The Waiting Game

The Waiting Game
Jane Cavanagh’s revelation that Eidos’ best PS3 titles were too important to unleash on the market until 2008 would no doubt have left a fair few hardcore gamers a little gutted. The same goes for the publisher’s rivals, who will be itching to see what the Wimbledon-based firm has up its sleeve after a barnstorming 2006.

According to chief financial officer Rob Murphy, the firm had little choice – as the decision was part and parcel of the the sort of financial level-headedness that has kept Eidos’ coffers full since the SCi buyout last year.

“We’ve been in the industry a long time and we recognise that it takes time for a installed base to build up in the UK, Europe and other PAL territories,” says Murphy. “If we’re releasing a major title like the next Tomb Raider on PS3, we want to make sure that the market has had time to build up so we have a maximum chance for success. For the big guns, it makes sense to time their release at the right point.”

Murphy recently revealed that Eidos is confident the PS3 can reach Xbox 360’s current worldwide installed base of eight to ten million units by April 2008. He says that this optimism is grounded in “having absolutely no doubt that PS3 will be a very successful platform” – but adds that Eidos is continually monitoring the market.

“We’re looking at April or May 2008 but you can’t be rigid in business and if the market changes, we’ll obviously look at what will happen with our new releases on PS3,” he says. “But we set our policies looking to bring games to market at a particular time – and a year from now appears to make sense.”
Of course, Eidos’ success over the next financial year is not just dependent on getting their output right on PS3.

Xbox 360 has proved a particularly noteworthy money-spinner for the Britsoft publisher over the last year – spawning ChartTrack number one hits including Hitman: Blood Money, Tomb Raider: Legend, Just Cause and Battlestations: Midway.

“We’ve already proved that we can be a success on Xbox 360 and our strategy isn’t likely to change,” he says. “Titles like Just Cause and Battlestations have managed to surprise a few people and we’re confident that we can continue this in future.”

Murphy makes no secret of the fact that last month’s financial results showed losses of £17.9 million for the six months to Christmas – despite the company knocking off £2 million from the same figure it unveiled a year before. He says that SCi always expected the first half of its financial year to carry this shortfall – and that the second half should more than make up for it.

“We’ve done well for the first half of the fiscal year,” he says. “But we now expect profitability in the second half of the period, as our major releases start to arrive at retail.” Murphy has good reason to be hopeful. With SCi’s backing, Eidos has the opportunity to sniff out key players in rapidly expanding areas of the industry and buy them up.

The firm has already signed the crack team of takeover experts Phil Rogers from EA and Don Johnson from Deutsche Bank, and this week added mobile games outfit Morpheme to its burgeoning portfolio.

“It’s fair to say that we think there are very interesting markets in newer business areas like mobile games, digital distribution and casual games, which you can see from our acquisitions of Rockpool Games and Bluefish Media,” says Murphy.

“We are looking at how we best expand our presence in those areas. We will continue to look at opportunities in those areas and evaluate how best to invest in them. “Equally, there are interesting opportunities that come up in more traditional areas of publishing – and we’re just as keen as ever to look at those.”

Both Eidos’ release and acquisition plans have obviously been drawn up for the long haul. But with cracking imminent releases in the shape of pet pampering kids’ favourite Pony Friends on DS, MMO epic Age Of Conan on PC and the return of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider Anniversary on PS2, don’t expect the publisher to stop bothering the apex of the charts anytime soon.

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