Fans of Japanese developer Gust's long-lived series of alchemy-based Atelier role-playing games are a little miffed with Tecmo Koei. First the latest PlayStation 3 installment of the game — Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk — hit store shelves earlier this month to very little fanfare. Then the PlayStation Vita port of Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland came out earlier this week with absolutely none. What is going on?
This is a series I've been following religiously since Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana for the PlayStation 2. Up until recently the series had been handled in North America by NIS America, whose marketing and PR team work their asses off making sure fans were foaming at the mouth for each new installment. In fact, the only reason I knew Atelier Ayesha was coming was because NISA helped spread the word.
Series developer Gust became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tecmo Koei in late 2011. Reportedly the publisher intended to make social games based on the Atelier property. Social games aren't exactly thriving at the moment, so Tecmo Koei is left to publish the console and handheld titles.
These latest titles haven't been launched so much as they've been gently pushed in the direction of fans. RPGFan's John McCarroll posted an excellent editorial neatly demonstrating the insulting lack of dedication Tecmo Koei has shown to the series.
This is incredibly frustrating, not only for fans, but for writers alike. For someone like me, who is supposed to be on the ball about what RPGs are coming out, when they're coming out, and who's publishing them, finding out that a game has launched from a random person on Twitter is a bit of a shock. While we've certainly seen games from smaller publishers announced without notifying the press — UFO's Elminage Original springs to mind — at least Elminage had a press release featuring a launch trailer when it actually hit PSN.
I reached out to Tecmo Koei for comment on the stealth release. First I contacted the PR person that had half-heartedly communicated with me about Ayesha — NIS did all the heavy lifting there — only to find he no longer worked for the company. So I contacted the generic PR email listed in the auto-responder instead. The response I received led with a joke.
"New tactic to get the community involved and talking about the game." Well that certainly worked.
"Seriously, we're working towards providing better support and representation for our newly acquired Gust titles."
The best way to do that? I'm with McCarroll on this one. Give the series back to NIS America to publish. They know the fans, they know the series, and they aren't afraid to send out several thousand emails to get those points across.