PlatinumGames’ Independent Desires

PlatinumGames’ short history has been fraught with plenty of ups and downs, the kind that have befallen many independent developers who depend on contracts for projects with larger publishers to sustain them. They had an encouraging start through their partnership with Sega, which started with four games through MadWorld, Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Anarchy Reigns. But that fell apart when none of them took off as big hits, and when Sega made several financial cuts due to them and their other games selling below expectations. This also led to the cancellation of Bayonetta 2, though thankfully some at Nintendo wanted to save it. Heck, they’re even continuing it from there.

Since their partnership with Sega was broken, Platinum has been wandering from one company and project to another to sustain their bottom line and the paychecks of their hardworking development teams, with mostly good results. This has led to several good games, like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and especially the recent NieR: Automata. But it’s also resulted in projects that went awry like The Legend of Korra and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan, which prove how even talented developers can’t escape the curse associated with developing licensed games. The biggest blow to the company was the cancellation of Scalebound, in development with Microsoft for years before the hardware company decided to pull the plug.

Bayonetta is commonly referred to as one of PlatinumGames’ key titles, though they don’t own the IP.

They’re fine for the time being, as a good portion of the developers are working on Granblue Fantasy Project Re:Link and Bayonetta 3, but they also want to embark on another initiative. In an interview with Game Informer, producer Atsushi Inaba discussed PlatinumGames’ desire to create original games. Though PlatinumGames has been involved with a lot of titles over the years commonly associated with them, including the Sega games listed above and titles like The Wonderful 101, they don’t own those properties. Now that they’ve firmly established their name among the gaming universe, they feel now is the time to venture into the gaming world on their own.

Notably, this isn’t the first time Inaba has mentioned PlatinumGames’ intention to self-publish their own titles in the near future, as he previously did so through Japanese site GameSpark in late-May. At the time, it wasn’t mentioned on many outlets. There, Inaba mentioned how the title they intend to release themselves will be smaller in scope compared to their well-known games, but will be “purely Platinum-colored” — meaning will inherit the style endemic to PlatinumGames’ titles. He also mentioned how they couldn’t afford to ignore Steam, despite it being more complicated to program and adjust games so they run well on all configurations on PC compared to consoles.

In GI, Inaba provided a little more information. The company will let anyone pitch an idea these days, and the last round led to 70 design documents being created for potential new properties. They’re also now working on two new IPs, which have small teams allocated to them. He continued by saying no one should expect them to have the production values reflected in other titles, like those whose images I posted, which had around $10 million budgets each. Inaba also clarified that a “purely Platinum-colored” he means “crazy hardcore action,” which suggests that you should expect both to be action games. Don’t expect them to start with, say, a princess dress-up game, he continued.

(Honestly, I’d love to see that kind of game from PlatinumGames, and I’m sure I’m not alone.)

The same applies to Vanquish.

PlatinumGames wasn’t the only developer in this situation recently. This move will be comparable to Ninja Theory’s, who previously only worked on big projects for other publishers like Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, and DmC: Devil May Cry, properties they didn’t own. They gave self-publishing their first shot with Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, which released last year for PS4 and PC to favorable critical and commercial receptions. It was well-received enough that it was nominated for several categories in awards season, and won some from several websites and shows — including The Game Awards. Hopefully PlatinumGames can have the same luck.

Notably, Ninja Theory billed their title as an “indie AAA” game, essentially a marketing phrase due to the contradictory nature of the two terms. But they had a point, as it indicated how the game didn’t have a AAA budget thanks to them not being capable of that as an indie developer, but had the look of one. PlatinumGames will go for the same style, in that while it won’t be AAA, it will have better production values than many games currently defined as indie — though that definition is slowly changing.

There was no mention of when we could see the first of these two projects, but PlatinumGames has a history of working faster than many other developers, so don’t be surprised if one is shown by the end of this year. The company employs around 200 staffers, and they’re ideally well organized enough that they can handle the four (or more?) projects they’re working on. Don’t be surprised if they have to pull off staff for one project to put on another for at least a temporary basis, but hopefully they won’t have too much trouble.

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