Don’t hate Atlus, it won’t help

Disclaimer:  I work on the publisher side and see what is going on behind the scenes, but I remain a gamer.

Every week seems to come with its controversy. The flavour of this week is Atlus with Persona 5.

I’d like to invite you to read some of the overzealous comments in this twitter thread by:

  • Journalists
  • Influencers
  • Consumers

In this specific case, I see a huge lack of empathy, respect, and understanding. This is kind of painful to read. Seeing how gamers are becoming more and more aggressive and entitled is slightly worrying. While I understand that everyone is eager to play the game, stream it, monetize it, they have to understand that not all publishers have the same approach to it. People need to realise that not all publishers/developers have the same level of understanding of modern marketing tools, communities, PR/Comms, or have the same understanding of Internet tools. 

I personally had to go through similar cases, where the Japanese HQ suggested that X/Y game won’t be streamable or have a beta…. Well, guess what? We had to negociate to come to a compromise, and I have a feeling that the guidelines Atlus US have given in their message are born from a compromise. 

Now, should you blame Atlus JP for their strategy? Personally, I am not. They have the right to protect what they think is in their players’ best interest. They are an entity that needs to balance multiple factors before taking a decision, among them:

  • Breaking even and making money (they are a company, remember?)
  • Protecting the vast majority of their buyers/potential buyers from any potential harm that will disrupt their gaming experience
  • Ensuring that it doesn’t create any legal snafu (mostly music/VA rights)
  • Pleasing their core players
  • Recruiting new players & growing the community
  • Coming to an agreement that works for all territories (Japan, EU, NA, mostly)

It was announced this morning that the game shipped 500k units in JP and 1m in overseas. Now among that 1m in overseas, how many of them want to stream/create videos and are influential? Among that 1m, how many of them just want to enjoy their game without risking to be spoiled? Atlus approach here is a “compromise one”:

  1. Allow parts to be streamed/captured
  2. Prevent spoilers
  3. Let the vast majority enjoy their game

According to many specialists; Atlus JP doesn’t seem to be up to date with all the benefits that “new marketing” tools à-la Twitch can bring, this is the crux of the situation.  However, one thing is certain: they are aware of the negative sides. Their game is a heavy story/narrative driven one and they want to avoid spoilers. I say this with the utmost respect as my dream is to live and work there; but a lot of Japanese companies aren’t necessarily up to speed/in line with EU/NA understanding of Marketing/PR/Communication, and they will often privilege what THEY think is right for the consumers, despite having EU/NA HQ crying and rolling on the floor throwing a tantrum. Best case scenario: compromise to make sure that everyone is happy.

Now think about what happened with DARK SOULS III and Zelda BOTW… The games were out and the streaming/video content from journalists and influencers went absolutely nuts. Did you try to count the number of spoiler-y headlines/articles? For Zelda, I personally had to unfollow numerous websites that I like because of the spoilers, even mild ones. I do understand that you’ll say “but, but… it’s not because some websites did it that all need to be punished!!11!1881“. I’ll say: “yes sure, but publishers want to limit risks and ensure a cool experience for of the vast majority“.

As Nibellion rightly pointed out during our discussion, Yakuza 0 and NieR massively benefited from content like this. I agree with him, but again, let’s get back to my previous statement: “not all publishers/developers have the same level of understanding of modern marketing tools, communities, PR/Comms, or have the same understanding of Internet tools.

Also, this will probably be a very unpopular opinion, but for those saying “F**K ATLUS THEY ARE STEALING MONEY AND PREVENTING PEOPLE FROM MAKING MONEY BY STREAMING/CREATING CONTENT“. Sorry to break the news: but they aren’t. I respect content creators, their drive, their passion and their skills, but no one forced them to do this.

To conclude, I don’t necessarily agree with Atlus and I think they are missing a good opportunity given how big the brand is, but I do understand their approach and where they are coming from. I think people should give some rest to the Atlus/Deep Silver PR teams, as I’m fairly sure it’s thanks to them that some bits have been allowed to be streamed/captured.

Last but not least, please don’t think that publishers want to screw over players, influencers, press and that this is all part of a grand keikaku (keikaku means plan).

Oh and… At the end of the day, it is just games, we aren’t doing open heart surgeries. Chill, enjoy. 

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