First I’ll start by saying that I do not have details of how the game industry works or how companies balance out their marketing and other costs altogether. This is just mere opinion from what I have seen.
Most of my opinions somewhat coincide with other news sources and commentary. Basically I’m rather outraged at the lack of promotion, and the behavior of the company seems really strange, almost as if they want the Atelier series to die or fail, even if that’s likely nowhere near their intentions. Then, I’m further confused by further promises of future Atelier games having Japanese voices, when they seem to not want to or cannot acquire or implement the rights into Atelier Ayesha, which they actually have right now fully released. (It’s easier to promise for future games when said future game is still under development).
I will primarily mention two games: Atelier games, and Tecmo Koei “core” games.
I will primarily mention three studios: GUST, the Japanese company that made all the Atelier games. Tecmo Koei, whom acquired GUST in late 2011. NIS America, which does the localization of Atelier and other niche games in English.
In the middle of March, Atelier Totori Plus was released with no announcement whatsoever. If there was any remote information that existed, it was by chance rather than being well informed. In all honesty I find Tecmo Koei’s behavior rather strange. In one way, their relative complete silence was impressive because it caused the recent Atelier games in English to be delivered by word of mouth, particularly through social media such as Twitter. Originally during the GUST acquisition, one line of thought was indeed to go onto social marketing and games. If the intended audience still bought the Atelier games by similar sales numbers, then a lot of costs such as marketing were saved by a good margin. In some ways, if Tecmo Koei knows already that the Atelier games are niche and won’t sell well to the mainstream, then this idea is somewhat brilliant. Should supposedly save a lot of money since getting Japanese audio probably got more expensive and hence omitting it right?
I won’t say things as fact, but there are some clear patterns:
- People who do press work on online sites and such who usually do articles on the newest games had absolutely no idea of Atelier Totori Plus’ release. While a vague timespan may have existed, such as Q1 2013 or a mid-March release, there wasn’t an exact date, and if there was, there wasn’t much updating of it. During March, for niche jRPG releases it was all “March 5 Atelier Ayesha and March 21 Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory after the initial delay”. Absolutely no sign of Atelier Totori Plus at all.
- Generally Tecmo Koei stayed silent on the situation. I find it even more awkward that one of their Twitter subsidiaries retweeted someone else mentioning Atelier Totori Plus when they should be the ones that bring out information about the release, not someone else that happened to spot it on PSN. I also heard there was a transition phase, where the original PR person at Tecmo Koei that was supposed to handle Atelier games wasn’t even working there, while the new PR doesn’t really say or do anything that answers relevant questions. A lot of opinion is that Tecmo Koei is exhibiting sheer laziness. This is also evident even with their own releases. It’s also possible that the regional sections of Tecmo Koei get mixed with each other, and are actually quite different from one another, so there’s unnecessary blame at times and who is at fault is more like nobody.
- The timing of the Atelier Totori Plus release wasn’t a mistake, and the lack of marketing also was not a mistake. If anything, at least if there existed some news that says an Atelier game would release on an exact date, at least Tecmo Koei delivered it. The problem was Tecmo Koei never relayed such a message nor did any press receive any information either. Tecmo Koei news got even more untrustworthy when Atelier Ayesha’s news was inconsistent, such as initially having been stated to have dual audio, and subsequently having it removed not too long after. Maybe to avoid having the same thing happen again, they decided to say nothing about Atelier Totori Plus, even though all the features and additions you can think of *are* included. Wouldn’t you want to promote that?
Although I’m sure the company’s intentions are good, their method of announcement seems to synergize with what they did with Atelier Ayesha: completely unannounced.
With Atelier Ayesha I felt like I saw all the bumps Tecmo Koei could undergo with the GUST acquisition. Since the Atelier games have been localized by NISA, there’s been a bigger delay between Japanese release and English release. This alone is different than some of Tecmo Koei’s games, such as Dynasty Warriors or Dead or Alive, who possess much closer release dates between regions.
Well, my opinion hardly varies from the general consensus. Other than really hidden information, some of the unfortunate perception looks like this.
