Amazon Sets Sights on Tomb Raider Games & Expansive Cross-Media Universe

Amazon has reportedly purchased the rights to the Tomb Raider franchise from Embracer Group in an attempt to kickstart a cross-media universe. It's the latest sign of a growing partnership between the streaming giant and European conglomerate, which are already partnering up on the next Tomb Raider game.

Flipping the IP
Embracer Group acquired the Tomb Raider IP in May 2022 with its $300 million purchase of Crystal Dynamics, Eidos- Montreal, and Square Enix Montreal. Crystal Dynamics was the lead developer for the most recent mainline Tomb Raider games trilogy, while the other two studios provided support.

  • Embracer Group has been steadily growing its library of owned IP.
    • It acquired Gearbox Entertainment and the rights to Borderlands for $1.3 billion in Feb. 2021
    • Comic book publisher Dark Horse Media was bought in Dec. 2021
    • Tabletop gaming company Asmodee was purchased for $3.11 billion in Dec. 2021.
Amazon Antes Up
Amazon is going all in on a Tomb Raider cross-media universe, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The rights deal alone is its second largest behind the rumored $250 million it paid for the rights to its The Lord of the Ring series. Amazon also signed on respected writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Killing Eve) and is working with dj2 Entertainment.
  • Amazon likely paid at least eight figures.
  • dj2 Entertainment co-produced the lucrative Sonic the Hedgehog film.
  • Amazon and Embracer announced in December they would be collaborating on the next Tomb Raider game being developed by Crystal Dynamics.
Laying Foundations
For Embracer, this cross-media deal is the kind of synergies it’s been trumpeting since it began its diet of IP acquisitions. The company has, however, has had a rough recent stretch of disappointing AAA titles like Saints Row and Shadow Warrior 3. Its next big release, Dead Island 2, has also been mired in delays. Is Embracer still interested in developing AAA titles like the Tomb Raider games, or will it shift to leasing its IPs to outside developers?
For Amazon, it’s one more step in its quest to become a major player in gaming. Despite years of investment, the results to date have not matched the copious investments, with clear successes like Lost Ark or New World few and far between. The streaming giant will no doubt be looking to take a page from The Last of Us and use the Tomb Raider series to drive game sales – and vice versa. 
  • Amazon is also early in production of a streaming series adapting Bethesda's Fallout franchise.
    • Microsoft owns Bethesda and the overall rights to Fallout.

Walking into Mordor
Despite not having the success of its film counterparts, Amazon has greenlit a second season of its The Lord of the Rings streaming series. Coincidentally, Embracer bought the video game and some of the film rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit last year. A cross-media The Lord of the Rings universe, or at least games, could be the next move for Amazon and Embracer.

  • Amazon was able to make The Rings of Power through a legal loophole that didn't envision modern streaming services.
  • Embracer Group was able to purchase the rights to The Lord of the Rings for a comparative bargain compared to the original asking price of about $2 billion.
All Rights Reserved?
Netflix is getting the roguelike mobile title Tomb Raider Reloaded Feb. 14, as part of its expansion into gaming. What will happen to games like this in the years to come? Given Netflix and Amazon are competitors in streaming (and increasingly gaming), one wonders if future Tomb Raider games will be exclusive to Amazon when it comes to subscriptions or cloud gaming.
Image Courtesy of Crystal Dynamics