Tomb Raider games CEO: humans still key to creativity in AI era

The CEO of the Embracer Group – owner of the blockbuster Tomb Raider video game franchise – said Thursday that even though AI has become a major tool in gaming, human creativity remains crucial to game development.

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," Lars Wingefors, co-founder and largest shareholder of the Swedish group told Reuters on Thursday.

"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.

AI integration in gaming will include the addition of photo-realistic 3D visuals, such as topographically accurate landscape imagery, with “effects like weather patterns, foliage motion, and fire propagation” that will enhance the player experience dramatically, according to a report by eLearning Industry.

True-to-life animations and character development using AI are expected to yield even more realistic physical movements and emotional reactions on screen, while advanced AI algorithms will lead to personally crafted storylines with player-driven challenges that would balance the player's detected abilities compared to the product's set skill levels, changing the gaming landscape in myriad ways, the report states.

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.

Lars Wingefors
Embracer Group founder and CEO Lars Wingefors. Image by Naina Helen Jama | Reuters

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.