Saber Interactive may escape Embracer’s death hug and become a private company

Saber Interactive has reportedly found an exit strategy from the death grip of its parent company, Embracer Group AB. Bloomberg reported Thursday that “a group of private investors” will buy the studio in a deal worth roughly $500 million. Saber would then become a private company with about 3,500 employees.

Engadget emailed a spokesperson from Saber for confirmation about the alleged buyout. The studio declined to comment.

The alleged agreement would be one of Embracer’s most significant cost-cutting moves since the collapse of a reported $2 billion deal with a group backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Some criticized the imperiled deal as the gaming equivalent of “sportswashing,” using popular sporting acquisitions and partnerships to boost beleaguered governments’ global images. That followed US intelligence’s conclusion that the Saudi regime murdered The Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi in late 2018.

Other cost-cutting moves at Embracer have included laying off about 900 employees in September, cutting another 50 or so jobs at Chorus developer Fishlabs and implementing more layoffs at Tiny Tina’s Wonderland developer Lost Boys Interactive, Beamdog, Crystal Dynamics and Saber subsidiary New World Interactive. Embracer also closed Saints Row studio Volition Games and Campfire Cabal.

Still from Star Wars: The Knights of the Old Republic. Two people and a droid stand outside on a bridge in a very Star Wars-y environment. Buildings, ships, towers.

LucasArts / Aspyr

According to Bloomberg, Saber’s sale won’t affect the studio’s role in developing an upcoming Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) remake. That game has already changed hands once: One of Saber’s Eastern European studios took over from Aspyr Media in the summer of 2022.

Aspyr had reportedly already been working on the game for years before providing a demo for Lucasfilm and Sony in June 2022; a week later, Aspyr fired its design director and art director. (Reports of the KOTOR demo costing a disproportionate amount of time and money may indicate a possible reason for the fallout.) By late that summer, Saber had taken over the development of the highly anticipated — and indefinitely delayed — remake.

Embracer bought Saber for $525 million in 2020 as it scooped up gaming studios left and right. It acquired at least 27 companies during that period, folding some of them (Demiurge Studios and New World Interactive) into Saber. Bloomberg reports that the deal to sell Saber to private investors includes an option to “bring along multiple Embracer subsidiaries.”

One studio that’s far too big to be included in this transaction is Borderlands developer Gearbox Entertainment. However, Kotaku reported Thursday that Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford told staff this week that a decision about the studio’s future had been made. He allegedly said he’d be able to share more details with them next month.

In the meantime, a cloud of uncertainty envelops Gearbox — and Embracer’s other remaining studios. “I’ve personally been looking for roles elsewhere not just due to the Embracer layoff fears, but due to pay,” an anonymous developer reportedly said to Kotaku. “Vague and in a holding pattern is definitely par for the course at the moment and has been for most of 2023.”

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