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 (grave robber). For Stéphane D’Astous, who founded Eidos Montreal and left the company in 2013, the deal marks the end of a decade of “idle train wreckage.”
In an interview with games industry, D’Astous lashed out at his former bosses, blaming Square Enix’s management in Japan and London for many of their western studios’ troubles. It refers in particular Square Enix’s relentless drive for astronomical sales, which has become so famous among the industry (and even fans) that it’s become something of a running joke. In this case, one year, Japan was expecting a profit of $65 million, when with no big games to release in that time, they were actually looking at a loss of $65 million:
The pressure was starting to mount, and my employees towards me, me towards my superiors. I think when people are in a crisis situation where there are a lot of situations, you see their behavior or their core 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 these basics, no employee can do their job properly, especially when you’re running a studio.
I was losing hope that Square Enix Japan would bring great things to Eidos. I was losing faith in my headquarters in London. In their annual financial reports, Japan would always add a sentence or two saying, “We were disappointed with some games. They did not meet expectations. And they did it strictly for certain games that were made outside of Japan.
That doesn’t sound like a healthy working relationship! Interestingly, D’Astous adds that he thinks Square Enix’s cheap sale of its Western studios was not just because of their performance, but because the publisher hopes to be bought by Sony:
If I read between the lines, Square Enix Japan was not as committed as initially hoped. And there are rumors, of course, that with all this M&A activity, Sony would really like to have Square Enix in its wheelhouse. I’ve heard rumors that Sony said they were really interested in Square Enix Tokyo, but not the rest. So I think [Square Enix CEO Yosuke] Matsuda-san introduced it as a garage sale.
D’Astous goes on to say that Japan’s relationship with its Western studios “was a slow-motion wreck” while also referring to how “the success rate of superhero games is not good” (in light performance of Marvel’s Avengers and guardians of the galaxy), so you should definitely go read the long and comprehensive interview on games industry for more of this tea.