Square Enix has great games but doesn't know how to sell them, says former exec

Eidos Montreal founder Stephane D'Astous said "last year was supposed to be a home-run season"; downplays Thief development issues.

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Square Enix has great games, but doesn't know how to sell them, according to Eidos Montreal founder Stephane D'Astous, who left the company on Friday.

The publisher "has some things to learn about how to sell their games," D'Astous told Polygon in a new interview.

"We are in a situation that we have great games that could have sold more," he said. "They need to attack that very, very seriously," he said. "Last year was supposed to be a home-run season, but we didn't hit a single home run; maybe a double or a triple, but they weren't home runs."

Hitman: Absolution (3.6 million), Tomb Raider (3.4 million), and Sleeping Dogs (1.75 million) all failed to reach sales targets for Square Enix. President Yoichi Wada resigned in March amid the company posting an "extraordinary" financial loss.

D'Astous cited this financial shortcoming as a reason for leaving the company, as well as "divergent opinions" on what must be done to turn the ship around.

"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," D'Astous said. "I realized that our differences were irreconcilable, and that the best decision was unfortunately to part ways."

D'Astous also discussed reports that Eidos Montreal's latest project, Thief, has struggled through a troubled development. He said these reports were "blown out of proportion."

"Thief has been a long project," he said. "Some of your articles [about the game's development] were a little bit harsh. If you take into perspective every different element, it was blown out of proportion in some aspect. Every triple A has its up and downs and I guess we were exposed more to the public when we were at the bottom of the barrel. That was a long time ago."

Discussion

491 comments
camichan
camichan

You know, the guy is probably right. I haven't bought a Square Enix game in quite a while, but I did eventually play Hitman Absolution, Deus Ex: HR, Just Cause 2, and FFXIII, either on Playstation Plus, or used. I waffled on Tomb Raider, but want to eventually play the game. The games are all quite good, and I like Square Enix. They have been staking some territory in certain genres (e.g. stealth action). Meanwhile, I ended up buying quite a few EA games despite not particularly being fond of EA. So the question for him is, why did I (we) end up not making the purchase. It may come down to (in a few cases) the ability to interract online with friends through the games. I enjoyed the friendly competitor part of Hitman, but the community isn't a big enough draw yet to influence me to make the purchase on that yet. I hope Square manages to figure that one out and makes a turnaround. I'd be glad to see it.  

Fire_Wa11
Fire_Wa11

A few years back, I was looking at S. Enix's Deus Ex: HR (DXHR) and when I heard north american sales were only like 400,000* I had to go get it.  I liked DXHR.  A year later I just picked up the missing link dlc on the steam summer sale.  I liked that, too.  What I'm saying is...  I wasn't even going to get Thief but I'll probably buy it new to help them out.  Maaaaaybeee sleeping dogs, too, one day.

deon99
deon99

I still don't see how 3.4 million units isn't good enough.They should face it like the rest of the industry, no one is going to make GTA or Cod numbers when they launch a game.Those two ip's are unique.Outside of those two games you hardly ever see games selling  four and five million units it's first month.well, unless it's a pokemon game, but those games launch at 28 bucks.

Iordanis1278
Iordanis1278

Tomb raider was a great game indeed, beautiful graphics entertaining gameplay it was surprisingly good i run through it twice. Hitman absolution on the other hand was good until i reached a level where the game suddenly crashed which is totally unacceptable, i had to start again from scratch the save file was corrupted somehow.These things should never happen after a  game is released in the market. 

CadenceDevil
CadenceDevil

Quite frankly anyone who doesn't appreciate Square Enix doesn't have an appreciation for amazing graphics and beautifully written games and most likely only play COD or Halo consistently. 

If it wasn't for this company, I would never have been drawn into RPG games and they put in so much, they do reach too high for the lack of appreciation they get back. 

buccomatic
buccomatic

i agree. there has to be something wrong here.


tomb raider (2013) was the best game in 2013, was better than tlou, and is was easily one of the best games this gen. how it didn't sell 10 million copies by now is baffling.

vivalatour
vivalatour

I sure though TR would have beat HM in the sales dept. although I in no way thought those sales numbers were shabby ! and SD was a RDR wannabe if you ask me and those sales really were not bad , I wonder if this included DLC ? .. I guess if this was considered a loss at least it's a foundation for what the players are now to expect with the much better quality in games !

Reuwsaat
Reuwsaat

Just how many copies did they expect to sell, exactly?

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

Wrong. Square Enix has god awful games, and knows how to sell them.

foojam
foojam

They put the bar too high and they get frustrated even if they sell millions of copies, ungrateful and unorganized industries, they can't even schedule an economic model on how a project will cost and therefore determine a realistic  number of sales.

aelohin
aelohin

tomb raider is a great game, the best game (in this kind) for me in the last years. Maybe is just the beginning in this new era of the game, the next Tomb Raider could be the hit you want! take advantage of all the work you already did!  

joesguy
joesguy

Yeah, and I have a few tropical islands to sell you, Sqaure-Enix.

