GamePro refers us to an important announcement coming out of Japan: PlatinumGames, the offspring of shuttered Viewtiful Joe and Okami developer Clover Studio, is rebranding as Platinum Next and calling attention to this fact with a sternly-worded letter to Japanese game development.
PlatinumGames has been highly praised for its work – Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Mad World all received high marks for creativity and art direction, while Infinite Space pushed the DS in a cool and unexpected direction. But of those games, only Bayonetta sold very well. Some were absolute disasters at retail, and that has to be hard for a studio with such incredible talent at its core.
In announcing Platinum Next, president and co-founder Tatsuya Minami wrote,
…the current games business is struggling. The “fresh surprises” I mention are becoming few and far between, especially in our home of Japan. Not so long ago, Japan lead the world’s games business, and it was not a stretch to call games a uniquely Japanese specialty; however, now it appears that Japanese games companies have lost their vigor.
This argument has come from all sides in the past few years. Japan is beginning to doubt itself as a creative powerhouse, even as other regions such as Eastern Europe begin to explode. Endless sequelization (the likes of Final Fantasy XIII) have oversaturated franchises, and developers are increasingly failing to deliver innovative and exciting new experiences to gamers.
By rebranding as Platinum Next, the studio hopes to become a standard bearer of creativity and innovation in a flagging regional industry. A big corporate rebranding effort is a tried-and-true method of shooting a company in the arm. While I don’t think Platinum could be accused of stagnation, this effort seems as much a message to the entirety of Japanese development than it is to internal studio employees.
If the company is able to more consistently produce titles that sell as well as receive high praise, they’ll surely be a part of the turnaround. It’s rare you see a young studio like Platinum with the kind of triple-A talent that it has. The company’s commitment to always doing its best is laudable. I hope that it’s sufficient; extreme quality but poor sales led to the end of Platinum’s progenitor, Clover Studios. With hard work and a little luck, maybe history won’t repeat itself.
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