(CP) - Eidos, the British-based video game developer that brought Lara Croft to life, is coming to Montreal.
Eidos Interactive announced Thursday that it is creating a new development studio in Montreal with plans to create 350 jobs in three years.
"We are starting literally from scratch. I'm literally the only guy in Montreal right now," an enthusiastic Stephane D'Astous, general manager of the new studio, said Thursday from Montreal.
"But we're going to be building up a team quite rapidly. I think I have the best job in Montreal right now."
The blueprint for the Montreal studio calls for three development teams, each no more than 80 people. There will also be a QA (quality assurance) team - which will start with 30 people and grow to 100 over three years - that will test Eidos games from around the world.
D'Astous, who still has to find office space, hopes to put a development team in place as early as this spring, with the other two to follow in 2008 and 2009.
D'Astous said the Montreal studio will focus on "major" game titles, exclusively for next-generation consoles. And he promises that his studio would take the time to make games properly, with production cycles of "at least 18 months, if not more."
He declined to detail his studio's first project other than to say it will be a major title.
"It should be announced quite soon because it will help me to do my recruitment obviously," he said. "It's a very well-known IP (intellectual property) and it's going to be major."
British-based SCi Games bought Eidos Interactive in May 2005, becoming SCi Entertainment Group in the process. SCi now markets all its products under the Eidos brand.
In addition to "Tomb Raider," it boasts the successful "Hitman" and "Championship Manager" franchises. Other recent releases included "Just Cause," "Reservoir Dogs" and "Battlestations Midway."
Eidos was founded in 1990, moving into video game development in 1995 and releasing the first "Tomb Raider" game in 1996. The franchise has gone on to sell more than 31 million units.
Eidos's other studio in North America is Crystal Dynamics in San Francisco, which currently makes the "Tomb Raider" games. It also owns studios in Copenhagen (Io Interactive), London (Beautiful Games Studios) and Bath, England (Pivotal Games), and has a share of Rocksteady Studios in London.
It recently opened new studios in Helsingborg, Sweden, and Budapest, Hungary.
"We continue to open development studios in cost-effective locations," the company said in its 2006 annual report.
For the year ending June 2006, SCi reported total revenue of 179.1 million pounds (C$406.3 million) with profit before tax of 8.1 million pounds (C$18. million).
Hits during that period include "Tomb Raider: Legend" (2.9 million units), "Lego Star Wars" (2.5 million, bringing the total since release to 4.2 million units) and "Hitman: Blood Money" (1.4 million units).
The Eidos news comes six days after Ubisoft Montreal announced ambitious expansion plans for its Quebec operations. The company, which currently has 1,600 employees in the province, said its goal is to have 3,000 employees by 2013. The plans include building a production centre specializing in digital content to make short films inspired by Ubisoft games.
Montreal is also home to other development studios, including Electronic Arts, with several smaller studios focusing on the mobile game market.
D'Astous came to the video game industry from the aerospace sector. A native Montrealer, he previously worked at Babel Media, a local studio that offered testing and other services to outside developers. He also spent three years at Ubisoft and worked at CAE and Bombardier.
Eidos was lured to Quebec in part by the provincial government, whose investment arm - Investissement Quebec - approached the British-based company two years ago.
In addition to tax incentives, Quebec offers video game developers a pool of talent in the industry and a multilingual environment that is attractive to publishers looking to sell games around the globe.
"Montreal is the ideal location to open a new studio because of its thriving game development community and favourable economics," Eidos commercial director Bill Ennis said in a statement.
For information on jobs at Eidos Montreal, e-mail jobs.montreal(at)eidos.com.
Source: canada.com, by Neil Davidson, Canadian Press