On Making Claims and the Atlus-Sega Merger
As you probably know by now, Sega recently acquired Atlus. At first I was a bit skeptical, and I voiced my opinion to some colleagues. I said that if Sega were still the Sega of the 1990s, the company that gave us the numbered Phantasy Stars and Shining Forces, then I wouldn’t have any misgivings. However, with Sega’s current-gen track record catering more and more towards the action (or “hardcore”) gamer and the mobile gamer, their acquisition of Atlus seems odd. After thinking about it, I somewhat changed my mind. I said that it might actually be a good thing that Sega and Atlus merged. My colleague then said that “Atlus is too big to merge with Sega”. I facepalmed.
My friend is by no means a dunce. In fact, she is one of the most intelligent people I know. However, in this one instance, her fanboyism took over and made her make a statement that is incorrect, rather than the opinion she unsuccessfully tried to voice, which shows the importance of considering one’s claims properly. As we continued on with our discussion, the issue of using relevant evidence came up.
Sega was formerly a major video game hardware company, and is a major video game publisher. Love them or hate them, their name is carries almost as much significance for the game industry as that of Nintendo. Atlus is a smaller publisher. Certainly, during these past two game console generations they have managed to shine. Titles like the Persona series and Catherine made them quite known – and as an RPG fan I have to say it made them one of the “best” publishers. However, Atlus was, and still is, a small publisher. When I pointed out that Atlus has a yearly revenue of millions to tens of millions, while Sega’s revenues range in the hundreds of millions, sometimes reaching the billions of dollars mark (it depends on market fluctuations and the value of the Yen – it would be more accurate to say that Atlus consistently pulls off 200M yen a year, while sega consistently brings in mid 300B yen a year.) Atlus’ parent company had at any given time around 350 employees, some of which worked for Atlus (I couldn’t find the number for Atlus itself), while Sega has employees numbering on the mid 2,000s. Atlus has some interesting IPs – the Shin Megami series, Dragon’s Crown, Catherine, Growlanser (inherited from the almighty Working Designs), and Demon’s Souls to name a few – but the number and clout of Sega’s IPs – Sonic, Phantasy Star, Shining Force, Streets of Rage, Dragon Force, Golden Axe, Hatsune Miku, Jet Set Radio, Nights, Out Run, Panzer Dragoon, Yakuza, and the AMD stuff (Virtua Fighter series, arcade racing, etc) to name just a few – is just ridiculous. I just wish they had a good administration that would exploit these IPs, but that’s a different issue. The issue is whether Atlus is “too big” to merge with Sega. When I shared this information with my friend, she said “Well, I have more Atlus games than Sega games, and I like all of the Atlus games, so ’nuff said – just take it as an opinion.”
Normally, I would just leave the issue there – an opinion is, after all, a claim for which there is no reason or evidence beyond personal choice. However, what she originally stated as “opinion” – that Atlus was too big to merge with Sega – was not an “opinion” as much as an inaccurate statement of fact. The fact is that Sega is by far a larger company than Atlus, and that without Sega’s investment – or that of another equally large company – Atlus would right now be a memory. This example shows how important it is to use appropriate language when stating a claim. If she had stated that “Atlus’ games are too good for Sega” or that “Atlus is to cool for a Sega merger”, then I would have considered her claim; and being an RPG fan myself, I probably would have agreed. In the current generation, Sega – at least in the US – has catered mostly to action game fans and all but forgotten the RPG gamer. But a problem in the phrasing of the claim led to a brief and uninteresting discussion. So what’s the point of this? Be mindful not only of what you say, but of how you say it.
So, what do I think of the Sega / Atlus merger? While at first I was apprehensive, I think it may actually be a good thing. When one considers Atlus and its games – mainly JRPGs – and the type of companies they could have merged with, Bandai/Namco (Tales), X Seed (Pandora’s Tower, Lunar: Silver Star Harmony [inherited from the most amazing Working Designs], and NIS come to mind. These three companies are some of the better known RPG publishers stateside. An Atlus/NIS merger would have made the most sense, as they have previously cooperated. However, NIS is a small publisher itself – even smaller than Atlus – and likely did not have the money required to outbid Sega. The same is true of XSeed. This would leave Namco/Bandai. Of all the realistic choices, I think this would have been the one with the best outcome. Namco/Bandai are the folks who brought us the likes of Ni No Kuni, Dark Souls, the Tales games, and Eternal Sonata. Seeing them publish a Persona game doesn’t seem too unlikely.
Sega, on the other hand, has been terrible at bringing over much-wanted RPG games since Shining Force III. Many RPG gamers are still waiting on Shining Force III.2 and .3, Dragon Force 2, the Sega Ages remakes of the Phantasy Star games, the long awaited PSO 2, and Shining Wind, Arc, and Hearts – to name a few. My original concern was that Sega would just obtain Atlus’ IPs and sit on them. And this is still a valid concern. However, from a business perspective, I can’t imagine a company investing 14 billion yen (roughly $140,896,000.00) to just do nothing with it. In all likelihood, this is just the first step in Sega starting to cater to the RPG gamer. Perhaps, Sega will now let Atlus work on translations of the Shining titles. Perhaps we’ll see Ken (that cool centaur from Shining Force) appear as a summon in Persona V. Perhaps we’ll even get a Shin Megami – Phantasy Star crossover. Or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking.
Whatever the case, I’m glad that at least Atlus isn’t being dragged under.