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Setting a New Bar for F2P? - The Impact of Atlus Online

Updated Fri, Oct 02, 2009 by Ralsu

Bob Salvatore doesn’t normally write for MMOGs, but gamers everywhere took notice when he got involved with 38 Studios and Copernicus because the man is a damned good writer. If the notion of one of the greatest fantasy novelist of our time writing for a new MMOG is exciting, I think people really should rejoice at the news that Atlus, U.S.A. is getting into the MMOG arena. Just as Salvatore doesn’t normally write for MMOGs, Atlus has not published them prior to its big announcement at the beginning of February. Like Salvatore’s notoriety for crafting memorable characters, Atlus has a reputation for being an outstanding publisher not afraid to take chances on niche titles and cater to rabid but small audience instead of a large but fickle fan base. Now that Atlus Online is here, expect everything to change. I foresee nothing short of excellence from Atlus Online.

Atlus produces some quirky titles that garner a zealous following.

My first experience with Atlus came with the company’s decision to localize the Super Nintendo title Ogre Battle on the Playstation in 1997. Atlus had been around before that, garnering some fame from Crusader of Centy on the Sega Genesis, but it caught my attention when they took the risk on the niche strategy title I had enjoyed so much as a teen. I went out and purchased their other Playstation game on the market, Persona, just to show my support. Persona turned out to be a gem of an RPG, daring to be different from the normal fantasy setting and focusing on macabre subjects like demons and dating in high school. I ended up buying seven games published by Atlus between 1997 and 2000, all of them given careful attention to translation and solid presentation.

Atlus continued its presence in the console and handheld markets in the next generation with Playstation 2 titles that penetrated the install base deeper than ever. Atlus was carving out a loyal following of fans that enjoyed the quirky titles it brought over to the US. Titles like Disgaea and Stella Deus helped propel the name Atlus into any discussion involving strategic turn-based gameplay. Meanwhile, the cult following of the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series continued to grow, and all along Atlus had been responsible for ensuring the English publication of innovative titles like Trauma Center and Touch Detective on the Nintendo DS.

For readers who only play MMOGs, you’re just going to have to take my word for it; Atlus is a renowned publisher and the titles it develops (especially the Shin Megami Tensei stuff) are very strong competitors in their genre. What should impress you more about Atlus is the company’s recognition of the power of a loyal fan base. Called the “Atlus Faithful,” Atlus devotees religiously investigate any title being published by Atlus. We Faithful (I am proud to be among their number) know we’re getting a game with a fresh perspective and solid translation when we buy from Atlus. Turn-based strategy RPGs (SRPGs) are still somewhat the preoccupation of an unusual group of gamers, but Atlus was publishing SRPGs for us when it seemed like we numbered only a hundred. We told our friends about the solid job Atlus did with localizing, and one or two tried games we recommended. The effect was very viral, and I no longer have to hide the fact that I am playing a SRPG when I take Luminous Arc 2 for DS with me on the bus.

Neo Steam will get an overhaul and another beta.

Fanboy gushing aside, we can anticipate a lot from Atlus Online in the way of MMOGs. We already know that Atlus Online has acquired the rights to Neo Steam, a game I have played and enjoyed before but found to lack in the area of localization. Without a doubt, Atlus will fix the translation problems in Neo Steam, and it looks like the company aims to go one step further and really rework the game. In recent posts in the official forums, Atlus Online’s Sporkle noted, “We are working on a full localization of the title right now from Korean, to English, to Atlus English.” Posted slightly tongue-in-cheek, Sporkle’s comment is music to the ears of the Faithful who enjoy the sense of humor and flair that Atlus brings to the script of any game. Sporkle also remarked that the team was attentive to the leveling treadmill in the original Neo Steam, adding, “Rest assured that we are aware of the grind that was in the original Neo Steam and that we are actually modifying the leveling curve to be a little more empathetic to the fans.” Rather than just recycling the product it’s been given, Atlus Online will polish it and make it shine.

If you have any doubts left that things are different with Atlus, go join the Atlus Online community.  You’ll find friendly, mature players who are able to argue without flame wars. You’ll also encounter administrators interacting with the community, soliciting feedback from the Faithful about any number of things. This level of service and interaction, a sort of folk lore among MMOG players, is something we Faithful have known for years.

Parting Thoughts

Everything changes with Atlus Online arriving on the scene. I didn’t know this was good news coming when I wrote that 2009 is the year of the F2P game, but the formation of Atlus Online only solidifies my opinion. If you aren’t excited, it’s only because you don’t know what Atlus is all about yet. Give it time; Atlus is a publisher that could convert P2P gamers by delivering a product that is polished and engaging enough to impress anybody. And just wait until they start making their original IPs into MMOGs!

I wanted to close with a message to the folks at Atlus: Get to work on Ogre Battle Online

Are you a member of the Atlus Faithful? Do you think Atlus Online will make good games? Email your thoughts or post them in our forums!

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