Falconoffury
Falconoffury

1. Reign in costs. 

2. Release boxed retail in North America on PC.

nigelholden
nigelholden

Given that I have a kid and a job, I don't have the time to play games like I use to. Still, I have a healthy (or unhealthy according to my wife) hobby with video games. I played Sleeping Dogs, Tomb Raider, and Hitman to completion. All great games. But the only reason that I got them was because I stay up to date on video game sites and such. The marketing is terrible and assumes way too much. You can't just social media blitz a few times on known territory. There has to be some real outreach marketing. If not, well, the results speak for themselves. 

sotantalus
sotantalus

The main mistake of SE is the treatment given to the customer... They don't get fan's feedbacks or just ignore them. Still waiting for a realise of Final Fantasy Type-0 in the West, and still waiting they stop using the numbered Final Fantasy to sell online games... Final Fantasy XI should actually be XII and XIV should be XV ¬¬

1947gamer
1947gamer

Their marketing for Tomb Raider was not as good as it should have been. They could have pushed more on TV not just the internet. You see a lot of adds on TV for new games. I don't remember one for Tomb Raider. The stuff offered in the Tomb Raider store is junk. There should be better T shirts and regular sweat shirts not just a hoddie which is often associated with gang bangers. I hope they do a better promotion for Thief.

nick-nikol
nick-nikol

I don't want to comment in a long article here .the issue is that they are greedy with profits. The money amounts are huge.The games such as tomb raider,and Hitman absol. were masterpieces although the graphics and the whole project of Hitman cannot be compared to Tomb Raider which was a masterpiece in all aspects,as Hitman was a bit on the leg in terms of game graphics n all . As of Thief it looks like a very good game n similar to Dishonered in some aspects. As of sleeping dogs it looked like a BAD replica of G.T.A.and shouldn't have made so many sales.

MoneyBagsUK
MoneyBagsUK

Dude, 1.75-3.6 mill sales and their crying about it? They really should evaluate their  budgets or something, for a video game that should be awesome... Not to mention, one of them is a new IP and another's a reboot of a franchise. If that's bad I wanna know what the hell they were expecting for each, COD numbers? Yeah right.

ilovelctr
ilovelctr

Well, considering SE don't count any digital sales and they don't even release any physical copies of PC version in United States and Canada at all, I don't know why SE keeps on f**king whining about it. And the sales for all three games have not been updated for ages... The strange thing is that both Crystal Dynamics and gamers are more than happy with the "incomplete" sales figure of Tomb Raider. And what's more funny is, if SE didn't get Eidos in hands, they don't even have a franchise that will sell anymore (FF's got ruined by their so called new gameplay).

obriam
obriam

Square Enix got the EA influenza!

PaulJanson
PaulJanson

DISHONORABLE!!!! OVER 3 MILLION!! Y U NO SELL OVER 10 MILLION!?!?

ლ(⇀‸↼ლ)

tightwad34
tightwad34

Seems like a passive-aggressive move on their part. They also need to get their expectations down a bit. The higher your hopes chances are you'll get disappointed sometimes.

AQWBlaZer91
AQWBlaZer91

Well I hope Square Enix are proud of themselves. Cause guess what gamers, they fucking suck!

Shmiity
Shmiity

When your games sell 3.5 million copies, and you incur "extraordinary" losses- you have serious problems. 

PlatinumPaladin
PlatinumPaladin

The fact all three of those titles failed to hit sales targets suggests somebody certainly did something wrong. I hope that that mistake doesn't jeopardise the chances of any future games. 

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

"Hitman: Absolution (3.6 million), Tomb Raider (3.4 million), and Sleeping Dogs (1.75 million) all failed to reach sales targets for Square Enix. President Yoichi Wada resigned in March amid the company posting an "extraordinary" financial loss."

I didn't buy any of these...they're not my cup of tea.  Deus Ex, Thief, Final Fantasy and Star Ocean, those are more along my lines.  However, I didn't like DE:HR nearly as much as the original (it didn't continue the current storyline), Thief has waited forever for a sequel, Final Fantasy 13 sucked ass IMO (I never finished it), there hasn't been a Final Fantasy Tactics 2, and it's been a long time since I bought Star Ocean: The Last Hope International.  What's the thing that ties these 5 titles together, and shows the reason for lackluster sales?

