The first, and quite possibly only, game that comes to mind when you think about Gearbox Software is almost certainly Borderlands. There have been others, of course, but we haven’t seen a Brothers in Arms game in well over a decade, and neither Duke Nukem Forever nor Aliens: Colonial Marines left a positive impression. In an interview with VentureBeat, though, Gearbox co-founder Randy Pitchford said the studio actually has a lot of other ideas it would like to pursue, and its recent acquisition by Embracer Group will finally enable it to do so.
“We have so many new IP concepts that are in our incubator, that are ready to explode,” Pitchford said. “We could wait for the right publishing partner who’s willing to make a bet, rather than only take a risk on something they know Gearbox has already done before. Those publishers that have taken risks on us for what we want to see next have always been rewarded. But for some reason they can’t be comfortable with that kind of risk. Now we get to take that risk.”
Pitchford compared Gearbox’s acquisition to Epic’s decision to sell the Gears of War property to Microsoft, describing that decision as “burning the boats” before moving onto the bigger and better enabled by Fortnite.
“We don’t have to do that. We can maximally deliver on the IP we have and pursue new IP as a consequence of this relationship,” Pitchford said. “That’s incredibly exciting for me. I feel like we’re just getting started.”
“I don’t know how many years I have left, but I want to get as much done as I can while I’m still useful to this industry, while I’m still useful to people who want video games. I’ll do it as long as the world wants me to. I intend to die in office. I hope that’s a long time from now.”
Embracer Group CEO Lars Wingefors implied that Gearbox’s new parent company views the situation in a similar light, saying that Gearbox “will form their own unit that can consolidate if they want to, but they will grow organically.”
“I’m buying into Randy and the management. I’m trusting them,” he said. “By doing that, we don’t need to put a controlling function in place, micromanaging anything. Our model wouldn’t work if we were creating a central headquarters with 500 people asking questions about business plans. That’s not our model. Our operating model, with these operating groups — we have eight of them, starting this morning — that’s the key to our success.”
Embracer Group may not be a household name among gamers, but those eight “operating groups“—Amplifier Game Invest, Coffee Stain Holding, DECA Games, Easybrain, Gearbox Softwork, Koch Media, Saber Interactive, and THQ Nordic—collectively make it a genuine powerhouse in the industry. On the same day that it merged with Gearbox, Embracer Group also acquired Aspyr Media in a deal worth up to $450 million. Aspyr will operate under Embracer’s Saber Interactive label.
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