As you know by now, in May Square Enix basically tossed Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Interactive into the bin when the company sold both studios and countless franchises to Embracer Group for $300 million. While this might seem like a lot of money to you, it isn’t. In fact, it could mark one of the lowest studio acquisitions in history and if anything, Embracer Group got a bargain. The publishing house now owns the Deus Ex and Tomb Raider series alongside the studios that helped make these games. However, it seems that Square Enix was looking to get rid of both Eidos and Crystal Dynamics for a long time. In a new interview with Eidos Montreal founder Stephane D’Astous, the ex-boss reflected on the recent sale and Square Enix’s lack of commitment to the studios.
D’Astous says that when Square Enix purchased Eidos back in 2009, he hoped the acquisition would help accelerate the studio’s growth. He claims that the studio was producing multi-million dollar projects at the time but the way of selling these games was too traditional and conventional. This is where Square Enix would have helped.
D’Astous says that almost every game that came out of Eidos Montreal did well even Thief which was less than well-recieved at launch. Eidos Montreal was seen as the backburner studio to Crystal Dynamics that would work on back catalogue games while the larger studio had great IPs in development and also on the shelf waiting for a reboot.
Sadly, when the Square Enix Japan deal took place, the company never managed to get their grasp on things. D’Astous says that from the start of the acquisition, Square Enix was never committed to its new Western studios. In fact, the former CEO says that Square Enix has always reported on “how bad” Eidos Montreal and Crystal Dynamics performed during financial results. Sometimes, Eidos Montreal would not even have a game in a launch cycle but Square Enix would make it clear how much the studio is costing and losing.
During one meeting, both studios were expected to produce $65 million in profit but instead, Square Enix told the developers they had lost $65 instead. D’Astous says the studio was “dumbfounded, especially because my studio didn’t have any deliverables for that year”.
“The pressure was starting to build, and my employees towards me, me towards my superiors. I think when people are in a crisis situation where there’s a lot of situations, you do see their core behaviour or values. And I didn’t like what I saw. There was really a lack of leadership, courage, and communication. And when you don’t have those basic things, no employee can do their job correctly — especially when you’re heading a studio.
I was losing hope that Square Enix Japan would bring great things to Eidos. I was losing confidence in my headquarters in London. In their annual fiscal reports, Japan always added one or two phrases saying, ‘We were disappointed with certain games. They didn’t reach expectations.’ And they did that strictly for certain games that were done outside of Japan.”
D’Astous says that the Tomb Raider trilogy is a perfect example of this lack of commitment. Even though the series sold bucket loads, the last game, Shadow of the Tomb Raider didn’t perform as strongly as the rest. This affected studio morale which eventually led to Marvel’s Avengers train smash.
“If I read between the lines, Square Enix Japan was not as committed as we hoped initially. And there are rumours, obviously, that with all these activities of mergers and acquisitions, that Sony would really like to have Square Enix within their wheelhouse. I heard rumours that Sony said they’re really interested in Square Enix Tokyo, but not the rest. So, I think [Square Enix CEO Yosuke] Matsuda-san put it like a garage sale.”
Lastly, D’Astous says the $300 million price tag for the studios was sad. To put it into perspective, Gearbox Software was purchased by Embracer Group for $1.3 billion. Eidos and Crystal Dynamics have about 1,000 staff members, the blockbuster Tomb Raider series and five times the IPs of Gearbox.
“They have about 1,000 staff. Eidos has about 1,000., They have basically Borderlands and others, and Eidos has five times the IPs. So why four times less? I guess there weren’t a lot of key people interested. And it shows the health of the value of the potential of Eidos, unfortunately.
“t was a train wreck in slow motion, to my eyes, anyway. It was predictable that the train was not going in a good direction. And maybe that justified $300 million. That’s really not a lot. That doesn’t make sense.”