Tech, team and IP sharing across studios as publisher aims to build global blockbusters

Square Enix bosses draw ‘worldwide studio’ plan

The three CEOs of Square Enix have drawn together an ambitious battleplan to build the first worldwide game studio – one in which dev teams across continents will enmesh and build a game of “global appeal”.

Group CEO Yoichi Wada told Develop that “nobody else has the resource for east-west collaboration like we do”, and believes this is how Square Enix can differentiate from rival publishers.

Europe CEO Phil Rogers said “for the next 12 months there will be a lot of great collaboration” across the company’s studios.

The firm has studios dotted across the US, Canada, Europe and China.

Rogers added: “Across Square Enix we have this collaborative process that has been led by certain teams working together, and it has created a healthy intrigue from our studios.

“When all our teams see the result of that collaboration [process], it creates a whole new kind of vision for our studios to work more closely with each other,” he added.

The publisher’s new direction comes as the games industry finds itself disrupted by the mobile, digital and social games spaces – with many Old Guard publishers and studios losing ground.

For Square Enix the belief remains that the old triple-A studio model can still thrive; it just needs to adjust its model.

The company aims to save costs by sharing technology and information between teams, and widen opportunities by spreading products across the globe.

US CEO Mike Fischer, who runs the newly-opened Square Enix dev outfit in Los Angeles, said his team is already benefiting from this worldwide-studio philosophy.

“Because [the US studio is] a small team you don’t necessarily have a wealth of resources,” he said, “but what makes it happen is that there are things across the whole Eidos organisation that they can rely on – from usability testing teams all the way through to senior technology mentoring.”

The publishing empire’s three bosses spoke together in a wide-ranging interview with Develop, which also took questions to the heads of subsidy studios Eidos Montreal, IO Interactive and Crystal Dynamics.

Those three development outfits became the property of Square Enix early in 2009, when Square Enix bought Britsoft publisher Eidos in a deal worth $84 million.

Stephane D’Astous, the general manager at Canadian developer Eidos Montreal, revealed that Wada had closely monitored the Eidos studios before outlining a plan for international collaboration.

“In fact, with all the studios in Europe and the US – he took a lot of time out to visit each studio,” D’Astous said.

“In about the space of a year, I’d say he had about 40 people fly over from Tokyo.”

Wada wants Square Enix to become one of the industry’s three biggest publishers in the space of five years – and said a franchise of global appeal can help the firm on its path.

“If our development teams can create something that appeals to a global audience, I think that is the next step in our business,” he said.

D’Astous has that philosophy drilled into him, but he’s not ignoring the risks: “In our future projects we’ll have to look very carefully at how we can build games of global appeal in all territories. The danger is that you lose focus if you spread your game to appeal to different cultures, so it’s a fine line to walk.”

There’s tremendous potential for saving costs and improving product through collaboration, D’Astous added.

He explains that the Deus Ex project is being built with an engine made by Crystal Dynamics, but the studio received more than a good editor.

“There’s some really good tech there, but the best thing is that the whole project got a kick-start because the Crystal Dynamics team helped us figure out how to use it all,” he added.

“We’re sharing a lot of data, a lot of tech, and a lot of best-practices among each of the studios. That’s what happens at the start, and when a project’s in place we branch off from the group and do our own thing.”

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