Eidos, the computer games maker behind the Tomb Raider series, warned yesterday that delays to the launch of two of its most hotly-awaited new titles meant they would miss the vital Christmas trading period.
The setback, which is the latest in a line of disappointments from Eidos, sent its shares down 15 per cent, falling 14.5p to 84p.
Lara Croft fans must now wait until February to buy the latest Tomb Raider game, The Angel of Darkness, while Championship Manager 4, a football game, has been similarly postponed.
Mike McGarvey, Eidos's chief executive, admitted he was "very disappointed" but said the delays would not stop the company from hitting market forecasts. Analysts expect Eidos to make full-year pre-tax profits of about £12m compared with losses of £96m two years ago.
Explaining the decision to delay the launch of the sixth Lara Croft game, Mr McGarvey said: "In a market where consumers are very discerning, there is a huge difference between a triple A product and an A minus, which wasn't worth risking." He added that a February launch date would mean that Tomb Raider was not competing against the slew of new games, from Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings, that will hit the shops in the run-up to Christmas.
Peter Read, an analyst at Evolution Beeson Gregory, said Eidos had "given itself ammunition to hang itself with" by announcing the Tomb Raider launch as far back as last February. He said that even with the delay, Eidos should achieve its budgeted sales of about 2 million games but that it would miss out on any upside. Lara Croft has been the company's main money-spinner over the past five years, generating more than £400m in sales.
"It's hard to theorise about what could have, would have, should have been," Mr McGarvey said. Instead, he pointed to some of the company's other titles, including Hitman 2 and TimeSplitters 2, which are beating management expectations.
Analysts said that the delays would further dent Eidos's credibility in the City, prompting further speculation of takeover interest from its French rival, Ubi Soft.