Lalani wanted eight-year-old Erica Walton to become a “TikTok Famous”. Instead, she died.
It is one of two such tragedies that prompted the filing of manslaughter-related lawsuits Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the social media giant. The company’s app has fueled Lalani and Ariani Jaileen Arroyo, 9, with videos linked to a viral trend called the Blackout Challenge in which participants attempt to choke themselves into unconsciousness, cases claim; The two girls died after trying to join.
It is an indication that TikTok – a file Very popular, it is an algorithmically organized video app US-based Culver City – a defective product, said the Social Media Victims Law Center, the law firm behind the lawsuits that it described as “legal resource For parents of kids hurt by social media.” The law center said TikTok videos pushed Lalani and Arriani in a dangerous direction, were designed to be addictive and didn’t offer girls or their parents enough safety features, all in the name of increasing ad revenue.
TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Girls’ deaths bear striking similarities.
Lallani, who was from Texas, was a TikToker starved, posting videos of her dancing and singing on the social network in hopes of going viral, according to the Law Center complaint.
The lawsuit said that at some point in July 2021, its algorithm began showing videos of a self-deadening strangulation challenge. In the middle of that month, Lalani told her family that the bruises on her neck were the result of a fall, the lawsuit said. Soon, she spent part of a 20-hour car trip with her stepmother watching what her mother later learned were blackout challenge videos.
When they got home from the trip, Lalani’s stepmother told her they could swim later, and then take a short nap. But upon waking, the suit said, her stepmother went into Lalani’s bedroom and found the girl “hanging from her bed with a rope around her neck.”
The lawsuit said police, who took Lalani’s phone and tablet, later told her stepmother that the girl had been watching “frequent” blackout challenge videos.
“Based on the belief that if she posted a video of herself doing the Blackout Challenge, she would become famous,” Lallani said, although the young girl “did not appreciate or understand the dangerous nature of what TikTok was encouraging her to do.”
The lawsuit said Ariane, from Milwaukee, also loved posting songs and dance videos on TikTok. She said she “gradually became obsessed” about the app.
On February 26, 2021, Ariane’s father was working in the basement when her younger brother Eduardo came downstairs and said Ariane was not moving. The suit said the two brothers had been playing together in Ariane’s bedroom, but when their father rushed upstairs to check on her, he found his daughter “hanging from the family dog’s leash.”
Ariani was urgently taken to the hospital and put on a respirator, but it was too late – the girl lost all brain function, the suit said, and was eventually taken off the resuscitators.
“The TikTok producer and algorithm directed extremely dangerous and unacceptable challenges and videos” to Arriani’s feed, and encouraged her to “participate and participate in the TikTok Blackout Challenge,” the lawsuit said.
Lalani and Ariani weren’t the first two children to die while trying to defy a blackout.
Nella Anderson, 10, accidentally hanged herself in her family home while trying to emulate the trend, according to a recent lawsuit from her mother. Uploaded against TikTok in Pennsylvania.
The Social Media Victims Law Center complaint said, “TikTok knew beyond doubt that the deadly Blackout challenge was spreading through their app and that their algorithm was specifically feeding the Blackout Challenge to children,” adding that the company “knew or should have known that the fiasco Taking immediate and significant action to stem the spread of the deadly Blackout Challenge would lead to more infections and deaths, especially among children.”
TikTok has in the past denied that the blackout challenge is a TikTok trend, citing pre-TikTok cases of children dying from a “choking game” and telling The Washington Post that the company blocked #BlackoutChallenge from its search engine.
These types of challenges are usually viral Built around the hashtag That makes it easy to find every entry in one place, a huge part of TikTok user culture. Most are harmless, and often encourage users to sync up a specific song or imitate a dance move.
But some have proven to be more dangerous. Injuries have been reported from attempts to recreate stunts known as fire challengeAnd the Milk crate challengeAnd the Benadryl ChallengeAnd the skull cutter challenge And the Dry Scoop Challengeamong other things.
Also, this issue is not limited to TikTok. In the past, YouTube was home to trends like Tide Challenge And the Cinnamon Challenge, and both experts warn it could be dangerous. In 2014, internet legend known as Slenderman led two teenage girls stabbing a friend 19 times.
Although social media platforms have long been accused of hosting socially harmful content — including hate speech, slander and misinformation — federal law is called Section 230. makes it Difficult to sue the platforms themselves. Under Section 230, apps and websites have a wide scope to host and modify user-generated content as they see fit, without having to worry about being sued.
