Published on April 17th, 2013 | by Fraser Brown4
Platinum President Tatsuya Minami isn’t happy with the studio’s game sales
Over the last few years, I’ve been playing less and less Japanese games, and the output of titans like Capcom and Square Enix, whose games once filled my library, has less than impressed of late. Yet one Japanese Studio keeps pushing out unexpected marvels, frequently new IPs or extreme changes of direction for existing ones, and that’s Platinum Games.
Infinite Space, Madworld, Bayonetta, Vanquish, Anarchy Reigns and Metal Gear Rising, its games may be few in number, but they play with expectations and impress. Speaking with Polygon, President Tatsuya Minami stated that he’s been very pleased with the studio’s hard work and the high quality titles it’s created, but that he’d rate the sales of its games as a C or a D, compared to their quality, which rates as A.
Minami explained that most of Platinum Games’s staff started out in the Japanese domestic market, but with the studio now catering to a global market, they need to sell more. By the end of 2012, the studio’s most successful title was Bayonetta, at that point having sold over of a million copies. Once upon a time, that would have been fairly successful, but those days are long gone. “We were hoping it was going to do a little bit better than that,” Minami stated. “Though you can’t put it all on the game itself. I think there were a lot of issues with when it came out, the kind of marketing behind it.”
Though the exact numbers aren’t known, Minami is confident that Platinum’s newest game, Metal Gear Rising, will sell better than Bayonetta thanks to the Metal Gear and high profile marketing campaign. He’s still not satisfied, however. “[I]f you look at games developed in certain Western studios, as far as sales go, they’re clearly ahead of us there, and we’re not going to be satisfied until we’re at that level.”
He doesn’t name these “certain Western studios”, but it’s hard not to image that he’s talking about the likes of Treyarch or Sledgehammer Games and the Modern Warfare and Black Ops franchises. They seem to be the developers and titles that even studios in the West ridiculously try to compare themselves to. If these charmless, incredibly simple arcade-style military shooters can sell 10 million copies in a couple of months, then why can’t everyone? Of course, it doesn’t work that way, and trying to compete with these games in terms of sales is only going to lead to feelings of impotence.
Minami goes on to make some rather depressing statements about the future of Platinum Games. “We have to think a lot about what resonates with consumers globally and find that secret sauce and make sure that goes into our games. And there’s a lot of places we need to look for that: it’s not just in art, it’s also in game design, it’s also in music … I think the one thing that we want more than anything in the immediate future — and it’s something we continue to work hard on — is we definitely want people to understand that we’re making games here in Japan, but we’re making games for everybody.”
I’m not going to start making ridiculous predictions yet, but bugger, that’s the last thing anyone who actually enjoys their games would want to hear. You can’t make games for everybody, and the secret to maintaining the huge playerbase that games like Black Ops 2 has is pandering to the lowest common denominator. It’s the removal of wit, charm, sophistication and the addition of giant marketing campaigns, soulless single-player modes and a multiplayer aspect that literally anyone can jump into and get continually rewarded for participating in.
It’s hard to get irritated by a hard working studio wanting to actually be successful, especially one as likeable as Platinum Games, but by trying to appeal to everyone, would we have these warm, tingly feelings for them anymore? I fret that we would not. A developer who wants to sell tens of millions of copies would not make an ultra violent, black and white action bonanza for a console primarily owned by families and children, it would not craft a exquisitely detailed, totally out there Japanese space strategy game and it definitely wouldn’t make Bayonetta, a title with a dominant female protagonist.
He continues by pondering a change in art direction. “Maybe we have more to learn about what graphical style appeals most to Americans or Europeans — a more globally appealing art style.” God no. You know what a art style has global appeal? This:
I call it an art style, but really it’s essentially just a bland recreation of a real place with a lot of greys and browns. It’s ugly, dreary and far too many game studios churn out this sort of wank to appeal to the widest demographic while adding absolutely nothing of value to the medium. Homogenisation is fucking awful, and in the short term it might help some studios shift more units, but ultimately it’s a disservice to gamers.
We’re going to become a bunch of boring bastards if we keep being fed the same old tripe month after month, but at least right now we have studios like Platinum or maniacs like Suda 51 (I doubt he’ll ever become sane, so at least we don’t have to worry about that) keeping us on our toes. So please, Minami, don’t copy the West if the only reason is to sell more games. We’ve got countless developers that sell absolutely no units while trying to copy the “big guns”.
Despite his worrying comments on global appeal, the interview ends on a positive note, with Minami saying that he doesn’t want to limit his development team or end up in the state the Capcom, his previous employer, has found itself in. He still wants Platinum Games to make the games the staff wants to make, and he just wants to create new things.
Keep doing that Minami, and we’ll flipping love you.