The former founder of Eidos-Montréal, Stephane D’Astous, gave the reason why Square Enix sold their 3 western studios to Embracer Group.
This information was published by GamesIndustry.biz through his interview with Stephane D’Astous. If you are interested in the current state of the video game industry, you can check out our other articles here.
Stephane D’Astous Gives Reason for Selling Eidos-Montréal to Embracer Group
Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, Stephane D’Astous said he was surprised by the selling price of Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montréal, and Square Enix Montréal to the Embracer Group, but D’Astous wasn’t at all surprised by how the studios had a relationship with Square Enix. .
D’Astous said that the root of the problem was clear even before he left Eidos-Montréal in 2013. “It was a predictable trajectory,” D’Astous told GamesIndustry.biz.
“I left because things were missing at headquarters. [Pra-Square Enix] Eidos have a tradition of great development teams, but they also don’t have superior knowledge of how to sell their games and that’s pretty clear.”
“You can see all the great games Eidos has done — besides Tomb Raider back then, it was a completely different era — Hitman and it could all be a six, seven, eight million unit project. Deus Ex so can it.”
D’Astous added, “We got good numbers, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve always felt that the way we sell our games is very traditional. It’s not innovative. We always underselling the quality of our games. I hope that when Square Enix buys Eidos in 2009, it will change things.”
Eidos-Montréal was founded two years before Square Enix bought the studio. At that time, there were only 4 major studios in Montreal apart from them, namely Behavior Interactive, a team from Ubisoft, and a team from Electronic Arts (EA).
The studio is structured to have 3 production lines, starting with the revival of the series Deus Ex along with Thief while helping Crystal Dynamics reboot Tomb Raider by tackling the multiplayer component as its third project.
Stephane D’Astous Attends Marvel and Square Enix Deal
D’Astous said he was also present when Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics signed a multi-project deal with Marvel. The deal in the end led to Marvel’s Avengers and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
“Maybe at the time [kesepakatan ditandatangani] Superhero stuff is a great thing, but there’s some exhaustion with the topic. Especially in games — very few succeed with superheroes. There always is Batman [dari] the guys at Rocksteady. There is Spider-Man. But from the people who do, the success rate of superhero games is not great. Maybe that’s the easy way out. They may think selling superhero games is easier than conventional games,” said D’Astous.
Square Enix rose to prominence for declaring the multimillion-dollar game “a disappointment”. D’Astous even reported this happening behind the scenes. He recalled a meeting regarding the company’s financial performance for 2012, during which Eidos-Montréal was expected to generate a profit of 65 million USD. Instead, he was told that they had lost 65 million USD that year.
“We were stunned,” said D’Astous. “Especially because my studio had no submissions for that year.”
D’Astous said he started receiving messages from the team, worried about the studio’s fate, and repeatedly asked management in London to discuss a solution – only to go unanswered.
“I lost hope that Square Enix Japan would bring great things to Eidos. I lost faith at headquarters in London. In their annual fiscal reports, Square Enix Japan always adds 1 or 2 phrases that say, ‘We are disappointed with certain games. It didn’t live up to expectations.’ They do it strictly for certain games that are done outside of Japan,” said D’Astous.
Sony Interactive Entertainment Ingin Square Enix?
D’Astous left Eidos-Montréal in summer 2013. Crystal Dynamics studio head Darrell Gallagher left in late 2015. In 2017, IO Interactive successfully negotiated a management buyout, including IP Hitmanafter Square Enix started looking for a buyer to take the studio out of its hands.
Even the greatest success of Eidos-Montréal and Crystal Dynamics, the trilogy Tomb Raider rebooted, dropped with Shadow of the Tomb Raider received a lower review score than its two predecessors. Then Marvel’s Avengers which was awaited was not well received.
“It’s a slowing train and it needs an injection of energy or money or something, but the train is slowing down,” said D’Astous. “And it’s a shame because there are so many good people in that studio.”
D’Astous added, “If I read between the lines, Square Enix Japan wasn’t as committed as we had hoped at first. There’s a rumor that with all this merger and acquisition activity, Sony wants to have Square Enix in their wheelhouse.”
“I heard rumors that Sony said they were interested in Square Enix Tokyo, but nothing else. So, I think [CEO Square Enix Yosuke] Matsuda-san thinks of their western studio as garage sale.”
D’Astous notes that this probably explains the $300 million price tag for the three AAA studios and a number of long-running IPs, including the franchise. Tomb Raider. In comparison, Embracer Group bought Gearbox Software in a deal worth 1.3 billion USD.
“They have about 1,000 employees. Eidos has around 1,000 as well,” said D’Astous. “They have Borderlands etc., and Eidos has five times the IP. So why four times less? I don’t think many key people are interested. That shows the health of Eidos’ potential value, unfortunately.”
D’Astous added, “It was a train crash in slow motion, in my eyes. It was predictable that the train was not heading in a good direction. And maybe it costs 300 million USD. It’s not much and it doesn’t make sense.”
D’Astous isn’t sure how much of Eidos-Montréal’s poor performance can be attributed to Square Enix’s management in Japan, but he maintains that “some bad decisions come from London”.
“They were there from the start, and some decisions I questioned. There has been no change at headquarters now for over a decade. So, I think it’s more of the same, up to a point,” D’Astous said.
Stephane D’Astous Holds More Expectations About Embracer Group
The hope now is that Eidos-Montréal, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix Montréal can see their new life under the Embracer Group. D’Astous, however, kept his expectations in check given the large size of the Embracer Group.
“[CEO Lars] Wingefors, I don’t know how he managed Embracer until now,” said D’Astous. “I mean, yes, give up the autonomy [ke studio] up to a point, but you leave autonomy when there is a strong vision. IO knows what they want to do. I don’t think they can do that when they’re in the Eidos group because of the headquarters, so it’s life changing for them.”
D’Astous adds, “But I will leave certain groups autonomous when they have demonstrated that they have a clear vision, knowledge and leadership. Once again, I have mentioned all the studio heads who left the three Eidos studios. There’s a reason why I’m not the only one going.”
“I hope Lars can evaluate and have an in-depth conversation to see what they have as a plan because the plan hasn’t worked out in the last decade. I don’t know why it will work for the next ten years, because they are the same people, the same actors are there. The same players are there.”
“If no changes are made, the train will continue to slow down,” concluded D’Astous.