The Law Center complaint attempts to bypass this firewall by framing the obfuscation challenge deaths as a failure of product design rather than content moderation. TikTok is at fault for developing an algorithm-sponsored social media product that put Lalani and Arriani in a dangerous direction, the theory goes — an argument about consumer safety that is less controversial than the thorny questions about free speech and censorship that would arise if the lawsuit frames TikTok’s errors like publisher errors.
“A social media product that is unreasonably dangerous…designed to addictive and does to young children, and certainly directs them into harm’s way, is not immunized third-party content, but rather voluntary behavior on behalf of social media companies,” he said. Matthew Bergman, the attorney who founded the company.
Or as the complaint states: “The plaintiffs do not claim that TikTok is responsible for what the third parties said or did, but for what TikTok did or did not do.”
Largely, the suits do so by criticizing the TikTok algorithm as addictive, with a slot machine-like interface feeding users endless streams of specially crafted videos in the hopes of keeping them online for longer and longer periods.
“Tik Tok designed, manufactured, marketed and sold a social media product that was unreasonably dangerous because it was designed to addict minor users,” the complaint said, adding that the videos presented to users included “harmful and exploitative” ones. “TikTok had a duty to monitor and evaluate the performance of the algorithm and ensure that it did not direct vulnerable children to dangerous and deadly videos.”
leaked documents Indicate that the company sees both user retention and the time users stay on the application as key success measures.
It’s a business model deployed by many other free web platforms – the more time users spend on the platform, the more ads the platform can sell – but it is increasingly under fire, especially with children and their still developing brains involved.
a pair of bills made by them the way through The California legislature aims to reshape the landscape of how social media platforms engage young users. First, the law of duty of social media platforms towards children Parental Empowerment to sue web platforms that are addicting their children; The other, the California Age-Appropriate Design Act, would require web platforms to present children with a great deal of importance PRIVACY AND SECURITY protection.
Bergman has spent most of his career representing mesothelioma victims, many of whom became ill from exposure to asbestos. The social media sector, he said, “makes the asbestos industry look like a bunch of choir boys”.
But although things are bad, he said, cases like the case against TikTok also provide some hope for the future.
With mesothelioma, he said, he “was always making up for past mistakes.” But the lawsuits against social media companies provide an “opportunity to stop casualties; to actually implement change; to save lives.”
Everything in technology has been turned upside down in 2022
Then everything changed – radically. bring springencryption winter,” as the value of the cryptocurrency plummeted. Bitcoin started the year at around $47,000 and has now fallen to around $17,000. Several NFT projects have either been abandoned or have been mixed together. Bored Apes’ base price is now hovering around $88,000, down from around $260,000. In Feb. Perhaps a sign of the loss of luster for NFTs is that a recent batch of official Donald Trump NFT reports were advertised as simply “trading cards.”
The public perception of cryptocurrency has erupted even more dramatically. The last disaster FTX breakdown And the The arrest of its founder Sam Bankman Fred Fraud charges threaten to destabilize the entire ecosystem. FTX clients lost huge amounts of money – up to $8 billion in deposits. But the biggest fallout may be that Bankman Fried, on its way to becoming a household name, seems to have given the skeptics a win: sure, it all sounds like a Ponzi scheme, right? Ironically, the Larry David character in this FTX Super Bowl ad turned out to be right after all.
Technical layoffs and a dead dip
The entire US economy has downturned this year, and tech companies have seen their stocks drop dramatically with it. In the second half of the year, big technology companies love AmazonAnd the metaAnd the popAnd the sales forceAnd the Lift, and more layoffs. Across the industry, an estimated 150,000 tech jobs will be laid off in 2022, according to the site. Layoffs. For workers who had come from outside the United States to pursue the American dream in lucrative and prestigious technical jobs, these cuts were Especially brutalThe laid-off visa holders had to get a new job within 60 days or leave the country.
Perhaps no drop has been as dramatic as that of Meta, whose stock is down 67% since the start of the year. In February, the company announced that for the first time ever, Facebook user numbers were down. In November, he cut his meta 11,000 jobs And the Close output gateand a video chatting device in addition to the wearables it was developing. CEO Mark Zuckerberg attributed the cuts in part to over-expansion during the pandemic.
