In what feels like an unusual announcement, Amazon Games and Crystal Dynamics have announced that Amazon will publish the next game in the Tomb Raider series. The as-yet-untitled game will have a multiplatform release.
The next Tomb Raider will, as you’d hope, be a single-player, narrative-driven adventure, seemingly building on the template established with the trilogy since the 2013 reboot. One key change, however, is that Crystal Dynamics has packed it in with their homegrown game engines and will instead be using Unreal Engine 5 – in fact, the next Tomb Raider was announced during a UE5 showcase back in April.
So why is Amazon involved? Well, Crystal Dynamics and the Tomb Raider series has gone through a lot of upheaval in the last decade. While the 2013 reboot sold millions of copies, it underperformed Square Enix’s expectations at the time. So, for Rise of the Tomb Raider in 2015, they signed a timed exclusivity deal with Microsoft for Xbox One – a move that was something of a PR disaster.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider then went into production at Eidos Montreal, while Crystal Dynamics got to work on Marvel’s Avengers, a game that sought to blend super heroes with a compelling single player story and an online loot-driven co-op action game. Marvel’s Avengers launched to a mediocre reception and post-launch content has been slow to arrive.
All of this led to two big business decisions by Square Enix. Firstly, they agreed to let Microsoft draft in Crystal Dynamics to co-develop the new Perfect Dark game alongside The Initiative. Then they decided to sell their Western studios – Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal and Square Enix Montreal – to Embracer Group for just a few hundred million dollars. That included a transfer of each studio’s major IP.
Crystal Dynamics now exists alongside Eidos Montreal in the CDE Entertainment division at Embracer Group, but Embracer tries to take a relatively light touch with their subsidiaries, often fostering and maintaining external partnerships. The next Tomb Raider clearly needed funding, and there’s a narrowed field of options for that right now. Microsoft and Sony are in a war of words about exclusive games and the Activision Blizzard acquisition, and the unpopularity of Rise of the Tomb Raider’s exclusivity is still fresh in the memory. After that, Epic Games, Tencent and Amazon feel like they would have been the main options remaining.
Tomb Raider as a brand holds a great deal of prestige to it still, and while Amazon Games has entered into a handful of AAA publishing efforts so far, including Lost Ark from Smilegate, Blue Protocol from Bandai Namco, and their internally produced New World, there’s a cachet that would have made Tomb Raider appealing.
Source: Amazon Games