By John Walker on July 24th, 2013 at 9:00 am.
More hints of troubled times at Square have appeared, via the resignation of Eidos Montreal’s founder and general manager, Stephane, D’Astous. Describing “irreconcilable differences” to Develop, he let loose with a tirade about a “lack of leadership, lack of courage and the lack of communication”. And he was just getting started.
D’Astous’ initial statement, sent to Develop, read:
“Since last year’s financial short-coming performance of Square Enix Europe, we (HQ London and GM Eidos-Montreal) have had growing and divergent opinions on what needed to be done to correct the situation. The lack of leadership, lack of courage and the lack of communication were so evident, that I wasn’t able to conduct my job correctly. I realised that our differences were irreconcilable, and that the best decision was unfortunately to part ways.”
Polygon then caught up with the man, and found out much more. After a bad financial year, D’Astous claims that execs “almost started to panic” (I’m not sure what that looks like – someone putting their arms above their head and being absolutely ready to wave them about as they scream) and it seems he believes leadership was lacking.
This all may seem odd to an observer – like me – who sees Square releasing a solid list of generally decent games. But the former boss says that Square “has some things to learn about how to sell their games.” Despite names like Tomb Raider, Hitman and Deus Ex in their line-up, none of these proved to be massive successes. And the reaction to this relative failure seems to have pissed D’Astous off rather a lot.
After the financial troubles, and the resignation of president Yoichi Wada, D’Astous suggests that attempts to reorganise and restructure were done with far too much secrecy, and not working in tandem with their studio leads. While he wouldn’t go into the specifics, he did point fingers at Square Enix Europe CEO, Phil Rogers. He then went on to explain that the company is still distinctly divided between Square and Eidos, citing a lack of communication between the Japanese owners and the Western developers. However, after spending months trying to get Square to change its strategies, D’Astous has now given up and left.
And then of course there’s Thief. First rumoured in 2008, and then confirmed in 2009, almost nothing was seen of it for a very long time. And then what was seen hasn’t hugely impressed. Then came the real worries, with strong hints that the demo Adam played wasn’t reflective of the reality of development, and stories of a game in real trouble. D’Astous defends the game, and the team making it, saying that those issues were “a long time ago,” and that some of the negative stories had been “blown out of proportion”.
“The new team and producer has turned the corner and they’re doing a good job. That is one of my biggest regrets, not to be at the head of the studio that would deliver Thief.”
From the outside it just seems perplexing that Square should be in trouble. With titles like Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts and Dragon Quest all reliable non-stop releases from the Japanese side, and huge licenses like Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, Hitman and Just Cause in the West, they should be in prime position to be succeeding. But then their “coming soon” list isn’t too impressive just now, with Deus Ex: HR’s re-release and The Fall coming to Android not exactly inspiring forward bounds, and Thief looking ever-more likely to slip beyond 2014. Final Fantasy XIV and XIII should bring in some cash, but it’s troubling to see the complete lack of new IPs or announced projects for the rest of the big licenses.
D’Astous explains these confusing failings by poor management. And the lack of many interesting titles announced cannot be helping. Which is a damned shame, since Square – and especially Eidos Montreal – have been responsible for braver, more interesting decisions than most. Here’s hoping things start to fall into place pretty soon.