In a trading statement issued today, Eidos has announced that following a review of both the Tomb Raider franchise and Core Design, development on the series is to be moved to the Crystal Dynamics studio in the USA.
The move follows the departure of Core founder Jeremy Heath-Smith from the boards of both Core and Eidos shortly after the launch of the long-delayed and critically panned title, which threatened to damage Eidos' full year results as its release date slipped marginally past the June 30 financial year-end.
However, Eidos has now confirmed that all but 500,000 units of the title shipped within the June quarter, and the publisher expects to meet its original expectations for operating profit (pre goodwill) in the financial year to June '03.
The future for Core Design, however, looks far less certain, as without Lara Croft - or Jeremy Heath-Smith - there's a question mark over the worth of the studio to Eidos. Other titles from the studio in the past few years have underperformed at retail, and Eidos' statement on the matter doesn't inspire confidence - stating only that "the Company will now be evaluating the Core Design studio's on-going direction and contribution as part of the Group's overall development capabilities."
The Tomb Raider franchise took another battering this week when Paramount Pictures blamed the poor quality of Angel of Darkness for dismal opening weekend figures for the latest Tomb Raider movie, Cradle of Life, in the USA. However, the move to Crystal Dynamics may inject new life into the brand; the company's Legacy of Kain games have been critically acclaimed, and given sufficient creative freedom, there are certainly great things that could be done with Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise.
The next Tomb Raider game is due for release during the financial year which ends in June 2005; it had originally been planned that Core would do an annual update to Angel of Darkness next year, but given the new development studio at the helm of the game, it's likely that the title will drop back to Christmas 2004 at the earliest.