Former Embracer Group chief operating officer Egil Strunke announced on LinkedIn today that he has formally resigned as the company's chief operating officer—essentially, Embracer's number-two guy—and that he's now launching an all-new game company of his own.
Strunke's departure was initially announced in June, a month after the last-minute collapse of a "groundbreaking strategic partnership" worth more than $2 billion. His replacement was named as Matthew Karch, formerly the CEO of Saber Interactive, one of Embracer's divisions. In his message today, Strunke confirmed that he formally resigned from Embracer last week.
"My history with the group spans across two four-year stints, first 2011-14—the early foundational days with acquiring assets from Jowood and THQ and planting the seeds to what we then didn’t know would become Embracer Group," Strunke wrote. "Then returning 2019 to a sizzling, acquisitional hotbed where new entrepreneurs and exciting studios were added quarter by quarter. Growing employees 14x to 16.500 and revenue 8x to circa 40 billion SEK in four years has been an amazing experience and adventure.
"Although the last year has been rough, in line with general market changes and industry consolidation, I am positive that Embracer will come out stronger and with a long, bright future ahead of them."
In terms of public profile, Strunke isn't a Phil Spencer or a Randy Pitchford, but his departure from Embracer is noteworthy because of the "rough" past year he alluded to in his message. For about a three-year run, Embracer Group was an absolute beast on the acquisition front, hoovering up every mid-tier developer and publisher it could reach, including some big players like Koch Media, Gearbox, Tripwire Interactive, Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, and Saber Interactive. Seemingly overnight, it went from a relatively niche Swedish publisher (Embracer was originally founded as Nordic Games) to a multi-tentacled videogame monster.
But trouble came even faster. The $2 billion dollar mystery deal, which fell through at the last minute in May—literally the night before Embracer announced its year-end financial results—devastated the company. Since then, Embracer has laid off employees at Cryptic Studios, Beamdog, and Zen Studios, and closed Saints Row developer Volition outright. In September, anonymous sources said Embracer was also looking to sell off Gearbox, which it acquired less than three years ago for a whopping $1.3 billion.
The fact that Strunke's departure was announced months ago means this isn't a new sign of crisis at Embracer, but I think it's telling that he's not leaving the gaming business. Instead, he's founding a new company called Strunke Games, which aims "to support and be involved in some of the most interesting gaming studios, companies and projects around the globe as the games industry continues its constant change." That sounds very much like what Embracer was doing just one short year ago.