Universal Studios Hollywood powers up with Super Nintendo World
In 1981 Shigeru Miyamoto created a video game character whose entire personality was contained in what the designer first described as “16 dots by 16 dots.”
As that character evolved, those pixels would comprise red suspenders, a pouch of a tummy, an oversize nose, a bushy mustache and eventually a whole lot of jumpy pluckiness, making him an unlikely but confident hero as he sought to rescue a damsel in distress. Miyamoto at first called him Mr. Video, a prescient and self-assured designation for a character who by 1985 would come to dominate home television screens.
It wasn’t long before Mr. Video transitioned into Mario, the most recognizable video game character ever created. Mario would become so popular that Miyamoto would look to the Walt Disney Co. and its brand management of Mickey Mouse for direction. “Mickey Mouse sort of grew and evolved alongside cartoons and animation. I felt it would be best for Mario to grow and evolve alongside video games. Whenever we introduced new technology, we always paired that introduction with a new Mario game,” Miyamoto once told The Times.
Today, Mickey Mouse ears are a global symbol for theme parks around the globe. Could Mario’s trademark red newsboy-like cap challenge that dominance? Maybe, but that’s not the bet driving Universal Studios to build multiple Nintendo-inspired lands in its theme parks.
“I think it’s very clear,” says Jon Corfino, vice president at Universal Creative, the division of the company responsible for theme park experiences. “It means that entertainment is not static.”
The colorful ground where Corfino is standing in Universal Studios Hollywood was once home to blocky soundstages. Today, his feet are planted on an oversize yellow star in a space dedicated to Super Nintendo World, the first major video-game-driven land in a United States theme park.
It’s a historical and remarkable shift for a park that has long stood as a temple dedicated to cinema. For nearly six decades now, the backlot Studio Tour has provided fans, tourists and aspiring filmmakers with their first notable glimpse at behind-the-scenes studio magic — the haunted imagery of a Bates Motel, the thrill of a “Jaws”-like shark attack or the ability to imagine the “Back to the Future” clock tower being shocked to life with a lightning bolt.
But on Feb. 17 when Super Nintendo World officially opens to the public, Universal Studios will be making one of the boldest statements yet about the future of entertainment: It will be interactive. Such a belief has been driving the entirety of the theme park industry for much of the last two decades, and Super Nintendo World, a larger version of which opened last year at Universal Studios Japan, will be the most fully realized vision of a living, persistent land designed to respond to — and play with — guests.
“There is a story line behind this whole experience,” Corfino says. Guests, after walking through one of Mario’s hallmark green pipes, will find themselves in the castle of his beloved Princess Peach, who has just had her golden mushroom stolen. “Part of our mission is to help her get it back. That’s the rationale and the purpose behind a lot of the interactive games.”
And with the land, Mario again will be introducing players — now theme park guests — to a new technology.
Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge, the land’s sole ride, will, in a first for an American theme park, meld physical sets with movement-tracking augmented reality that will respond to guest positions. It’s part old-school, theme park dark ride — guests will board cars and follow a track — and part showcase for a new form of game playing.
Guests will be asked to steer, throw and aim along a predetermined path. The attraction, one that prioritizes gamification, special effects and theme park wizardry over high-speed thrills, will place attendees, four to a car, alongside Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and a host of other recognizable Nintendo characters, all in a highly participatory racing challenge against the demonic, turtle-meets-dragon figure of Bowser, Mario’s longtime archnemesis.
To get to the ride, visitors will first traverse a blazingly vibrant land that will mash up multiple scenes from the popular “Super Mario Bros.” games. One can gaze out of augmented-reality-enhanced telescopes near icy peaks with blue, snow-lined trees or stand below desert vistas in which a Pokey — a cactus-inspired centipede-like creature — stalks from above. Throughout, there is constant movement — Piranha Plants chomp, a stony Thwomp slams with force, and yellow blocks, ripe for punching — or ill-advised head-butting — dot what feels like a lifesize obstacle course.
Gold coins, forever out of reach, spin and glint in the SoCal sun as bouncy-looking mushrooms look eager to be jumped upon. We won’t, however, be able to run and hop through the land like Mario, but we’ll certainly feel like we should; as side-scrolling platforms tempt us to go higher, the turtle-like Koopas will walk back and forth around us, and the mushroom-inspired Goombas will wobble, stack and practically taunt us to pounce on them. But good news: We will be able to play, as dotted throughout the land are four multiplayer challenges — mini-games that will culminate in a group battle against Bowser Jr.
