Gaming

Square Enix Sells Tomb Raider to Invest More in Blockchain Games

Square Enix is selling several of its development studios in order to invest more in blockchain, AI and cloud gaming.

Crystal Dynamics developed the Tomb Raider reboot published by Square Enix, which has sold over 30 million units. 
Embracer Group

Lara Croft is no longer part of the Square Enix family. On Monday the Japanese gaming giant announced it's struck a deal to sell its Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montréal and Square Enix Montréal studios to Swedish publisher Embracer Group, formerly THQ Nordic. The $300 million deal means that Square Enix will no longer publish Tomb Raider games, as well as Deus Ex, Thief and Legacy of Kain titles.

Lara Croft got a reboot by developer Crystal Dynamics in 2013's Tomb Raider, a game that got two sequels in Rise of the Tomb Raider and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The series proved a huge success, selling over 35 million copies between them. Meanwhile, Eidos Montréal revived the '90s cult classic Deux Ex with acclaimed titles Deux Ex Human Evolution and Mankind Divided.

It's not necessarily bad news for Croft fans. "The acquisition brings a compelling pipeline of new installments from beloved franchises and original IPs, including a new Tomb Raider game," reads a statement from Embracer. What happens to Square Enix-published Marvel games is an open question: Crystal Dynamics developed The Avengers, and Eidos-Montréal made last year's Guardians of the Galaxy game

Square Enix said in a statement that the sale works to two ends. First, it allows for more cash flow in an increasingly volatile business environment -- presumably a reference to a combination of the pandemic, war and inflation. Second, it can use the money to invest in "fields including blockchain, AI, and the cloud."

On numerous occasions, Square Enix has stated its interest in harnessing the blockchain for gaming, which means integrating cryptocurrency and NFTs into video games. (In-game items are owned as NFTs, and can be sold for tokens that can in turn be turned back to dollars.) In his new year's letter to investors and customers, Square Enix's president, Yosuke Matsuda, acknowledged that the NFT market is "overheated," but wrote that games featuring token economies can usher in a new era of user-generated content.

Blockchain-powered gaming is already a huge moneymaker, just not from traditional gaming companies. Over $40 million has been spent in the last week on NFT sprites for Ragnarok, a browser-based RPG game that will roll out between May and December, while Yuga Labs a week ago made $320 million selling land for its upcoming metaverse game, in just three hours. 

Traditional gaming audiences reject the idea, however. Ubisoft integrated NFTs into Ghost Recon Breakpoint in December, but the announcement trailer received so much criticism that the company took it down from YouTube. Similar blowback caused GSM Game World to scrap NFTs in its STALKER 2 game just 36 hours after revealing plans to integrate them.

"I realize that some people who 'play to have fun' and who currently form the majority of players have voiced their reservations toward these new trends," Matsuda wrote in January. "However, I believe that there will be a certain number of people whose motivation is to 'play to contribute,' by which I mean to help make the game more exciting. Traditional gaming has offered no explicit incentive to this latter group of people, who were motivated strictly by such inconsistent personal feelings as goodwill and volunteer spirit."

User-generated content "has been brought into being solely because of individuals' desire for self-expression and not because any explicit incentive existed to reward them for their creative efforts ... I believe that this [token economies] will lead to more people devoting themselves to such efforts and to greater possibilities of games growing in exciting ways." 

The deal will close between July and September, according to Square Enix. The company noted that Just Cause, Outriders and Life Is Strange will continue to be published by Square Enix.