Sunday, August 4, 2013

Crescent's Thoughts On: An Atlus Auction

This image doesn't accurately reflect my predictions, but it is amusing.
So when am I going to review Shining Force III Scenario 2? When I stop being lazy watching videos on Youtube and actually beat the damn game. I'm almost done though, but I still have an escort mission to complete (annoying) and a character I have to train up from Level 1 unpromoted until she comes to a point where she is actually USEFUL. Anyway, to make up for that, I'm going to talk about the news that I, and many others, have been following like a hawk for a while now: The Bidding for Atlus.

Fans of  niche RPGs have come to love this logo.
For those of you who don't know, Atlus is the developer and publisher of the several niche RPGs including Riviera (developed by STING), Odin Sphere (developed by Vanillaware), and Etrian Odyssey (Developed by Atlus themselves). Their flagship series, however, is Shin Megami Tensei, a franchise that includes 6 core titles (including if... and Strange Journey) as well as several spin off series including Devil Summoner, Devil Survivor, and, the most popular of them all, Persona. While their titles remain largely under the radar of main stream gaming, Atlus has an impressive following of fans. So what's going on with Atlus? Well a while back their parent company the Index Corporation, was suspected of accounting fraud. When investigated, it was revealed that Index was in massive debt and as a result filed for bankruptcy. And so, Index is in the process of selling off their subsidiaries in order to pay off their debt, and of course this includes Atlus.

The only confirmed bidder at the moment. God help us.
What does this mean for Atlus? Well for the near future, nothing. The auction process is still on goings, and from what I've read from various sources we won't know anything definitively until the end of the month. Until then, Atlus's operations are still full speed ahead, so no worries about getting Dragon's Crown or Etrian Odyssey Untold. However, that might change depending on who wins the Auction. As of writing this post, there are 20 bidders and the only confirmed company of the lot is SEGA. Of course gamers and professional speculators have already created a giant gossip powered rumor mill around who will come out on top, with the current favorite winning the auction being Nintendo. And that's not that surprising considering Atlus's favoritism towards the DS and 3DS, not only creating the Etrian Odyssey series for it, but also releasing several Shin Megami Tensei games on the systems including the most recent entry in the core series with Shin Megami Tensei IV. Add to this Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem that's currently being developed as well as the massive cross promotional offer at Club Nintendo for those who register both Shin Megami Tensei IV and Fire Emblem Awakening, and a very strong case can be made for Nintendo acquiring Atlus. However, with which little information known at this moment, this is all just speculation.

Atlus's new home? Well, the Big N does get a lot of Atlus support.
Now let me lay down my bias before I get into my own speculation, I am a big Atlus fan. I love their games not only for the fun and challenging gameplay, but also the rich characters they develop so carefully in each. There are moments where I actually CRY during an Atlus game (Damn Labrys's story). I'm also a huge Nintendo fan as well. Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, and of course Fire Emblem are just some of my favorite franchises of all time and they all come from one house, and of course, nothing just says video games more than the word Nintendo. So when I heard the rumor of Nintendo acquiring Atlus, I'll have to admit I got a little giddy. So yeah, if I had a choice between which company acquires Atlus, I would probably choose Nintendo, but that doesn't mean I'm not aware of the problems that would create. Atlus has a long history of publishing games in the US that would probably otherwise never make it here. Niche games like Riveria and the first Disgaea. So if Nintendo was going to acquire Atlus, at best we would only see Atlus publish these games (likely through Nintendo) only on Nintendo platforms, so if Vanillaware has an awesome game that's only one the Vita, well too bad, and at worse they wouldn't be able to publish said games at all. Now this is the problem if any of the console manufacturers (Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) acquired Atlus, but Nintendo is unique considering if Sony or Microsoft acquired Atlus, then it is a sure fire thing that Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem will be canceled.

However, if a 3rd party developer, or another holding company like Index, acquired Atlus, then SMTxFE, as well as Atlus's support of all major consoles, may continue as planned. At best we would see absolutely no change from Atlus. Atlus before the acquisition is the same as Atlus after the acquisition. This is, of course, the most ideal situation that Atlus fans (and even some Nintendo and Sony fans) wish for as it pretty much means that we will still get the games we all love. However, the reason why so many people are watching this news like a hawk, is because of the absolute worse case scenario, which is pretty much the EA syndrome. If a company like EA acquires Atlus, then what we will likely see is a dramatic drop in quality in Atlus's games. The Atlus team would be poorly managed, with unreasonable expectations and poor support. They could be merged with another developer, or given instructions and games that don't suit Atlus's strengths. What this type of acquisition would mean is pretty much the death of either Atlus or everything that Atlus currently means to its fans.

A bad acquisition could render this logo meaningless.
Now, this could happen even if EA isn't the company who acquires Atlus. Hell, EA could acquire Atlus and it turns out to be the best case scenario (unlikely as that is). The most we have to go on is each company's track record when predicting what the results will be. SEGA has a pretty bad track record when it comes to managing development teams, EA has the worse. No one wants Microsoft to acquire Atlus because we still remember what happened to Rare, Nintendo's most prolific second party developer during the SNES and N64 era reduced to near obscurity making Kinect games. But this is also the reason why some people are backing certain companies to acquire Atlus (well that and company loyalty). Let's look at current favorite to win, Nintendo. The fear some people have with Nintendo acquiring Atlus is that Nintendo will put them on what they like to call "Mario duty," basically make nothing but family friendly games involving our mascots and don't you dare make anything that is rated above E+10. This I find to be completely unfounded, especially since Nintendo is publishing Bayonetta 2, and all the over the top sex and violence seems to remain completely intact.

Nintendo also has a pretty good track record when it comes to taking care of their in-house developers. Monolith Soft appears completely unchanged from their pre-Nintendo days making the critically acclaimed Xenoblade Chronicles, and let me remind you of the tale of Retro Studios. The Studio was unproductive, constantly behind schedule, and their president was constantly involved with scandals involving several half naked women. Then Nintendo bought the rest of Retro Studio's stock and they went on to make Metroid Prime and is now considered one of Nintendo's best first party developers. If Nintendo acquired Atlus, I doubt we would see a negative change from the company, especially considering currently Atlus is considered a Second Party Developer for Nintendo, which means Atlus develops games for Nintendo via contract and said games are overseen by Nintendo these games include the Devil Survivor series, Soul Hackers, Shin Megami Tensei IV. This, along with my fully admitted bias towards Nintendo, is the reason why out of all the companies I could think of to acquire Atlus, I want Nintendo to come out on top... Besides, think of how many Wii Us will be shipped if Persona 5 is an exclusive.

Index's bankruptcy:
SEGA joins the bidding war for Atlus:
Nintendo Acquiring Atlus Speculation:
Retro Studio's early days trouble:
Atlus listed as Nintendo 2nd party developer:

Until next time.

-Crescent, You know if Nintendo does acquire Atlus, this doesn't seem as weird anymore.

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