One of the most famous Montreal studios a few years ago, Square Enix Montreal, is closing its doors, has learned The Press. The studio founded in 2011, and which was renamed Onoma by its new owner Embracer just three weeks ago, had some 200 employees.
The announcement was officially made on Tuesday at the headquarters of CDE Entertainment, the subsidiary created by the Swedish group Embracer after the purchase last May of three studios from Square Enix. A second small Montreal studio, specializing in quality control, will also be closed. The other two, Eidos-Montreal and Crystal Dynamics of San Francisco, are not affected.
“We have great ambitions for Crystal Dynamics and Eidos-Montréal, said Phil Rogers, director of CDE Entertainment, in a press release. We see growth opportunities focused on quality franchises and AAA games. »
According to what learned The Press, CDE Entertainment did not see any interesting profitability opportunities for mobile games, an area in which Square Enix Montreal specializes. The laconic press release specifies that the 200 employees concerned “will be fully supported through their transition”. “The company will pair affected employees where possible in open positions in PC and console projects, at Crystal Dynamics and Eidos-Montreal, but recognizes that several colleagues affected today could find their next opportunity outside of the group,” it says.
Square Enix Montreal experienced its heyday between 2014 and 2016 with the release of Lara Croft GO, Hitman GO, Hitman Sniper and Deus Ex Go. Nothing came out of the studio for six years, until the March 2022 launch of Hitman Sniper: The Shadows.
In interview with The Press in March 2021, the director of the studio, Patrick Naud, had explained that he had been preparing all this time for the shift towards free mobile games for download, with in-app purchases, the model called “freemium”. The old way of doing things in mobile gaming, called “premium” and which consists of selling complete games at once, had been seen to be on the decline for several years.
“We converted the entire studio, going from developing premium AAA mobile games to making freemium service games,” explained Mr. Naud. It’s the whole structure of the game, and all the infrastructure that it takes to operate a game that’s going to be continuous and that’s going to last five or ten years. We increased the size of the studio by 300%, 41 people were hired in the last year. »
It was impossible to speak to Mr. Naud, nor to any person in charge of Square Enix Montreal or CDE Entertainment.