Square Enix Montreal
|Industry||Video game industry|
|Founded||November 21, 2011|
|Patrick Naud (studio head)|
Number of employees
|Parent||Square Enix Europe|
Square Enix Montreal is a Montreal-based studio under video game developer Square Enix best known for creating the Go series of turn-based puzzle games for smartphones and tablets based on former Eidos Interactive intellectual properties. Founded in November 2011 as a traditional studio with plans to create a new Hitman series game for consoles and employ several hundred people, its mandate changed in 2013 when it became its parent company's choice studio to produce mobile games, beginning with the Hitman franchise. The company developed prototypes for two mobile Hitman games, which became the board game-inspired puzzle game Hitman Go (2014) and the shooter Hitman: Sniper (2015). The commercial success of the latter and the critical success of the former led to two additional titles in the Go series: Lara Croft Go (2015), based on the Tomb Raider series, and Deus Ex Go (2016), based on the Deus Ex series.
Video game developer Square Enix announced the opening of Square Enix Montreal on November 21, 2011, aiming to debut operations in 2012 with 150 employees headed by Lee Singleton, a former general manager at Square Enix London Studios. The new studio was founded to create high-production quality (AAA) titles within Square Enix intellectual properties. Its first project was a new Hitman series game for home consoles, to be co-developed with another Square Enix subsidiary, IO Interactive of Denmark, which created the series and was at work on Hitman: Absolution (2012). Square Enix Montreal began with four staff members—Singleton and three developers from IO Interactive—but planned to grow beyond the single Hitman team to have multiple concurrent projects with up to 150 employees. Singleton planned a slow design process, with no rush to production. The studio also received support from the Quebecois government.
Spurred by company-wide changes beginning late the next year and Square Enix's decision to designate a studio to focus on mobile games, Square Enix Montreal pivoted to mobile game development with an emphasis on the Hitman franchise and tablet computers in June 2013. Patrick Naud became its director. The studio quietly cancelled its work on the Hitman console game, and many employees left to work on AAA titles elsewhere. Those who stayed became vested in the ethos of a smaller studio, and left their siloed specialty areas to work as generalists across specialties, as necessitated by smaller teams. The company spent two weeks designing proposals for mobile Hitman series games, which led to Hitman Go (2014) and Hitman: Sniper (2015). The former began the Go series of highly manicured, turn-based, board game-style puzzle video games, while the latter more closely resembled a traditional mobile game in which players competitively shoot targets through a sniper rifle scope. Though Hitman Go and the subsequent Lara Croft Go (2015, based on the Tomb Raider series) received awards, critical acclaim, and modest sales, Hitman: Sniper became the studio's revenue generator.
This work was novel in an industry where major companies created free-to-play games rather than small games with small teams. But the two styles of mobile games—opposite ends of indie and AAA development cultures—clashed, and divided the studio's internal identity. They intended to resolve this conflict with Deus Ex Go (2016), whose development team was split evenly between the Go series and Sniper staff and intended to mix the "tight, hand-crafted feel" of the former with the "ongoing updates" of the latter. The studio employed about 40 people at the time of Deus Ex Go's release, who clustered together in a space once designed for several hundred people. The company has not released information on its future plans, though based on Square Enix's philosophy of each studio covering its own niche well, they are expected to continue making mobile games. Recent hires include indie developers from games including Hyper Light Drifter and Fez.
Square Enix Montreal's Go series of turn-based puzzle games for smartphones and tablets released to high praise. Ryan McCaffrey of IGN wrote that the first two releases were the "smartest" mobile games of any console franchise. Sam Loveridge of Digital Spy summarized the series as immensely successful. The games use simple touchscreen gameplay mechanics to move the main characters from each screen around a minimalist board game-like puzzle. With each entry, Square Enix Montreal distills and reinterprets the parent series' essential gameplay elements for the board game format. Hitman Go was released in 2014, Lara Croft Go (of the Tomb Raider series) in 2015, and Deus Ex Go of the Deus Ex series in 2016. The studio released documentary videos on their Go series development process.
The Go games reached a wider audience than Sniper, and half of their players found the games through App Store or friend recommendations. The studio partially attributes their success with the series to their unique position of being able to work with major franchises with the resources of a larger company, while retaining the smaller size and flexibility of an independent development studio. They also viewed the critical response to Deus Ex Go as an indication that the studio had thrice succeeded on its intention to translate an older console intellectual property to mobile with its own personality. Square Enix Montreal sees their work as the converging intersection between Square Enix's AAA tradition and reputable mobile games.
In June 2018, studio head Patrick Naud said that they have disconnected work on the Go series. Naud said that the series "was a great adventure for us as a studio", but that the premium mobile returns were disappointing, saying "it's sad to see that our games are only played by a small slither of the population because of the price point". The studio does plan to continue to work in the mobile space, with Naud stating their intent to make "high-end, high-quality pristine mobile experiences" from either existing or new intellectual property.
|Lara Croft Go||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|2016||Deus Ex Go||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No|
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- Rose, Mike (November 21, 2011). "Square Enix Opening Second Montreal Studio For New Hitman, Creating 250 Jobs". Gamasutra.
- Nutt, Christian (November 21, 2011). "Interview: Inside Square Enix's Major Montreal Expansion". Gamasutra. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
- Ray Corriea, Alexa (January 6, 2014). "Report: Next-gen Hitman canceled, studio working on new action title (update)". Polygon. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
- Ray Corriea, Alexa (June 21, 2013). "Square Enix makes leadership changes to all studios, new AAA Hitman project in development". Polygon. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
- Webster, Andrew (August 18, 2016). "Enter the studio turning Deus Ex and Lara Croft into awesome mobile games". The Verge. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
- IO Interactive assumed a similar project.
- Francis, Bryant (August 18, 2016). "How Square Enix Montreal acts like an indie to make its mobile games". Gamasutra. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
- McCaffrey, Ryan (June 8, 2016). "E3 2016: Deus Ex Go Is a Hack-and-Swipe Deus Ex Adventure". IGN. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
- Loveridge, Sam (June 8, 2016). "Deus Ex GO preview: another mobile game success?". Digital Spy. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
- Clark, Willie (August 4, 2016). "How Square Enix brought Deus Ex to mobile". ZAM. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
- Dotson, Carter (March 15, 2017). "Square Enix Montreal Releases 'Deus Ex GO' Trilogy Stories Video". TouchArcade. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
- Batchelor, James (February 3, 2017). "'There's room for high-quality mobile games, and they don't need to be free-to-play'". GamesIndustry.biz. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
- Sarkar, Samit (February 22, 2016). "Hitman Go devs on the craftsmanship that goes into making 'nice mobile games'". Polygon. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
- Calvin, Alex (June 1, 2018). "Square Enix Montreal no longer working on the Go series". PocketGamer.biz. Retrieved June 1, 2018.