Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Atlus Being Merged Into Holding Company

Japanese based Index Holdings Co., Ltd. (Kabushiki gaisha Indekkusu Horudingkusu) is merging its Atlus and Index subsidiaries. Atlus handles Index's videogame publishing and is 100% owned after a stock purchase in 2006, whereas Index is 95% owned and handles the company's mobile development. The move is due to a need to use resources more effectively, according to the press release (JIS).

Atlus will continue to put out games, the latest of which is the Shin Megami Tensei game Catherine, and according to the press release, will continue to put out other titles. But for all intents and purposes, Atlus the company is dead as of October 1st, and it is nothing more than a brand now. Reaction to the news has been received positively on the stock exchange; the price of Index's stock is up 3.14% on JASDAQ, largely on the strength of a large burst of purchases before noon.

This news has me cautiously pessimistic. The Atlus brand is a huge name, especially in Japan, as their Shin Megami Tensei titles, among others, have garnered universal acclaim in Japan and overseas. Therefore, it's not like the brand is going to die. On the other hand, the Sega brand didn't die when Sammy bought them out, but they might as well have; the rebranded Sega Sammy Holdings Inc. has become a virtual curse word among gamers for their awful handling of their older Mega Drive era titles. Between putting old Mega Drive titles on every system known to man for a price, to the consistently sloppy way the company has handled Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega's brand is indisputably tainted.

There's no indication that Index would force Atlus to treat their games the same way, but considering the fact that their stock has taken a tumble over the past six months (Mar. 4: ¥6,790, with a high of ¥12,400 on 4/28, compared to today's closing figure of ¥4,430) there's no guarantee they won't step in and force some hands. I'm not panicking yet, but my guard is up.

What's more relevant to western interests is how this affects Atlus USA, who is a subsidiary of Atlus but is largely independent, as they pick and choose other Japanese games to localize in America. I am not in a position to hypothesize on how the American subsidiary will be affected by this, but will keep everyone updated.

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