Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Should Microsoft Consider Purchasing Atlus? (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Congratulations to SEGA, whose bid was accepted and who are now the parent company behind Atlus.

Shin Megami Tensei. Persona. Etrian Odyssey. Trauma Center. Catherine. With these titles/entries into these series' Atlus, a long-standing Japanese video game development studio has finally made a name for itself in the West in recent years and now that this niche company is poised to make broader waves in the industry their parent company, Index, is doing everything it can to completely screw them over. They are losing money in every single division other than games (thanks to Atlus' success) and so amidst rumours of money laundering (yes, it's that bad) Index announced earlier this summer that they were filing for the Japanese equivalent (well, economics experts would take dispute the use of the term equivalence here as their version of bankruptcy (called civil rehabilitation) is very similar but not exactly equivalent) to bankruptcy protection as it is understood here in the West. Along with this announcement came a secondary announcement: Part of this process would be the selling off of their subsidiaries, the biggest of course being Atlus.

 And so starting, if I am not mistaken, at the end of July, Atlus has had a metaphorical for sale sign up in their (also metaphorical) window. This sale has attracted bids from more than 20 different companies, one of them being SEGA's parent company SEGA Sammy, who bid somewhere around $200 million U.S. If SEGA is successful in the attempted acquisition they will have immediately bolstered their suite of intellectual properties with the popular, critically acclaimed and diverse Atlus library. This is something that SEGA could really use, as their in house development has been stagnant for many years and while they have been publishing a decent amount of games this generation, they have not had any serious success. In fact, there have been more than one failures, both financially and in terms of public relations (PR). Having Atlus under their ownership would be of great benefit to them. 

Thinking about this one may wonder who else would benefit from acquiring Atlus?
Well, one would have to think that it would be a company who could really use a strengthening and diversification of their suite of ip's. A company who could really use an infusion of Eastern games, games that primarily fall into the JRPG and strategy genres. Sony's platforms are flush with titles of this sort, and always have been. Ditto for Nintendo. Microsoft, however, have a definite hole in their offerings to gamers and this hole is located at the spot where the competition offers, among others but primarily (yes, you guessed it) JRPG's and strategy games. Eastern made/developed games with a definite and non apologetic Japanese aesthetic are titles for which there is a solid niche market here in the West; a solid niche market that has been stable for many years and has actually been growing for the last few due in part to companies like Atlus and to a lesser extent, NIS America (Disgaea, Cave Story 3D, Atelier, etc) putting out numerous and diverse titles across platforms (Atlus is the much bigger contributor though, with much higher sales figures and more critical acclaim). 

Let's play a game of free association: I will say the name of a video game (software, hardware or both) company and you shout out (especially if you work in a quiet corporate office and are at work at this very moment) the first few things that come to mind.

K, ready?




Now, I don't know about you, but I am willing to bet that the words 'strategy,' 'role playing,' 'adventure' and 'Japanese/Eastern' would have appeared under the Nintendo and Sony columns fairly quickly, but how about for Microsoft?



This is why I think MS would be a great candidate for acquiring Atlus. Not only would it bolster their fledgling roster of non shooter/racing titles it would strike a blow at the competition. Imagine if, going forward, every single Atlus title was an Xbox exclusive. That would be huge. It would be quietly huge, not uproariously huge like if they say acquired, oh I dunno.....Capcom (no, they aren't for sale) but it would be huge nonetheless given what we discussed earlier about the increase in revenue and critical acclaim garnered by Atlus with each new release. Now with them at the point where they are starting to branch out into more of the mainstream arena (they published Dark Souls and more recently, Dragon's Crown) in addition to their in house, niche ip's being quietly but assuredly successful, I think they would be a great asset to any large company, Microsoft specifically.

I believe Microsoft has more to gain than would Sony or Nintendo. Atlus would be just another branch in their respective trees of diversity, while over at MS, Atlus could become a staple. A first line starter, to use a sports analogy, instead of becoming perhaps a second string addition over at teams Sony/Nintendo.

Microsoft, if you're listening, get your mergers and acquisitions people on this. Start looking into it, because I believe that they would agree with me on this one: Atlus could be huge for you guys. Quietly huge, not loud and in your face Cliff Blezinski/Dude Huge huge, but huge nonetheless.

Of course, if you do it and it turns out that I was wrong, well this blog is for entertainment purposes only, and so you may now be destitute because of me but I ask you this:

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