If all goes as planned, Super Nintendo World will be the most participatory theme park universe ever envisioned.
“They could have made Super Nintendo World a big arcade,” says Jesse Schell, a game designer and longtime advocate for interactivity in public spaces, having worked with theme parks around the world.
“But it’s clear the mandate was that this is not going to be a place where you go to play video games. This is a place where you’re going to go to be in a video game.”
A LAND BUILT FOR CREATIVITY
Theme parks, of course, have always been dedicated to interactive play. One can argue that a land such as Super Nintendo World — or the game-filled Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Anaheim’s Disneyland Park — are rooted in this mission.
There is, as we’ve noted before, an aspect of this approach that dates back to Disneyland’s 1955 beginnings, most notably in the staged shootouts and pack mules that brought theatrics and activity to Frontierland. Tom Sawyer Island joined the latter in 1956, allowing guests to run free amid caves, trails and a suspension bridge. The change, however, is how guests are viewed. We were once seen largely as audience members. Today, we’re essentially actors in giant playsets; that is, if we want to be.
A pivotal moment: The 2014 introduction of interactive wands at Universal’s first Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which turned the entire land into a living universe by giving players the illusion of magic-making abilities. Instead of wands, Universal hopes Super Nintendo World guests invest in Power-Up Bands, interactive wristbands available for $40.
The bands will connect with an app, which will allow guests to track their progress in recapturing the golden mushroom, as well as allow them to collect virtual coins throughout the land and keep tally of their Mario Kart ride scores. Corfino says characters in the land — Mario, his brother Luigi and Princess Peach — will be able to respond to guests based on the progress recorded by their bands. More important, the bands and app will prod guests to play the games that dot Super Nintendo World, which will be broad in scope. Most of the games require participation among multiple parties of guests. Some are timed challenges, others are crank-led puzzles, and one is a chaotic, touch-fueled game that has players turning over digital blocks.
“My definition of games is maybe a little bit different,” Corfino says. “I know that some folks like to say if somehow the experience is keeping score, it’s a game. There are other attractions that have, on a one-dimensional level, kept score. But from a complete immersive aspect, everything that you’re doing here is being tied into your Power-Up Band. Then, delving into the reality of the Mario Kart ride experience, where you have AR goggles, physical sets, video mapping, LED projection — you are in a full-blown game that is unique every time based on what you’re doing. It’s pretty next level.”
The theme park industry will be watching.
“I think that this idea of being able to manifest the digital to the physical in a highly interactive, reactive social environment, which embraces a sense of agency, as well as a sense of urgency, is something where I’m seeing the future of theme parks and gaming colliding,” says Margaret Kerrison, author of “Immersive Storytelling for Real and Imagined Worlds” and a former theme park designer with Walt Disney Imagineering.
Kerrison, who worked extensively on Galaxy’s Edge, sees gaming and theme parks continuing to converge “into something that blurs the boundaries between what you do at home versus what you do in a theme park.”
The blending of theme parks and video games hasn’t always been an easy challenge to solve. Games, after all, are individualized experiences, as even multiplayer ones respond to a singular player’s actions. Theme parks, of course, are not that, as attractions are designed to captivate multiple thousands of people per hour. And yet modern attractions are increasingly gamified. The Disneyland Resort has recently opened the arcade-inspired Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, the latter of which turns our hands into a video game controller.
Universal Studios in Florida just launched the Great Movie Escape at its City Walk, escape rooms themed to “Back to the Future” and “Jurassic Park.” This follows Walt Disney World’s Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, a live-in hotel that doubles as a live-action role-playing game. Play can be derided as silly or frivolous, but it also facilitates curiosity. What is that? Why is it this way? And most important: What if I try this? And in a theme park setting, that drives communication among friends, families and even strangers, as play helps lower inhibitions in the name of engagement.
That is, if we believe it.
One of the first major successful implications of video games in a theme park attraction was Disney’s Toy Story Midway Mania!, which opened at Disney California Adventure in 2008. A key to its successes, says recently retired Imagineer Kevin Rafferty, one of the chief designers of the attraction, was to rethink how we view games in all-encompassing, physical settings. “The early video games that you played on your TV set at home always had a score or a number that would flash up,” Rafferty says. “But in a ride-through application, what that does is suddenly tell you it’s fake.
