Marked by many transactions and other acquisitions within a few months, the year 2022 is especially unprecedented in the video game industry. Among these major sales, it is difficult to exclude the sale of Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, Square Enix Montreal and all the IP related to these studios by Square Enix to the Embracer Group. This transaction, which ended at 300 million dollars, surprised many players in the video game industry, but others saw it coming.
The founder of Eidos Montreal feels that the tide has turned on Square Enix
With our colleagues from GamesIndustry Stéphane D’Astous, the founder of Eidos Montreal, talks about the sale of the Embracer Group to the studios belonging to Square Enix. According to him, Square Enix’s Western Studios was a “slow train wreck” for various reasons. Despite the fact that he left Eidos Montreal in 2013, Stéphane D’Astous explained that the relationship between Square Enix and its studios has been complicated.
“This is a path we can predict. I left because things were lacking at headquarters. Eidos [pré-Square Enix] there is a great tradition of development teams, but they don’t have much knowledge of how to market their games. And this is very clear. You can look at all the great games that Eidos has done, and – apart from Tomb Raider back then, it was a different era – Hitman and everything else could be six, seven, eight million unit projects . Deus Ex can be like that too. We’ve hit some great numbers, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve always thought that the way Eidos sells games is traditional and conventional. It was not innovative. And that always underestimates the quality of the games. I was hoping that when Square Enix bought Eidos in 2009 it would change things. »
Eidos Montreal is structured with three production pipelines, starting with the Deus Ex and Thief series revivals while helping Crystal Dynamics relaunch Tomb Raider by handling the multiplayer component as a third project. In 2011, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was finally released with a very good reception from the public, followed by the return of Thief in 2014, with a more mixed return despite a good performance.
“The Deus Ex development team is one of the strongest I’ve ever assembled, and it’s really cohesive. They know the challenges ahead. With Thief, I didn’t have the luxury of having a core group of people who had worked together before, so I went and recruited strong, very strong people, but they didn’t have a chance to work together in the previous games. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why it’s not as smooth as Deus Ex.”
More recently, it’s been Marvel’s time front and center with Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics signing a multi-project deal with Marvel that resulted in Marvel’s Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy last year.
“Maybe at that time [de la signature de l’accord], superheroes are very popular. It still is, but there is a certain weariness to superheroes. And especially in sports – very few have managed to succeed in superheroes. batman is always there [des] guys from Rocksteady. There’s Spider-Man. But among those that have, the success rate of superhero games is poor. Maybe that’s the easy way out. Maybe they think that selling a superhero game is easier than a regular game. »
Afterwards, Stéphane D’Astous returned more specifically to the internal relationship between Square Enix and the branches of the West, the tense relationship that has worsened over the years. Square Enix has become increasingly famous for declaring some multi-million selling games to be disappointments.
In some meetings, the administration of Square Enix did not hesitate to lower the performance of its studios, no matter how good it was. Pressure begins between employees, superiors, studios. This crisis situation affects the work of the teams and it is due to the lack of leadership, courage and communication according to Stéphane D’Astous.
“I have lost hope that Square Enix Japan will bring big things to Eidos. I lost confidence in my seat in London. In their annual tax reports, the Japanese often add a sentence or two saying, ‘We are disappointed in some games. They didn’t live up to expectations.’ And they strictly do that for some games made outside of Japan. The plan has been unsuccessful for the past decade. I don’t know why it will be successful in the next ten years, because the people are the same, the actors are the same there. It’s a train that’s slowing down and needs an injection of energy or money or something, but the train is slowing down. And that’s not good because there are a lot of good people in those studios. »
For Stéphane D’Astous, Square Enix Japan did not invest as expected, hence the descent into hell within. Now, some rumors point to Sony’s interest in Square Enix Japan. Yosuke Matsuda-san, the CEO of Square Enix, was supposed to talk about the garage sale according to Stéphane D’Astous. Thus, this would explain the sale of three AAA studios and their IPs for $300 million.
“They have about 1,000 employees. Eidos has about 1,000. They have Borderlands and so on, and Eidos has five times as many IPs. So why four times less? I don’t think many key people are interested. And that shows the health of Eidos’ potential value, unfortunately. It’s a slow moving train, in my eyes, though. It is predicted that the train will not go in a good direction. And maybe $ 300 million is justified. Not very many at all. That doesn’t make sense”.
From now on, Eidos Montreal, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix Montreal hope to relaunch with dignity under the aegis of Embracer, betting on the autonomy of its subsidiaries. That’s just what we hope for many developers and other talents in these studios, all shocked by this radical change and sale that happened in early May.