Veteran Electronic Arts executive Patrick Soderlund’s new development outfit, Embark Studios, has been acquired by free-to-play giant Nexon.
Nexon was already working with Embark and had invested in it, but now Nexon owns 66.1 percent of Embark’s outstanding shares, increasing its investment from 32.8 percent. As such, Embark is now the majority shareholder.
As part of the move, Embark becomes a subsidiary of Nexon. Soderlund joined Nexon’s board of directors as part of the company’s first investment into Embark, and that is unchanged now.
Nexon president and CEO Owen Mahoney said in a statement that Embark continues to make “incredible progress” on the games it is working on. “Patrick Soderlund has been essential in helping drive our vision forward, so it only made sense to bring the companies even closer together,” Mahoney said.
For his part, Soderlund said Embark and Nexon share a “fundamentally similar world view.”
“Both our companies know that game development needs an overhaul, and we’re both convinced that new technology, methodologies, and perspectives will completely reshape what games can become,” he said.
Embark is working on at least two games currently, one of which is free-to-play cooperative action game set in the “distant future.” The game is about “overcoming seemingly impossible odds by working together.”
In a post on Medium, Soderlund said Embark has grown to almost 80 developers
“The game team has been deep into prototyping over the spring, and we’re beginning to see the early seeds of something unique,” Soderlund said. “The other week we started running weekly (and gloriously buggy) playtests, which means we have begun iterating on our ideas and can start to identify the things that are good and the things that are less good.”
Embark’s other internal team, comprising around a quarter of the studio, is working on a platform that will help a broader group of people make games.
“We’ve started working on a platform that we hope will let anyone create interactive experiences, even people with no prior experience with game development tools,” Soderlund said. “Much of the work on the platform so far has gone into building up the core, and there are some large and interesting challenges ahead.”
In particular, Soderlund said animation and movement can be especially tricky. Embark has created an AI system that uses physics to create animations automatically. As an example, check out the video below where the spider’s walking animations were automatically generated without any manual input.
Soderlund was the CEO of Battlefield developer DICE, which EA acquired in 2006 for $23 million. He later held various different positions at EA, including chief design officer and executive vice president of Worldwide Studios up until his departure from EA in October 2018.