NB: For now when I say “Europe” I am still including the UK in that group, largely because it’s shorter and easier but also because writing this note took more thought than has currently been put into the plan for leaving, so I can’t begin to guess what’s going to happen. Aussies you’re also included because Europe means PAL and PAL is what currently runs on Australian region-locked consoles. Sorry.
Earlier today an announcement was made that Atlus – bought by Sega of America earlier this year – has now also formed a partnership with publisher Deep Silver, who will be handling all European Atlus game releases henceforth.
For the last few years, Atlus’s European offerings have been released through NIS America, through their sub-section NISA Europe. In case the name Atlus doesn’t immediately bring anything to mind, they’re the developers behind the increasingly popular Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series, the Etrian Odyssey games, and newer properties such as Stella Glow. If you have a taste for Japanese RPGs then there’s probably at least one Atlus game in your collection. They are currently building up towards one of the most highly anticipated releases in their history – Persona 5 – which made it all the more concerning when word broke that Atlus and NIS America were ending their contract together to publish games in Europe.
What exactly happened between them is unknown, both are being publically amicable so I’ll do them the favour of assuming that’s how it really is. The only explanation given was “creative differences”, which my experience of the creative industries tells me can mean anything from genuine differences in creative opinion and vision to a good old Southern “bless your heart”. Whatever the reason it came very suddenly with the re-release of Odinsphere only about a month away. Assurances were quickly made that NIS America would still be releasing Odinsphere and that all existing orders would be fulfilled as planned, but pointedly did not mention releasing anything else beyond that.
It all went quiet for a bit and then European PSN users noticed an issue downloading certain games from the Playstation Store. I watched it unfold on social media, as even the company’s Twitter help team couldn’t seem to figure out what was wrong – until a sheepish statement was made. The contract with NIS America was officially over, thus so were the agreements for those games published by them to be sold digitally. The realisation spread amongst European gamers – not only did we have no way of knowing if we’d get new games, we were going to lose access to some of the old ones too.
So in a way it shouldn’t be too surprising that Atlus have announced their new partnership with Deep Silver quite quickly, along with assurances that the missing games would be returning to PSN soon. The name Deep Silver didn’t mean much to me initially, they appear to be a German-based company who have previously published titles such as the most recent Saints Row games, This War of Mine: The Little Ones – and the infamous Mighty Number 9. While the pain of that title is still very fresh it is worth remembering that publishing is not the same as developing. The publisher’s role is to make content available, either physically or digitally, and they can only distribute the final product as they receive it from the developer. They’re also not to blame for certain builds not being provided for release, so the majority of that hot mess was out of their hands.
Still, I’ve seen a fair amount of upset from gamers about this news, I shouldn’t be surprised because – as we all know – don’t read the comments, but the statements that have come out today from both Atlus and Deep Silver have said nothing that should inspire concern. If anything they were full of promises of future releases and changes in approach to the European fan base. Atlus outright admitted it had been previously guilty of neglecting Europe, but that it wanted to change that from this point forward. Deep Silver came out the gate announcing not only that they would be publishing Persona 5 for Europe, but also announcing that 7th Dragon Code III and SMT IV: Apocolypse would be coming, both physically and digitally, to European territories. Both are games that had not been announced for release here previously – one of which was outrighted stated only weeks ago there was no intention of bringing to the EU in the near future.
It is far too early to tar and feather either party for this arrangement when they’ve not even published their first game together. If they do and it all falls apart then they will have earned that judgement. For now, all I see are two companies pledging to bring us games we might not otherwise have had the chance to play and to go forward with a new attitude towards fans in these territories. I sincerely hope it works – on both counts. Sometimes it feels like too many companies think the entire English-speaking world is contained in the USA, and while some consoles are region-free enough that we can work around it we shouldn’t have to. Importing is expensive and the move to digital-only releases means that for some games there is nothing we can import, even if we have the money to do it. Making it easier for European gamers to make easy, legitimate, purchases is a great step forward and I fully intend to support it myself (not that I wasn’t already interested in all three of those titles, but still).
For now, just give them the chance to try before decrying this as the worst thing ever. Please.