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Saber Interactive CEO thinks people are being too hard on 'naive' Embracer Group

'I think you can blame Lars for maybe being a little bit naive that this gravy train would just continue.'

Chris Kerr, News Editor

April 9, 2024

3 Min Read
The Embracer logo on a stylized black background
Logo via Embracer

It wouldn't be unfair to say Embracer Group has garnered something of a bad rep within the game industry.

After spending years dropping cash hand over fist to acquire a vast portfolio of game studios and franchises, the Swedish conglomerate suddenly pumped the brakes and said that, actually, it needed to become sustainable.

In doing so, it quickly gutted the very studios and teams it had spent years acquiring, laying off around 1,400 workers in six months before eventually divesting some of its biggest assets in Gearbox Entertainment and Saber Interactive.

So, who needs to shoulder the responsibility for Embracer's colossal failings? Some might point the finger at Embracer CEO Lars Wingefors, who earlier this year said the company would "always maximize shareholder value in any given situation."

Not Saber Interactive boss, Matthew Karch, mind you. The CEO, who recently bought back the company from Embracer, believes Wingefors is actually being unfairly maligned.

Speaking to IGN about the reality of life under the Embracer umbrella, Karch suggested the conglomerate was more akin to a "small-town and homegrown" organization than a sprawling empire. "It's not a company which wants to spit out a thousand Lord of the Rings games regardless of whether or not those Lord of the Rings games are going to hurt the license. That's not the way Embracer operates. It's not the way Lars operates. He loves IP. He loves games. He loves game developers. He got to start in comics. God knows how long ago, and he's just a good human being, and he cares about his people," he said.

"But when the market shifted, the market lost patience. And when the market lost patience, hard decisions had to be made because there was just no way to sustain everything that was going on. And so that's why the layoffs occurred."

Speed of Embracer layoffs have given the company a "reputation"

Karch doesn't believe the layoffs made by Embracer were more notable than any of the others sanctioned around the industry, but said the company has "gotten a reputation" because it acquired so quickly—and therefore had to cut jobs at a similar pace.

He told IGN that while he's sympathetic to those laid off, he doesn't believe Embracer deserves eternal damnation because of how it reacted. He also feels that Wingefors was perhaps simply "a little bit naive" in thinking the good times would last forever.

"I think you can blame Lars for maybe being a little bit naive that this gravy train would just continue. But I think now you could admire them for making tough decisions and doing whatever they can to preserve as much of what they've built as they can in a fair and equitable way," he said.

"I think some people saw those acquisitions and were annoyed by Embracer when they were acquiring. I remember a lot of negative comments about them gobbling everything up. And so now they're a little bit gleeful…which I don't think is entirely equitable. But give Lars a break or have somebody give him a break. Tell the world that I said they need to give this guy a break."

If you want to hear more from Karch, be sure to check out the full interview over on IGN.

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About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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