“It’s not a real space. It’s not a real midway game. In a real space, you wouldn’t have digital numbers pop up like you would in a pinball machine. We wanted the experience to feel real. I always like to say it’s OK to make-believe. But you can’t fake-believe. As soon as you break the rule that you’re in a real place in a real time, then suddenly it’s not a real game booth.”
Similarly, Super Nintendo World will treat its mini-games — and its Mario Kart ride — as real places. Games are around a corner, down a path or behind a giant mushroom rather than any particular booth announcing their presence. And the land is filled with hidden nooks — stairs that lead to a second level with augmented reality googles, or darkened, seemingly ominous caves filled instead with blocks to punch and whack.
It’s a land, like the best “Super Mario Bros.” games, built on discovery. And that, after all, was Miyamoto’s original mission with the games. Asked once for an explanation for the enduring power of Mario, Miyamoto had a simple yet ambitious answer: “The more creative the player is, the more things that they try, the more fun the game becomes.”
INSIDE THE CASTLE
Universal Studios is counting on players coming to be creative.
Unlike Japan’s version of the land, which is home to a ride inspired by Mario’s dinosaur-like pal Yoshi and has a Donkey Kong attraction currently under construction, Hollywood’s more confined space — this theme park, after all, is still a working studio — will have just a singular ride. But those who come to ride Mario Kart and bolt will be missing the point. Super Nintendo World is an invitation to play.
And yet the byzantine queue for Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge certainly indicates that Universal knows what the centerpiece of the land is. The line will take guests through numerous locales, starting with fantastical, forest-like atmospheres — said to be Yoshi’s new island — before transitioning to a second level that leads to Bowser’s castle. Nintendo fans will find numerous nods to the Mario Kart games, still one of Nintendo’s most successful properties. The recent “Mario Kart 8” for the Nintendo Switch has sold more than 48 million copies worldwide.
Screens will double as windows, showing us areas of the castle populated with ghosts. Elsewhere, we’ll see Bob-omb-making machines and we’ll learn of Bowser’s obsessions — mainly Mario and Princess Peach. Self-help books, such as one titled “How to Talk to Princesses,” will nod to the roots of franchise, but in this world Princess Peach is not an oft-kidnapped, damsel-in-distress. “It’s there,” Corfino says of Bowser’s obsession with Princess Peach, “but it’s not a creepy there.”
The ride was not available for media previews. Like most of Universal’s theme park experiences, expect open-to-the-public technical rehearsals for the land to begin well before opening, perhaps as soon as early to mid-January. These, however, can be sporadic and can close at any time. But based on videos of the ride from Japan, as well as interviews and reviews of the attraction, guests should expect Mario Kart to be one of the most ambitious video-game-inspired rides to date. It’s not one, however, that prioritizes speed, as capturing the feel of the games — the wildness of collecting and flinging items and constant turns — was the goal.
“There is a learning curve,” says Corfino, noting that the mechanics are simple — press a button on a steering wheel to toss a shell and aim simply by looking in a certain direction — but mastery will come in time. While there is a track, it’s beneficial to one’s final score to steer in the direction the ride is moving, as the attraction will be asking for guests to fully participate throughout. “It’s a natural extension of evolving from behind the scenes to the immersive environments of films,” Corfino says. “So now we’re putting you inside one of the most popular games of all time and putting you inside that environment. How deep can you go in terms of immersion and, in this case, gamification?”
That’s a question that isn’t just being asked by Universal. Arguably, gaming brands — intellectual property, or IP, in industry speak — are just hitting their mainstream culture stride. In spring, Universal will release a “Super Mario Bros.” film, and gaming properties, including “The Last of Us,” “League of Legends” and “Sonic the Hedgehog,” are increasingly being adopted by Hollywood studios. The industry is also closely watching Netflix’s foray into gaming, as the company has been buying and building a cadre of game developers.
“It’s going to be interesting, as time moves on, to see which IPs end up being really meaningful,” says game and theme park designer Schell. “We see our theme parks moving into a more interactive zone. That implies that video games and video game brands are going to be bigger and bigger. It’s easy to imagine a ‘Fortnite’ theme park.”
Theme parks such as Universal Studios and Disneyland are places the public goes to experience popular myths, from classic fairy tales to more modern franchises such as “Star Wars” or “Jurassic Park.” We get to live in and among them, and experience the stories that help us make sense of the world and our emotions.