- If the consumers buy Atelier Ayesha where there’s not only no JP audio, but only a partial dub, the purchase implies the fans are okay with this. This is unfortunate since the game is fun and the series is interesting enough to support, but getting gutted features is a no go.
- If the consumers refuse to buy Atelier Ayesha, then the low sales can have the company justify gutting the series, or at least gutting the series from having an English release.
- The simple fact that the main website hardly mentioned Atelier Ayesha was awkward. Right now a separate page exists, but if you check the scroll down menu, Ayesha is not even on the game scroll down menu! Is it that irrelevant considering it’s the most recent RPG not even a month old on PS3 the company published?
- Actually Atelier Totori Plus doesn’t seem to show anywhere on the site. Quite awkward considering how much the company wanted to promote Dead or Alive 5+ on the Vita so much. You would think the consumer that has a Vita would love to have a fun RPG game on the go.
- None of this boycotting behavior really applies to Atelier Totori Plus. If the consumer wants the game, he or she will consider getting the game. The problem is the complete lack of marketing isn’t going to draw someone unfamiliar to the series very well at all. Subsequently, the lack of information in general in English would also make a new potential user very wary. The series gets hit already for what it merely looks like, even though the game system is adequate when you go past the stigma.
This brings me to another point: I’m actually thinking the lack of promotion on the Atelier series was also to avoid promoting too many games around the same time. As you can see, in their game catalog for March, you have at least 3 games. 2 are Atelier games, while a 3rd is Dead or Alive 5+. I’m completely overlooking the fact that Tecmo Koei also had other games released, such as any in February 2013. Naturally the company would highly promote the game they basically made themselves, as opposed to the one they acquired, because the one they acquired probably has split profits or some other contractual agreement.
This is what I coined as a Tecmo Koei “core” game (Ninja Gaiden, Dynasty Warriors, Dead or Alive, etc). These “core” games had significantly more promotion, and probably some better benefits, such as Dynasty Warriors 7 later getting Japanese voice DLC when it originally did not have any, for free. Well, the major difference between that game and an Atelier game is either the popularity level, or the fact that Dynasty Warriors has pretty much always been a Koei game. The flexibility to take action and acquire rights or do something positive to the game is likely more in the interest of the company when they have more control over it, or if they had full control of the game itself.
For Atelier Totori Plus, fortunately you do not have a dual audio issue. This would confuse consumers further. I don’t know the details but I gather since this Vita was a port of the PS3 version of Atelier Totori, the rights for the Japanese voices were probably already there. However, a consumer would not always think like that and wonder why the heck Atelier Ayesha doesn’t have Japanese audio, especially when Atelier Totori Plus technically was released later than Atelier Ayesha, all after the GUST acquisition.
This just gives me a few ideas why this odd behavior came into play.
GUST was acquired by Tecmo Koei in 2011. So while the Atelier series will now have the Tecmo Koei label on it, it’s not a “core” Tecmo Koei game.
Again what I mean by “core” is simply, a series that had for the most part nearly always been known by the company, at least in recent years. For Koei, Dynasty Warriors comes to mind while for Tecmo, Ninja Gaiden comes to mind. Now I’m aware the developers of the respective games were Omega Force and Team Ninja, but it’s been consistently like that, and little confusion would result. Not only that but the more marketed games appear to have a closer release date between regions.
- When you calculate all the possible chains, it’s fairly clear NISA and GUST already had agreements, but due to the acquisition, Tecmo Koei had far more say in things and probably wanted to be a bit hands on. Hence, the removal of JP audio was likely caused from certain intervention or from the transition phase. The partial dub likely spawned from the fact that other games in a similar genre already employ a partial dub pattern where only key dialogue is voiced. However, some comparable partial dubs that recently released also had JP audio, completely mitigating the lack of JP voice issues.
Although it’s a bit silly to boycott Atelier Ayesha over primarily the lack of JP audio, the idea is that the removal of a trend of JP audio from every previous recent Atelier game seems like a Tecmo Koei action. Whatever the reason, no matter how you break it down, the removal of JP audio should have saved the company some costs by not implementing it. This also makes the promise of future Atelier games having JP audio seem even more awkward. Even though the next Atelier game will have more direct Tecmo Koei influence, and possibly more clear control to allow JP audio to exist, the costs of attaining JP audio shouldn’t differ by much. If anything, the costs would likely go up since Tecmo Koei is a larger studio than GUST. And if there is success in the West, wouldn’t negotiations lead JP audio to increase in cost, rather than decrease?
