It's been a whirlwind of news regarding Square Enix, the popular video game publisher of high-profile titles such as Deus Ex and Tomb Raider. First, there was the disappointing announcement that Square Enix would be cutting ties with IO Interactive, the development behind 2016's highly acclaimed sleeper hit Hitman.
Then an even more unexpected reveal showed up in an equally unexpected place. Straight Up, Films, the production company that last year announced it was producing a movie based on the 2014 Reboot of Thief, added more information to their website at some point that apparently reveals plans for a new Thief game. The full passage on their website can be read below:
"Thief is an action epic poised to be the next great multi-platform franchise. Originally released in 1998 by Eidos Interactive (Deus Ex) and distributed by Square Enix (Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy), the Thief series has spanned over fifteen years and four sequels continually retaining loyal audiences and attracting new fans with each iteration. Widely considered to be one of the greatest games ever created, a fifth sequel is currently in development to be released in step with this motion picture adaptation (emphasis added). Steeped in the steam-punk world created by the video game, the film will tell a new chapter in the storied world of the series' hero."
This certainly isn't proof of anything. A reveal like this echoes a similarly-discovered announcement supposedly revealing a new Metro game for 2017. The author of the Metro book series said on his website the next game, slated for 2017 would pick up right where Metro 2035 leaves off. That same day, Deep Silver confirmed that no such game exists in any capacity. So, this goes to show that people who work outside of the industry, even on the same IP, likely have very different sets of information.
That being said, if Square Enix were to greenlight a new Thief game, while simultaneously ditching the studio behind Hitman, it would make perfect sense, financially speaking.
Of course, everyone is going to look at the relative reception of each of these games – Hitman being considered a GOTY candidate last year, while Thief was something of a mess – and wonder where Square Enix's head is at. "Where are their priorities?" "Why do you want to continue making mediocre games and ditch great games?"
But, as I said, financially speaking, the answer is simple. As Square Enix pointed out in their reports, IO Interactive drew up a $43 million loss. While no official numbers for Hitman have been revealed, this doesn't make it seem like it was a huge success.
And Thief? Again, Square Enix was relatively tight-lipped about its individual sales, but they did call its sales "favorable," while posting a $65 million profit for the fiscal year in which Thief released. While not specific, this makes it seem like Thief was at least a modest success.
This theme has come up before: vote with your wallets. If you want Square Enix to keep making great games like Hitman, buy those great games. If you want them to stop making mediocre games like Thief, don't buy those mediocre games. High critical reception is great. Positive reviews from gamers on Steam, Metacritic and other platforms is also great. But it doesn't pay the bills.
So, before railing against Square Enix for what you may see as jumbled priorities, remind yourself that money talks.