With “Super Nintendo World,” games — and play itself — have now entered a new storytelling pantheon. It’s a statement that those weaned on games have long known. We don’t play to win or compete; we play to imagine ourselves in a story.
Why Embracer is taking over “Tomb Raider” and other video games
Like many action heroes on screen, it was sidetracked as new stars emerged and began to attract more viewers with bigger weapons, better special effects, and more elaborate adventures.
That’s when Lars Wingfors spied on an opportunity and pounced on it.
Earlier this year, a little-known Swedish billionaire bought the rights to British archaeologist Lara Croft and the vehicle, turning her into a household name. After its debut 26 years ago, “Tomb Raider” has become one of the biggest selling video game franchises of all time, spawning profitable spin-offs and films starring Angelina Jolie And the Alicia Vikanderbefore faltering with the advent of larger mobile games and apps and gaming moved away from its core teenage male audience to young girls, college students, and families.
Wingefors, Embracer, bought “Tomb Raider” from San Mateo-based Crystal Dynamics, along with the rights to dozens of game titles and other development studios from its parent company in May. For $300 million – an additional change in the $220 billion global gaming industry. Target? To buy relatively cheap, remake, relaunch and make big profits.
Within years, Embracer had acquired hundreds of game companies, publishers, and intellectual property rights from Los Angeles to Mumbai, allowing Wingefors, co-founder and CEO, to quietly build Europe’s largest gaming group. Today, Embracer is a publicly traded $5.7 billion company headquartered here in Karlstad, Sweden — the sleepy birthplace of the Wingefors of 65,000 people, about 160 miles west of Stockholm — and owns more video game studios than any other company in the world.
An increasing number of them are in California, where modern games were born in the Bay Area Atari and “Pong” In the 1970s before Japan took over the world of consoles with Nintendo, Sega and PlayStation. In the past two decades, gaming powerhouses have become more global, and some of the largest game makers have once again moved back to the West Coast of the United States.
They include Xbox maker Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, and Microsoft Activision Blizzard, the creators of the current bestselling Call of Duty game series in Santa Monica. in february, Super Nintendo Worldan immersive theme park based on the Mario Bros. franchise, will open at Universal Studios Hollywood.
For Wingefors and programmers around the world who dream of getting their next hit game, the Golden State is a prime destination.
“A lot of what happens in the world originated in California. Games are no exception to this,” says Wingfors, 45. We’re now in this space that we call transmedia – Hollywood-related games, movies that can become games. This is where we want to be and how important this country is.
“We want a lot of games and make them the best,” Wingefors adds. “So we’re making acquisitions.”
He buys games that are little known or outdated but have a dedicated following, like “Tomb Raider,” “Legacy of Kain,” “Duke Nukem,” and a handful of “SpongeBob SquarePants” titles, which haven’t been seen in new releases for years. This month, Amazon Games announced a deal to publish the upcoming “Tomb Raider.”
Embracer-owned studios are also promoting properties like “Goat Simulator,” a PC and console game whose concept is exactly what it sounds like – simulating the life of a goat, albeit one in the city with the mission of causing as much havoc and destruction as possible.
Last year, Wingefors set his sights far beyond gaming, buying the rights to the “Lord of the Rings” franchise from a Bay Area derivatives group. JRR Tolkienliterary business, acquiring a French company that is among the world’s largest makers of board and card games and purchasing the Oregon-based “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Hellboy” and “Sin City” comic publisher.
“They’re not Microsoft or Sony. They seem to be just trying to get their hands on everything,” says John Hardy, longtime game collector and co-founder of the National Video Game Museum in Frisco, Texas.
Or as a technology-oriented website the edge Put it: “Embracer Group, the company that creates one IP portfolio to control them all.”
The strategy has generated criticism and confusion in the gaming world. Some players accuse Embracer of sacrificing art, while others find the company’s approach scattered and incoherent.
“If you look at them from afar, you might wonder what the company is doing,” said Simon Rojder, a programmer who is the founder of Mirage, a Karlstad-based game studio that was acquired by Embracer in 2016. [Wingefors] It’s finding people who know what they’re doing and then leaving them alone.
“This company is called Big Dragon Monster Games because it absorbs everything. But they give you space to do your work. We feel completely independent, even if we’re not on paper.”
Today, Embracer oversees 237 games in development across 132 studios on every continent except Africa and Antarctica. More than 15,000 employees work for Embracer or companies under its umbrella.