Lack of story.  DE:HR is going nowhere by making prequels.  Thief and Star Ocean have waited too long.  FF13 had no storyline, just a few flashbacks.  And there isn't any Final Fantasy Tactics 2.  There are no epic stories and fully fleshed-out characters in the games to keep drawing the gamers back sequel after sequel.  In other words, HIRE SOME GOOD STORY WRITERS.  And not those idiots who wrote the endings for Mass Effect or Assassin's Creed...they kill the protagonists off, whom we as gamers have attachments to.  Knowing the history of a game series and seeing its protagonists survive from story to story gives us another reason to keep buying the series.  Good stories make good series, and good series make good sales.  It's really that simple.

say0cheese
say0cheese

I think square enix tries too much to focus on games that people didn't particularly enjoy rather than the games that did really well. I wish they focused more on creating the next big final fantasy title than sequels to ff13

ZOD777
ZOD777

It is simple.  Just put "Call of" in front of all of your titles.  Should work to some degree.

richterlocke97
richterlocke97

@Fire_Wa11 Sleeping Dogs is really an incredible game, and has been cheap many times. Even if you don't bother with the ridiculous amount of DLC (though I did dig Zodiac Tournament), it's well worth the money. And if you haven't played Tomb Raider, you really should. An AMAZING experience, and thus far my personal GOTY for 2013.

horizonwriter
horizonwriter

@Grenadeh Well, they know how to sell Lightning and anything related to her but that's about it.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@ilovelctr FFs got ruined long before 13 came out. 11 was pure shit, 12 was barely acceptable. The second they merged with Enix is the second they died as a company.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@Shmiity In their defense, their earlier games even in the 90s sold more copies.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@PlatinumPaladin Their mistake was expecting TR to sell copies. Tomb Raider was never a popular game. They just kept on churning out sequels, 6 of them bad at least, when there wasn't actually a market for the game. Uncharted capitalized on doing TR properly (though linearly) for a short time but the new TR is better than Uncharted and still didn't outsell it. It has too much stigma and too much history frankly.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@VarietyMage I hate FF13 with an undying passion but it did have a story. It had a good story, in fact. The problem is EVERYTHING ELSE about the game.

finalkain
finalkain

@VarietyMage Oh agree with you, at least with their RPGs... They have become far too focused on production values and flash and lost the story moments that stick with you like their older titles had in abundance. 

Dont get me wrong, I love some smooth combat and slick graphics but I will always remember Aeris's death and the Opera House. We just dont get moments like that anymore.

Oh and bring back Legacy of Kain FFS.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@ZOD777 Call of Tomb Raider! Call of Thief!!! Call of Deus Ex! Lol. Call of Sleeping Dogs! Call of Just Cause? Call of Fantasy: Final Warfare 3

richterlocke97
richterlocke97

@Grenadeh @PlatinumPaladin Grenadeh, that is the most assinine comment I have ever heard. While I won't disagree with a number of the sequels being relatively poor, Tomb Raider was one of the hallmark franchises on the PS1, sold a bucketload of copies, and made an international superstar out of Lara Croft. They even made two (pretty bad) movies with Angelina Jolie as Lara. For you to even pretend the series was never popular is sheer ignorance. When did you first start playing games?

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

@Grenadeh @VarietyMage I disagree.  By the time I quit (ostensibly 2/3 through or so), I still didn't know anything useful about the characters, there was no meaningful dialogue, no non-statistical character development (i.e., storytelling)...it was a crap story.  The world was pretty, but otherwise dead.  There was nothing to do but advance the storyline.  It was linear as rails to me, and not even close to fun.  I felt like I was playing an MMO, just grinding levels, killing X number of Y monsters, and fetching widgets for quests - no story to be had, no plot, no nothing that makes the game even memorable (other than how bad it sucks).

worlock77
worlock77

@finalkain @VarietyMage 

I was a huge 'Legacy of Kain' fan back in the day, but with Amy Hennig gone I'm not sure that I want them to try to bring back that franchise. Also if SE is disappointed by the sales of 'Tomb Raider' then I'm sure they'd be horrified at the sales of a new LoK game. Not a knock on the franchise, but that series was never a huge seller even at its peak.

SkylabOne
SkylabOne

@finalkain @VarietyMage I will never forget Aeris' death, or any other scene of Final Fantasy 7, especially when it involved Cloud and Sephiroth. FF 8 had a tragic protagonist and a chilling nemesis as well, but after that the story-telling became seemingly less important.

I left the world of Final Fantasy for years after the release of FF 9, it didn't appeal to me anymore. Then I tried it again with FF 13, and was deeply disappointed.

Mismanagement is not a new thing at Square/Enix. Ever since the merging of these two great companies downhill it went. Buying Eidos didn't help, regardless of some good triple A games.

If you don't know how to find your target group, it doesn't matter how otherworldly the game is you produce. And as said before, a good story-teller could solve some problems too.

richterlocke97
richterlocke97

@SkylabOne @Grenadeh @finalkain @VarietyMage FF3/6 is the best, just ever so slightly ahead of FF2/4. FFT is the best game ever made. Pretty much all the other FF games are irrelevant. 7 is so vastly overrated it hurts. 9 is pretty good, and a shade underrated. 5 is also pretty good. The rest are simply unimportant and not rally worth talking about. The series should have died a long, long time ago.

SkylabOne
SkylabOne

@Grenadeh @SkylabOne @finalkain @VarietyMage I have played it, but I have never owned it, mainly because I didn't think it was very good. I'll openly admit that nostalgia has something to do with it. After finishing FF 9 I went on with the rest of my life and will thus always remember FF 7 and 8 (And 6 also btw) as my personal best experiences with the series.