The founder of Eidos Montréal has called Square Enix’s Western studios’ downfall a “train-wreck in slow motion.”
Stephane D’Astous criticized Square Enix’s dismissive attitude toward Eidos Montréal as well as other Western studios like Crystal Dynamics, in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz. He conjectured that its recent sale to Embracer Group was motivated by a rumored acquisition of Square Enix by Sony.
D’Astous, who established Eidos Montreal in 2007 and left the firm in 2013, recalled his early optimism that Square Enix, who bought the business two years after Montréal’s formation, would revitalize it:
“I always felt that the way to sell games that Eidos used were so traditional and conventional. That it wasn’t innovative. And it was always underselling the quality of the games. I hoped when Square Enix purchased Eidos in 2009 that that would change things.”
Square Enix’s decision to shift from developing superhero games to Eidos’ legacy brands, including signing a new multi-project contract with Marvel in 2013, was also seen by D’Astous as being unwise.
“Maybe at the time [the deal was signed] the superhero thing was a big thing. It still is, but there is some fatigue with superheroes. And especially in games very few manage to be successful with superheroes. There’s always Batman [from] the guys at Rocksteady. There was Spider-Man. But out of the people that have done it, the success rate of superhero games is not good”
D’Astous says that although Square Enix’s Japanese stakeholders bear some of the blame for the way the company handled its Western studios. He does, however, assert that a rumored Sony takeover of Square Enix Tokyo was the trigger for the recent sale of Square Enix’s Western studios to Embracer company.
Square Enix has a reputation for labeling titles with millions of sales as failures, and according to D’Astous, this practice also went on behind the scenes. He remembers a discussion about the business’s financial performance for 2012 when the Eidos studios’ estimated profit was $65 million. Instead, he learned that year the developers had suffered a $65 million loss.
“It’s a train that is slowing down and needs some injection of energy or money or something, but the train is slowing down. And it’s unfortunate because there are a lot of good people in those studios.”
The expectation is that under Embracer, which frequently permits its subsidiaries to function independently, Eidos Montréal, Crystal Dynamics, and Square Enix Montreal may experience a fresh second chance at life.