In California, Embracer has a foothold in San Francisco, where it owns a studio that is developing the free-to-play game “Star Trek Online. Irvine is home to a recently acquired karaoke company, Singtrix, while SpringboardVR, a company focused on game development, is based in Los Angeles. In Agoura Hills, Embracer runs global marketing for Vertigo Games, a Dutch game studio and virtual reality group. It also has a distribution contract with Exploding Kittens, a Los Angeles game studio of the arcade game name Its popularity soared After launching on Kickstarter seven years ago.
Embracer’s rapid expansion comes as technology, gaming and the movie industry collide in a content race for any consumer’s attention and money. Driven in part by a boom during pandemic-era lockdowns, the price of the gaming industry is now rivaling that of Hollywood and music.
“People used to treat gaming as something teens did alone in their rooms that nobody else cared about, and that’s been accurate for a very long time,” says Hardy. “But the reality today is nowhere near that, so every company out there is trying to get a piece of the action.”
Until Embracer’s sudden rise, Europe played only a minor role in the global gaming world, which routinely pits American game makers against those in Asia — namely China and Japan, home to Tencent and Sony respectively. Wingefors is struggling to make way for Sweden, a country of just 10.5 million people that has nonetheless produced great toys and game characters. If you hear aboutMaine Craftor “Candy Crush Saga,” you encountered games created by the Swedes.
“I hope that one day this city of Karlstad will become a city of games,” says Wingfors, who looks more with his bland suits, slicked-back brown hair and penchant for talking about synergies, intellectual property and return on investment like a gamer financier.
That’s because that’s what it is.
Raised by divorced parents outside of this wooden town, which is home to several major paper companies, he sold comics by mail order as a teenager to make money. He built a collection of 50,000 comics before selling them in order to start flipping through used video games, mainly old Nintendo cartridges, and left high school to run a company he called Nordic Games. It was a seven-store retail chain in Sweden in the late 1990s, which it sold for more than $7 million.
In the early 2000s, he launched Game Outlet Europe, which purchased surplus game cartridges and CDs and resold them internationally, and funded the development of “We Sing”, a karaoke game for the Nintendo Wii. It was a hit, topping the Christmas game charts in 2009. Within years, Wingefors was investing in international game studios, hoping to repeat the win with other games through a company that became Embracer.
For Wingefors, who owns a 21% stake in Embracer, business, not passion for gaming, drives him.
“I grew up playing the Commodore 64. I loved the games as much as any other guy growing up in Sweden. But for me, it was more about the people, the industry, and the business that got me excited.”
The thirst for a good deal and profits caused controversy.
Over the summer, Embracer accepted a $1 billion investment from the Saudi government, a move criticized by critics due to the oil-rich kingdom. A dismal record on human rights and freedom of expression. Asked about the 8.1% stake in Embracer that Arab Nation holds through its investment arm, Wingefors said only that he understands there are “different points of view” on the matter and that his foundation will strive for “inclusivity, humanity, freedom and openness.”
In another move that baffled observers, Wingefors has hired a team to collect every video game ever created for every platform throughout history. The Embracer Games Archive, announced in May, houses 60,000 games in a 16,000-square-foot industrial warehouse on the outskirts of Karlstad. To date, she has spent $2 million amassing her collection.
Four archivists unpack pallets of plastic-locked toys bought in bulk from auctions and record them in a growing database. The operation is run by David Bostrom, a Swedish YouTuber who is best known for posting videos of himself playing from his old game room in Örebro.
On any given day, his team could dump the Japanese-language catalog for the Famicom — a precursor to the Nintendo system that made Mario & Luigi Famous as Mickey Mouse For generations since the 80’s – or flick back old versions of “Final Fantasy”, the 3D role-playing game that sold millions of CDs in the 90’s for PlayStation systems.
“We’re trying to create a kind of history or heritage museum,” says Bostrom. “Embracer has many games and studios but far from everything is out there, so we want to give a picture of the full story of gaming.”
Archives and museums are usually open to researchers or the public. For now, Embracer is private.
Some have criticized these efforts as just another way Embracer can collect intellectual property. Critics say that if he can’t own the rights to the games outright, Wingefors can at least own the last remaining copies of them.
Not surprisingly, Wingefors saw it differently.
“Legacy is part of the DNA of game companies, and absolutely games, because this industry is about stories,” he says. “So whether we’re bringing a title back to market or growing an archive, it’s our duty to be part of that legacy.”
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