Tomb Raider owner says humans hold key to game evolution as AI gains ground

Embracer Group founder and CEO Lars Wingefors looks on at his office in Karlstad, Sweden March 8, 2021. Picture taken March 8, 2021. REUTERS/Naina Helen Jama/File Photo

(Reuters) - AI has become a major tool in gaming, but human creativity remains crucial to developing games, the CEO of Tomb Raider franchise owner Embracer told Reuters on Thursday.

Embracer is in the midst of a strategy shift as it adapts to a rapidly evolving global gaming landscape and is preparing to split its business into three listed companies by 2025.

"AI (artificial intelligence) is important and it's here affecting the whole world in a way, but I don't see the overnight drama," said Lars Wingefors, who is also a co-founder and the biggest shareholder of the Swedish group.

"Looking at physical games, I think AI is obviously an important tool to develop. But in the end, I also believe in the humanly created product," Wingefors said in an interview.

Wingefors said he remains confident in his team's ability to attract talent, highlighting Embracer's Middle-earth division as one that can create an environment to do this.

"People love to work with exciting IPs (intellectual property) and world-class talents," he said.

Embracer's planned three-way split would be carried out through the listings of Asmodee, which recently secured a 900 million euro ($976 million) loan to help refinance the company's debt, and Coffee Stain & Friends.

The current listed group would retain the Tomb Raider franchise and be renamed Middle-earth Enterprises & Friends, to align with its in-development online multiplayer game based on The Lord of The Rings series.

Wingefors said Embracer had seen a trend of players returning to established IPs, and was creating more content for these titles in response.

By 2025, Middle-earth Enterprises & Friends is set to produce blockbuster games that are costlier to develop, but have a greater potential payoff.

"Looking at the next five years, I see a good growth in the gaming market. We are active in all fields and we see growth across all segments," Wingefors added.

($1 = 0.9224 euros)

(Reporting by Jesus Calero, additional reporting by Agnieszka Olenska, editing by Alexander Smith)

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