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Eidos cuts it close to the wire with Tomb Raider, again

By on July 23, 2008
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Lara Croft in Tomb Raider: UnderworldI made myself unpopular with the new Eidos management earlier this year with a couple of articles I wrote for MCV (see links below) on the trials and tribulations on the BritSoft champion. I’ve just been on holiday for two weeks and I’m feeling refreshed, so I’m going to risk doing it again.

Setting the launch date for Tomb Raider: Underworld as 21st November 2008 strikes me as absolutely crazy. 

The company has a track record of setting release dates very close to the wire. In 2003, Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness was supposed to be released on 30th June, the last day of Eidos’s financial year. This is a critical date: if the game was released on the 30th June, then the value of all the pre-orders would be in the 2002-3 year; if it were 1st July, they would be in the following year.

Eidos gambled it would be ready in time, got it wrong, disappointed their investors yet again and issues a profits warning. As a result, the share price fell 10% and the reputation of the management team (Mike McGarvey, Stuart Cruickshank and others) never recovered with their shareholders.

In 2004, Championship Manager also slipped, missing the crucial Christmas season.

So why am I so worried about a November 21st release date. It’s nowhere near the company’s financial year end, so shouldn’t affect investors; it’s a good month before Christmas and there should be plenty of time for sales.

The answer is that it is only 6 days before Thanksgiving, the all-important date on which US families hit the stores for Christmas presents. It’s only a month before Christmas, which isn’t long for organised people. And above all, it leaves no time for slippage.

The best scenario is that the new management have learned from the mistakes of their forebears, have given plenty of time to Crystal Dynamics to polish the title and that the late release date means that Tomb Raider: Underworld will ship as a top-quality, fully QA’d title.

The worst scenario is that in a desperate attempt to meet the Christmas quarter, Eidos has set the last possible date that it could to release Lara, and the developers are, as we speak, scrabbling to get the game ready in time. In this scenario, either the game is below-par, or it slips to 2009, neither of which look good for Eidos.

I really, really hope that the best scenario is the answer. I would love Eidos to retain its position as a strong, independent, British publisher.

But history (albeit with different management) makes me fear that the curse of Eidos may be about to strike again.

——-

What went wrong at SCi?, MCV, 22 January 2008

What now for SCI?, MCV, 21 February, 2008 

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com