Copyright 2004

[ March 5th 2004 ]

Eidos CEO Mike McGarvey has confirmed that Core Design Ltd - a wholly owned subsidiary of Eidos plc - is still very much part of Eidos' long term plans during a conference call earlier this week, scoffing at speculation the creators of cyber heroine Lara Croft would downgrade operations now future development of the best-selling Tomb Raider franchise had been transferred to U.S. based Crystal Dynamics.

"We've been evaluating the studio in terms of looking at what direction we're going to take the studio in now that Tomb Raider has moved and we've changed the management within the studio," said McGarvey. "We're very pleased to say that we've now got a team of 40 people at Core Design focusing on a new idea that's in the pre-production stage right now. We're very pleased with the progress. We've gone back and redesigned some of the technology, infused some new management and feel like there is a very strong opportunity at that studio now."

Mike McGarvey, you'll remember, outlined a difficult future for small developers with only one or two teams during an interview with the Financial Times in January. "A studio of about 150 people, split into three teams, is about the ideal size," McGarvey commented, "and it's hard to see how it makes sense for the cottage industry types. They may have more of a future in post-production [than] as a service-based business."

Core Design has been through the mill. In January the studio hit back at former co-founders Jeremy and Adrian Heath-Smith over claims made in a Sunday newspaper the company was floundering with only a handful of remaining staff trying to prop up future projects. Acting General Manager of Core, Andy Norman, told press and gaming media representatives the studio was still very much part of Eidos' long term plans following comments made by Heath-Smith that 37 of 36 former employees abandoned ship to join CiRCLE Studio, the new development company helmed by Jeremy and Adrian Heath-Smith.

The debacle between Eidos, Core Design and Jeremy Heath-Smith reached critical mass in June 2003 when publisher Eidos announced all future development of the Tomb Raider video-game franchise had been awarded to Crystal Dynamics following a string of delays with the sixth Tomb Raider video-game - Lara Croft Tomb Raider The Angel Of Darkness - and the final product falling short of expectations. There's still division on who exactly was to blame for a product clearly not finished being rushed onto the shelves. Some factions are steadfast in their criticism of Eidos and their pursuit to satisfy their shareholders prior to their end of fiscal year announcement. Sony reportedly applied additional pressure by green-flagging the NTSC (U.S.) version while their European counterpart held up the release of the PAL version, demanding Core Design remedy problems with the control system.

Paramount Pictures then compounded the injury further by blaming Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness for the poor performance of the second of three planned Tomb Raider motion pictures - Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life - at the U.S. box office, where the Angelina Jolie-helmed picture garnered no higher than forth. The proverbial shit then hit the fan so fast it flew off the table, and Eidos needed a fall-guy. Core Design felt the full force of blame with Eidos awarding the franchise to their Crystal Dynamics studio - also a subsidiary of Eidos plc. As part of the shake-up, Eidos also announced Jeremy Heath-Smith was stepping down as Director of Eidos and Managing Director of Core Design.

On 15th August 2003, Jeremy Heath-Smith and brother Adrian incorporated CiRCLE Studio as a British limited company, inviting numerous programmers, designers and mappers - all former employees of Core Design - to join their new venture, and announced the new studio would be developing two brand new prototypes expected to debut 2005. CiRCLE Studio then confirmed the company would use leading RenderWare technology in order to optimize the team's efficiency in the delivery of the new titles and enable them to focus on the creative elements within the games that will differentiate them within the market.

The pulse at Core Design continues to beat stoically without reprieve, according to Andy Norman: "Core Design are [sic] working closely with marketing and all other publisher stakeholders to ensure that we are developing games that people will want to play. It's been my pleasure to be acting general manager of Core Design pretty much since the split with previous management took place. A full time appointment will be announced in due course." CiRCLE Studio is also making headway with their prototype video-games, neither to feature a leading lady as the main protagonist. Eidos has recently announced a 30% increase in revenue and continues to dominate the British video-game market confirming a forth incarnation of the best-selling Hitman shooter and a fifth installment of their soccer sim Championship Manager 5, now under the aegis of A Beautiful Game Studio.

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