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A Fresh Start - Part One

Yoichi Wada and Phil Rogers discuss the acquisition of Eidos - where it came from, and why it's a good fit

The games industry has seen three monstrous towers of acquisition talk in the past 18 months: Electronic Arts and Take-Two Interactive, which didn't happen in a quite spectacular fashion; Activision and Vivendi Games, which did; and Eidos and... pretty much anybody with cash that you'd care to mention.

Eidos as a publisher has flown the flag for the UK for a number of years, as those around them have disappeared or been taken over by foreign money, but when the management of owners SCi failed to secure a much-rumoured buyer in late 2007, the parent company's share price plummeted steadily for several months.

With new management in January last year, followed by restructure and a full rename back to Eidos, the company was still followed by controversy - but now an acquisition has finally happened, and the Tomb Raider, Hitman and Kane & Lynch franchises will sit alongside new pan-group stable-mates Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.

So what will Sqaure Enix, officially the owners of Eidos since last week, make of the rollercoaster brand? In one of the first interviews since the acquisition was completed, sat down with Square Enix president and CEO Yoichi Wada and Eidos CEO Phil Rogers, and in part one of a two-part interview, find out exactly what the plan is. How do you characterise the job that you've done in the past 12 months? The company had a fair degree of instability prior to your arrival.
Phil Rogers

We're pleased. We're never complacent, but we're pleased with our progress. We were clear early on that it was a multi-year programme that we were on, and we talk internally about the first year of three, to give you some sense of rhythm or cadence. We're pleased that we've set out with a clear direction - Eidos has had different directions in the past, but when you bore back to the common direction it's about the absolute gameplay, games with character.

We saw that as the key DNA of our business, and tried to really build around it. Actually, the positives we've achieved have been built around that DNA. We've also had challenges as well, like any business, in navigating the changing industry.

But I'd say that we're happy with that. In terms of how we see the fit, the test for any announcement or transaction like this is how people feel internally. I think people here think that it feels very right, that it strategically fits well, and there's a great deal of excitement now around the business. As a leader of a business, I think that's a great litmus test. What exactly did you see as the specific challenges, from a business perspective, that you had to deal with as a priority?
Phil Rogers

It was getting a single-minded vision into the company that people can embrace, and then that vision can be used to direct product decisions, sales and marketing decisions - that's the strength of a vision. If you don't do things that contribute to the achievement, then arguably you've got the wrong vision, and you're doing the wrong things.

I think we saw getting the right vision set up as being of prime importance, and then keeping to that is always part of your core decision-making. It's taken in terms of certain products then that we wouldn't green-light - we could green-light, but it wouldn't help us in terms of where we wanted to go.

I think staying to that vision has been a good driver, a good focus for us - and getting people's mindsets in the business changed, because we know we've gone from a broader portfolio, with more of a wholesaler mentality, to more of a content-creation business with supreme sales and marketing talent around that. That's a different operating model. There's been a shocking amount of speculation around takeovers in the past 12 months, and worse before that - has that been difficult for the company to deal with?
Phil Rogers

If I take the last 12 months, I don't think it has. I think we set out very clearly with our plan in February 2008, where we had this 6-8 months of legacy of on-off deals. I think we set out a very clear plan - we had some interest as you know which we didn't want to pursue, and then actually when we got into these discussions which seemed a very right and natural fit, we completed the transaction fairly quickly. I think that helps people focus around it.

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