”

However, it is also true that many of these acquisitions mean an identity loss for the studios, either because they are absorbed by other companies (as Onoma’s and Eidos’ case), or because they are closed down altogether. Not to mention that in other cases, as with Netflix NFLX, market capitalization is the clear strategic approach and not so much the creative aspect, which Kojima advocates so much for with his auteur vision.

Netflix has acquired 6 studios so far this year (the most recent being Spry Fox, just a few days ago). It is an unstoppable marathon that is part of its strategy of exploiting the mobile gaming market to the fullest extent possible since it is the fastest-growing segment in the video game world.

The company started publishing mobile games in November 2021 it already has more than 30 games available on iOS and Android.

2022 has been by far the year of acquisitions in the videogame industry, with transactions surpassing $123 billion in value. The numbers speak for themselves and there is still more than a month to go. For these giant companies, this is a lot of time to keep on closing deals. However, the benefits of these consolidations are still a long way off.

The remaining question is: which videogame studio is next to be bought? Whatever the answer, we hope for more successful cases and fewer Onoma scenarios in the future.

 

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