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Taking Final Fantasy 15 away from the Deus Ex studio was 'a big mistake'

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Deus Ex developer Eidos Montréal very nearly made Final Fantasy 15. The studio was put in charge of Square Enix’s flagship JRPG project – until the publisher changed its mind and took it back home.

Eidos Montréal worked on Final Fantasy 15 after Deus Ex Mankind Divided, which was its final entry in the series. Development was already underway in Canada when the decision was made, according to former Montréal staffer Jonathan Jacque-Belletête. “Then they decided to bring it back to Japan,” he told TrueAchievements. “Which I think was a big mistake, but it’s still the truth. Ours was really, really cool.”

Since then, the Montréal studio has released a Tomb Raider sequel and Guardians of the Galaxy – the latter of which earned four stars from our Vic for its “heartfelt and witty story”.

(Image credit: Square Enix)

The studio would have been the first ever Western developer to put out a mainline Final Fantasy game. In the event, however, Final Fantasy 15 was entrusted to Square Enix’s Business Division 2 – a classically named Japanese developer – and led by director Hajime Tabata. It launched in 2016 to largely positive reviews.

Square peg

Though all of this unfolded several years ago, it’s a story all too relevant today – emblematic of Square Enix’s failure to fold its Western studios into the mothership in Japan. That failure appeared to culminate this year in the sale of the publisher’s entire Western division to Embracer Group for $300m – a fairly measly sum in the context of games industry consolidation.

Over the years, Square Enix has more than once lamented the performance of games from Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montréal – to the point where “failed to meet expectations” is almost a meme associated with the company. And in recent years, it’s struggled to find the best use of those studios’ talents – throwing their weight behind a push into licensed Marvel games that hasn’t panned out financially. Now, finally, it’s thrown in the towel.

Square Enix acquired venerable British publisher Eidos, along with Deus Ex and Tomb Raider, back in 2009 – but you could argue that the two companies never truly merged. Their most famous properties never crossed the membrane, remaining in their continents of origin. Such separation is increasingly unusual in the AAA landscape, where escalating team sizes have seen blockbusters become multi-studio projects developed across multiple time zones.

Whatever paradigm-breaking rethink Eidos Montréal could have offered Final Fantasy – or Business Division 2 offered Tomb Raider, for that matter – never emerged. Though it is worth noting that Square Enix’s CGI team in Japan did a fantastic job with Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s cinematics. We’ll always have those, though we didn’t ask for them.

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