Back in May, Japanese publisher Square Enix announced it was selling a number of Western studios it had owned since 2009, including 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-long “train wreck in slow motion”.
In an interview with Gamesindustry, D’Astous lets loose on his former bosses, blaming Square Enix’s management in both Japan and London for many of their Western studios’ troubles. He particularly references 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 instance, one year Japan had been expecting a $US65 ($90) million profit, when without big games to release during that timeframe they were actually staring at a $US65 ($90) million loss:
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.
That does not sound like a healthy working relationship! Interestingly, D’Astous adds that he believes Square Enix’s bargain-basement sale of its Western studios wasn’t just down to their performance, but because the publisher is hoping to be bought by Sony:
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.
D’Astous goes on to say that the relationship between Japan and its Western studios “was a train wreck in slow motion” while also talking about how “the success rate of superhero games is not good” (in light of the performance of Marvel’s Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy), so you should definitely go read the full, lengthy interview at Gamesindustry for more of this tea.