The deal, which was announced just before Christmas and is expected to close in early 2022, is the latest in a string of acquisitions for the Swedish gaming behemoth this year; earlier this month, the company announced deals to buy French gaming company Asmodee and the American arm of Chinese gaming behemoth Perfect World.
Dark Horse Comics, one of the major independent comic book companies in the Western business, was bought by video game studio Embracer Group just before Christmas. Although rumours about Dark Horse seeking for a buyer had been circulating for some time, the announcement came as a shock, given the timing of the announcement and the name of the company’s new owner.
Embracer “seems to be going all-in on the trend of IP consolidation,” game industry expert Matt Kim tells The Hollywood Reporter. “With Dark Horse, Embracer very quickly has its hands in a lot of different businesses that can all crossover with each other. It’s not hard to imagine Dark Horse publishing a line of Saints Row comics, or Asmodee putting out a Hellboy board game, or a Settlers of Catan TV show all operating under the Embracer banner.”
Additionally, sharing a corporate parent with potential licensees means that any comic project has greater long-term stability than previous licenses that the company has found success with; unlike properties like Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Aliens, there’ll be little chance of intellectual property owned by Dark Horse’s parent company being taken to an outside publisher after decades of work.
Certainly, the deal has obvious synergistic appeal for Dark Horse as a publisher; the company has made significant inroads with video game material in the past, including critically acclaimed titles based on everything from Cyberpunk 2077 and The Last of Us to Minecraft and Plants vs. Zombies. Although the announcement of the deal mentioned the 300-plus pieces of intellectual property in the Dark Horse catalog, much of its publishing history is made up of titles either owned by its creators (Hellboy, The Umbrella Academy, Sin City), or else licensed from movie and gaming companies; the new deal gives Dark Horse access to a wider range of material for future exploration in a market that few other comic publishers are managing to serve.
For Embracer, Dark Horse provides not just an opportunity to expand properties into comics, but other media. Dark Horse’s ongoing relationship with media companies through current and future adaptations and the Dark Horse Entertainment subsidiary open up the potential for Embracer to push projects outside of the video game arena. Dark Horse isn’t simply the fourth-largest comic book publisher in the U.S. industry, after all; it’s also a company with a first-look deal with Netflix, as well as an ongoing relationship with Universal Content Productions courtesy of the SYFY adaptation of its Resident Alien series.