Alongside news of layoffs at both Motorsport Games and Digital Bros, there’s some evidence how restructuring can help a company improve their finances, as Embracer Group increase sales and reduce debts after cuts in 2023. But they’ve also confirmed further headcount reductions are in process.
Embracer is the parent for 12 different operating groups, including THQ Nordic, Plaion, Saber and more, comprising of 135 studios and more than 900 game franchises. They reduced their employee numbers by around 900 people in 2023, which is about 5% of their workforce, and posted increases in net sales of 28% for April to September 2023 compared to the previous year.
Obviously, that’s not much solace for the studios closed (e.g. Saints Row developer Volition), and the individuals impacted so far, with further restructuring in process. And across the company, any cuts could impact titles including:
- Wreckfest (Bugbear Entertainment – THQ Nordic)
- MX vs ATV Legends (Rainbow Studios – THQ Nordic)
- Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 (Milestone – Plaion)
- The MotoGP franchise (Milestone – Plaion)
- The RIDE franchise (Milestone – Plaion)
- The MXGP franchise (Milestone – Plaion)
- SBK 22 (Milestone – Plaion)
- The Supercross franchise (Milestone – Plaion)
- SnowRunner (Saber)
- Dakar Desert Rally (Saber)
- Redout 2 (Saber)
- Expeditions: A Mudrunner Game (Saber)
Along with those titles, Plaion has also signed a publishing deal for the upcoming GTRevival racing sim.
Obviously with a company of this size, the Embracer interim report Q2 2023 didn’t go into much detail on individual games and studios, although Expeditions: A MudRunner Game was mentioned as one of the exciting titles for next year. Apparently around 15 mainly unannounced projects have been written down across the Amplifier, Freemode, Gearbox, Plaion, Saber Interactive and THQ Nordic groups.
Of their current roster of driving and racing games, you’d imagine the likes of Wreckfest, Hot Wheels Unleashed, MotoGP, MXGP and Supercross do sustainable sales numbers (although Wreckfest has been around for five years at this point). And the SnowRunner/MudRunner franchise are also probably fairly secure, especially with the new Expeditions title out soon.
That leaves SBK 22, which was a bit of a lacklustre marriage between the current MotoGP games and the World Superbikes license, Redout, and Dakar Desert Rally. Along with any cancelled projects which might have been planned within the racing genre.
It also highlights the fact that many of the big publishers have been on acquisition sprees over recent years, and it’s a fragile approach when there’s any financial pressure. While we may be focused on the racing games and sims we enjoy playing, it’s important to remember that hundreds of individuals are impacted by cuts at any publisher or developer, and hopefully all those affected are able to find alternative employment as soon as possible.
Will it mean smaller, indie studios think twice before accepting acquisition offers in the future? Probably not, but there are certainly some advantages to staying small and independent of large publishers.