A few weeks ago, I penned a little piece covering the ambitious IP expansion of Swedish publisher Nordic Games—explaining how the studio has been busy buying up a multitude of series ranging from the obscure Silver to the hack-and-slash hit Darksiders. Lucky for me, the article managed to catch the eye of the studio’s founder, Pelle Lundborg, who was kind enough to enlighten me on the history of Nordic Games as well as touch briefly on the studio’s next-gen intentions. Specifically, he was able shed some comforting light on my fear of never seeing a new Darksiders release.
But first, let’s revisit how Nordic Games became what it is today. That’s right; history time, straight from the founder.
The name Nordic Games has its roots in a closet-run business (literally, a business based in a closet) managed by the then-thirteen Lundborg and several friends back in the early 90s that focused on "selling comics and second-hand games." However, the company was officially established in 2008 by Lundborg and “one of the other co-owners of the group of companies [they] own," the major owner being Lars Wingefors. This raises a point worth remembering: Nordic Games is a multifaceted company and therefore isn’t explicitly confined to any one industry. But more on that later.
After a few dance-game releases, Lundborg told me, the studio found its first hit in the form of We Sing, a 2009 title exclusive to the Wii that quickly broke the one-million-units bar. The We Sing IP went on to spawn roughly a dozen subsequent releases, many of which have found their way stateside. However, the series remains concentrated in Europe and has seen several localized releases in Sweden, Germany, and other neighboring countries. In addition, Nordic put out "a whole range of other IPs for PS2 and Wii as well as PC," many of which are similarly music oriented, though a significant number of racing games were also made. The majority of these titles were handled by Wired Productions and developed by either Le Cortex, which specialized in the music and dance titles, or Brain in a Jar, which focused on the racing releases.
However, Nordic’s more recent operations have been much livelier. Following the publisher’s buyout of JoWooD Entertainment and DreamCatcher Interactive, Lundborg explained, Nordic "was merged and moved to Vienna as there was more expertise and knowledge there to run a publishing business." This acquisition put the Gothic and Spellforce series as well as a spread of adventure-oriented titles under the company’s belt and would help pave the way for future purchases.
This brings us to the studio’s IP buy-up, the catalyst for which was THQ’s bankruptcy auctions. As previously reported, Nordic was able to get their hands on the rights to Darksiders, Destroy All Humans!, Red Faction, and several others, and for the bargain price of $4.9 million to boot. The publisher has since purchased Silver and Desperados from Atari as well as openly asked fans of their newly acquired series to “openly discuss on how these titles should move forward.”
I’ve said before that Nordic Games is now in a uniquely valuable position, and after speaking with the founder himself, I can confidently say that the company’s potential is certainly worth monitoring. Not only has it rekindled a number of franchises and acquired dozens more, Nordic has demonstrated its ability to pursue its IPs in the most effective manner possible through its open-forum discussion and past relocation to Vienna. The only piece missing from their tactic would be a flagship IP—a poster child to head-up the coming developments. Thanks to the Darksiders name, Nordic has found exactly that.
As a big fan of gaming’s iteration of the fabled Four Horsemen, I was all too eager to get some answers out of Lundborg as to what Nordic Games will be doing with the newfound IP. However, presumably due to the infancy of the would-be project and the typical disclosure policies, he was only able to offer, “It will be good, just stay relaxed on that topic,” in reply.
Ordinarily, this update would amount to approximately jack squat in the world of gaming development. However, due to the history—if you can call cobbling together its shaky record a history—of the franchise, we can discern a few things about a potential Darksiders 3—most importantly, that it’ll happen.
Unless Lundborg is harboring an abhorrently skewed definition of “good,” we can bet that his comment means something is in the works for Horsemen three and four. Looking at Nordic’s history, it’s also safe to assume that the project won’t be handled internally—they are a publisher, after all. This puts several developers back on the list of possible creators, as Nordic will likely reach out to the studio they feel is best for the genre and project. And, given the timing, it sounds like the next installment in the series will debut on next-gen systems.
Of course, this is all purely speculation. But it’s defensible speculation, and that’s a start.