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Sony and Tencent buy 30% stake in ‘Elden Ring’ maker FromSoftware

(The Washington Post illustration; iStock; FromSoftware)

Sony and Tencent acquired a 30 percent stake of FromSoftware, the esteemed Japanese video game studio behind “Elden Ring” and the Dark Souls series, Wednesday.

Kadokawa Corporation, the Tokyo-based media corporation that owns FromSoftware, announced in a news release that Sony and Tencent had both purchased significant shares in FromSoftware. Sony Interactive Entertainment (a subsidiary of Sony behind the PlayStation brand) holds 14.09 percent of FromSoftware’s shares; Sixjoy Hong Kong Limited (a subsidiary of Tencent) owns 16.25 percent, bringing the collective stake to 30.34 percent. Kadokawa still maintains majority ownership at 69.66 percent.

In the announcement, Kadokawa explained that the three companies had operated a “strategic alliance in the anime and game fields” since October 2021. Kadokawa said these recent investments would be used to further expand FromSoftware’s expansion into the global market and strengthen the triumvirate formed with Tencent and Sony.

“Through the implementation of the fund procurement,” Kadokawa wrote in its press release, “FromSoftware will aim to proactively invest in development of more powerful game IP for itself to strengthen FromSoftware’s development capabilities and will seek to establish a framework that allows the expansion of the scope of its own publishing in the significantly growing global market.”

The Souls games by FromSoftware ranked, including ‘Elden Ring’

Dark Souls (FromSoftware’s most recognizable action role-playing series), “Bloodborne” and “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” are all brutally punishing games. Despite this, the studio’s work is widely cited as a major influence on dozens of other titles such as “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” “God of War” and “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.” Many gamers and critics have asked FromSoftware to add difficulty settings to its games; the studio has steadfastly refused so far. FromSoftware’s award-winning creative director Hidetaka Miyazaki has said the uniformly intense challenge in his games is meant to provide players with a sense of accomplishment. This polarizing design philosophy has won FromSoftware a devoted following — but also a small cadre of detractors who have described the company’s games as alienating.

That perception changed with “Elden Ring.” FromSoftware’s most recent title, made in collaboration with “A Game of Thrones” writer George R.R. Martin, was a roaring success, selling over 16 million copies. Critics and fans praised FromSoftware’s approach in “Elden Ring,” which made the game more accessible than the studio’s previous titles with a wider array of playstyle options.

FromSoftware has long been a highly praised and well-respected developer. But after “Elden Ring,” it’s now seen as a hitmaker. Tencent and Sony are the two highest revenue-generating video game companies in the world, according to gaming analytics firm Newzoo. As the video game world continues to consolidate — with multiple massive deals initiated by Sony, Microsoft, NetEase and others this year alone — these investments mark an important milestone for FromSoftware.