In May, Japanese publisher Square Enix announced it was selling a number of Western studios it had owned since 2009including Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex) and crystal dynamics (Tomb Raider). For Stephane D’Astous, who founded Eidos Montreal and left the company in 2013, the deal marks the end of a decade of “slow-motion train wreck”.
In an interview with game industry, D’Astous lets go of his former bosses, blaming Square Enix’s management in both Japan and London for many of the problems of their Western studios. He refers in particular to Square Enix’s relentless drive for astronomical sales, which became so famous among the industry (and even fans) that it became something of a running joke. In this case, Japan had expected a profit of $65 million for a year, while staring at a loss of $65 million in that period with no major games:
The pressure started to mount, and my employees towards me, I towards my superiors. I think when people are in a crisis situation where there are many situations, you see their core behavior or values. And I didn’t like what I saw. There was a real lack of leadership, courage and communication. And if you don’t have those basics, no employee can do a good job, especially if you run a studio.
I lost hope that Square Enix Japan would bring great things to Eidos. I lost confidence in my London headquarters. In their fiscal annual reports, Japan always added a sentence or two that said, “We were disappointed with certain games. They didn’t live up to expectations.’ And they did that strictly for certain games that were done outside of Japan.
That doesn’t sound like a healthy working relationship! Interestingly, D’Astous adds that he believes Square Enix’s bargain sales from its Western studios were not just due to their performance, but because the publisher hopes to be bought by Sony:
Reading between the lines, Square Enix Japan wasn’t as committed as we initially hoped. And, of course, there are rumors that with all this M&A activity, Sony Square would like to have Enix in the wheelhouse. I heard rumors that Sony said they were really interested in Square Enix Tokyo, but not the rest. I think so [Square Enix CEO Yosuke] Matsuda-san worded it like a garage sale.
D’Astous goes on to say that the relationship between Japan and its western studios has been “a train wreck in slow motion”, while also speaking about how “the success rate of superhero games is not good” (in light of the achievements of Marvel’s Avengers and Guardians of the Universe), so you should definitely read the full, long interview at game industry for more of this tea.