You’ll quickly noticed that Atelier Totori Plus on the other hand, as far as features go, had just about everything inside. JP audio was retained, and you even had DLC bonuses on purchase up to April 16. The only rants for this game was the complete lack of announcement, but since no audio was removed nor was there a lack of DLC, generally the complaint level is minimal. So that begs the question, why didn’t Atelier Ayesha get a similar treatment? Is the contractual agreement for releasing Atelier Totori Plus, a Vita port extension, so much easier?
I’m still thinking the Vita situation worked out fine because the acquisition of the needed rights already existed, meaning NIS America already had all the hard work done, so it was merely a port. This is different than Ayesha which had a localization by NIS America, but a weird transition phase and a Tecmo Koei intervention, so it looks far more incomplete in contrast.
The last reason I could think of Atelier Totori Plus not being announced at all, is to not conflict with the sales of Atelier Ayesha. Why pay $50 on the PS3 game where some people are very angry over the lack of JP audio when you can spend $40 on the Vita port of a game that does have JP audio, and has DLC, all at no extra cost? Atelier Ayesha upon release also had no pre-order bonuses, and also had no DLC available until a week later. If consumers like bang for buck you pretty much got all of it on Atelier Totori Plus, while you get basically nothing on Atelier Ayesha. In my personal opinion, I still think both Atelier games were completely under the radar, since Tecmo Koei very, very actively promoted Dead or Alive 5 Plus for the Vita. They don’t want their acquired games to conflict with that, now do they?
Isn’t the thinking a bit backwards? If Atelier Ayesha is going to get that beat on for not having JP audio, wouldn’t the company at least try harder on promoting Atelier Totori Plus, to further Vita game purchases and all that? Literally all of the remotely vague Atelier Ayesha marketing and promotion was actually from NIS America, and not Tecmo Koei. It’s fine if most of the general public doesn’t know anything about this, but for the fanbase and press to have literally no idea is not the most pleasant of public relations.
No consumer of the Atelier series wants a bigger company to acquire GUST, leaving no JP audio, no limited edition, no initial DLC, and no relevant pre-order bonus. Having no JP audio and no limited edition is a legitimate rant since all the previous Atelier games in the GUST and NIS America relationship had it just fine and consistent. Having no initial DLC and no relevant pre-order bonus is unusual since that’s the standard company trend to promote microtransactions and pre-order sales. So while the doubt on the company may be a bit overblown, if there are no improvements or adjustments, the bad perception will become a reality. Either the series may die or it’ll just rot and crawl because a bigger company acquired it and wants a piece of the pie. Well, who cares about shared profits if the sales go kaput.
As of April I noticed a funny thing with Atelier Ayesha: a free map DLC came out on April 2nd. Some may have noticed that when the Japanese version of Atelier Ayesha got this same free map DLC, it was roughly about one month after release. If my hunch is correct, Tecmo Koei will simply release Atelier Ayesha’s DLC in a similar manner as how it was released in Japan. But, because of the complete lack of information, updates, or any sort of news from the company, we wouldn’t know. Perhaps part of the intent is to be like “surprise, we released this great item unannounced!” and yet the series continues to get no recognition from the new company. Sad, really.
I’m personally disappointed all around. To have a game that’s actually fairly decent get demolished from an acquisition that leads to not only bad communication, but also a lack of actions entirely. It gives the game very little chance to survive from the backlash from previous fans, while it doesn’t get an opportunity to really exist since there’s no remote marketing or promotion. There’s even very little to no stock at local retail stores, and even then, this game is very easily missed or passed on, especially with other interesting March releases. This leaves people thinking Tecmo Koei is extremely lazy, as all of the hate pretty much goes on that company, since the game got butchered relative to previous releases which had no Tecmo Koei intervention.
Perhaps this is merely the reality of niche games. I suppose it’ll stay niche for these very reasons.