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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After Vanquish, Platinum can do whatever the hell they want and I will be happy to give them my money. As someone who waited for Vanquish to drop in price, I’m not sure if I’m part of the problem or not, but I’ll support them with a full purchase next time if they keep up their quality. I’ve got several different levels of love for Vanquish. Awesome game, just a pure blast from start to finish.
What’s all this “next” business? Sony have just rebranded Planetside “next” and Everquest “next”. It’s all very odd.
In all honesty though, any games which sell under a million units now is considered poor sales, yet this used to be the Holy Grail. Vanquish is such a shit hot game, if I owned a PS3 I’d buy it in a heart beat.
As for Batonetta, that would have sold better if the main character wasnt an ugly secretary wannabe (as sad as that sounds). She isn’t even close to being Dante-cool.
I wouldn’t say from what I’ve played that these games innovated to a great extent, but they are certainly great games.
Vanquish certainly didn’t bring anything new to the table as such. What it did do though was take an existing concept and give it a high level of polish and sheen, as well as injecting old formulas with a much needed and refreshing dose of fun.
There’s been an absolute ton of cover based third person shooter games this gen, but I’ve not played one as good as Vanquish. And I’ve played my fair share of them, I can assure you.
I’ve never played Bayonetta. The PS3 version has some issues so I’m not in a rush to pick it up, although it received plenty of love when it came out. It doesn’t look like my sort of thing, mind..
Bayonetta is all a bit too Devil May Cry for me. It’s very similar principals of punchy combo combat with ludicrously large scale bosses. All very repetitive I find. The combat certainly has finesse though.
The character design is just so shit.
By the way, I don’t know what “Batonetta” is, but that sounds like the sort of thing I wouldn’t mind playing. Has it got Batman in it?
Curse my nimble fingers! 😀
@Lewis: ‘Ugly secretary wannabe’? Last time I looked secretaries didn’t kick that much ass. Have you even played Bayonetta? Or Mad World for that matter?
Oh and I think it’s also worth mentioning Lew’s article on The East.