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Eidos Montreal Founder Criticizes Square Enix's Approach with Western Studios

Courtesy of Eidos Montreal/Embracer Group

Eidos Montreal founder and former boss Stephane D'Astous has described Square Enix's approach to its Western studios as a "train wreck in slow motion," blasting the Japanese company for letting those teams languish.

D'Astous, who helped lead the revival of the Deus Ex franchise, left Eidos Montreal in 2013. But in interview with GamesIndustry.biz, he says he wasn't surprised to see Square Enix sell the studio, alongside Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix Montreal and their IP, to Embracer Group in May. And he suspects Square Enix is courting a Sony acquisition.

"If I read between the lines, Square Enix Japan was not as committed as we hoped initially," he said. "And there are rumors, obviously, that with all these activities of mergers and acquisitions, Sony would really like to have Square Enix within their wheelhouse. I heard rumors 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 says this plan could help explain the $300 million price tag for the sale, which many in the industry found surprisingly low. For comparison, Embracer Group spent $1.3 billion to acquire Gearbox in February of last year, even though D'Astous says Gearbox and Eidos Montreal aren't so different in terms of the number of employees or IP portfolio.

"It 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."

D'Astous says some of the blame for the perceived declines at Square Enix's Western studios belongs to Square Enix leadership.

"It was a trajectory that could be predicted. I left because things were missing at head office. [Pre-Square Enix] Eidos has a great tradition of development teams, but they don't have superior knowledge of how to sell their games. And that was quite clear."

"There was really a lack of leadership, courage, and communication," he said. "And when you don't have those basic things, no employees can do their job correctly — especially when you're heading a studio."

Embracer Group has plenty of content plans around the studios and IP it bought off of Square Enix. The company says it is happy for those studios to break even while they work on their next major releases, which could be years away.