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Nexon makes big investment in Patrick Söderlund's ambitious new studio

Embark co-founded with former head of EA SEED, will focus on games based on new technologies

Nexon has made a strategic investment in Embark, the new studio from former EA executive Patrick Söderlund.

Söderlund announced his departure from EA in August, after 12 fruitful years at the studio that saw him rise from CEO of DICE to chief design officer for the entire company. His new venture, Embark, which is based in Stockholm, will focus on making games based on new and emerging technologies.

"Connected players, big data, speech recognition, cloud computing, advanced AI and more will open up new play, enabling developers to build a wider range of experiences, and for players to create and contribute," Söderlund said. "Embark is a group of veteran creators eager to move beyond current play experiences into the future."

Among Söderlund's co-founders is Johan Andersson, who was the head of EA's relatively young Search for Extraordinary Experiences Division (SEED). Nexon's investment in Embark leaves it with around 33% of its voting rights, and will see Söderlund join the company's board of directors.

"While the online games business is very large, it is still just getting started," said Nexon CEO Owen Mahoney in a statement. "Today we sit at a major inflection point, with highly advanced AI technology, dynamic provisioning of computational power from the cloud, and new user interface options now offered by multiple vendors and at consumer-level price points.

"What remains scarce is the ability to make deeply engaging online virtual worlds that appeal to a broad global audience that can grow for many years. The formation of Embark represents one of the most exciting developments for the future of online games."

Speaking to The Verge about the his new studio, Söderlund said that his target size for the team is 35 people, and he expressed a desire to be cautious in reaching Embark's lofty ambitions.

"I think starting with a game or a platform that can do all of the things we've talked about is going to be very difficult, and highly risky, and it's going to take a lot of time," Söderlund said. "My approach will be different. We're going to start by developing games that maybe share more traditional gameplay experiences, but at the same time try to prove out a couple of key things that I need to prove out for the future.

"I don't feel like coming up with the ultimate dream or the ultimate idea, and hiding in a corner for ten years, and showing up with something that may or not work, is the right approach for us."

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