Eidos Montreal founder and ex-CEO Stephane D'Astous has suggested that a Sony Square Enix acquisition could be on the cards. According to D'Astous, Sony is interested in acquiring Square Enix Tokyo, but not the rest of the company, which is what led to the Embracer acquisitions of three studios earlier this year.
Could a Sony Square Enix acquisition happen?
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Stephane D'Astous says that he's "heard rumors" that Sony is interested in acquiring Square Enix Tokyo "but not the rest". It was this interest that apparently led Square Enix to divest itself of three studios (Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal, and Square Enix Montreal) in a sale to Embracer Group earlier this year. Considering that the sale included valuable IPs like Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, and Legacy of Kain (as well as Gex, the most valuable of them all), one might have expected a sale value higher than the $300 million that was eventually agreed upon. However, D'Astous says that there "weren't a lot of key people interested" in the studios, leading to Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda treating the sale of these three studios "like a garage sale".
D'Astous says that the roots of Square Enix and the aforementioned three studios' soured relationship were visible even before he departed the company in 2013. He says that Eidos knew how to develop games, but not how to sell them, and also that projects like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Marvel's Avengers were hit by rushed development pipelines and superhero fatigue respectively. D'Astous compares Eidos Montreal to "a train that is slowing down", suggesting that unless major overhauls occur in its operational parameters, that train will "continue to slow down". In fact, he continues the train metaphor by comparing the sale of Eidos Montreal to "a train wreck in slow motion" and bemoaning the studio not traveling in a "good direction".
Not everything was Square Enix Japan's fault, says D'Astous
The problems with Eidos Montreal were, according to D'Astous, not entirely of Square Enix Japan's making. He says Square Enix head office was "not as committed" as he and his team would have hoped initially, but that "some of the bad decisions came from [Square Enix Europe HQ] London". Some of the studio's issues were "there since the start", and there have been no structural changes at head office for more than ten years, according to D'Astous. He points to Embracer's acquisition of Gearbox, which it completed for $1.3 billion last year, as evidence of "the health of the value of the potential of Eidos" when compared to the $300 million for which Eidos Montreal, Crystal Dynamics, and Square Enix Montreal were sold earlier this year.
So, what's next for Eidos Montreal? D'Astous isn't particularly optimistic. He says that IO Interactive, which had its strongest year yet as a result of Hitman 3 last year, isn't comparable to Eidos Montreal because IO "knew what they wanted to do" when they achieved autonomy through their management buyout. He says that Eidos Montreal lacks "leadership, courage, and communication", and that it's the lack of these three qualities that have led several heads of studios to depart Eidos. D'Astous says he hopes that Embracer CEO Lars Wingefors "spoke in deep conversation" to Eidos and tried to understand the studio's plan, but that "the same actors are there...the same players are there", so he can't see things changing anytime soon. That's a pretty gloomy assessment for his former studio.