The rumors are swirling once again, this time about the future of the legendary development studio, PlatinumGames. The company has apparently been valued by Microsoft as a potential for acquisition. This move would allow both organizations to merge their resources and break into new markets. Japan has been tough nut to crack for the Redmond giant, and the trend may not change the way Xbox hopes. There could be a a PlatinumGames and Microsoft cooperation coming soon.
Microsoft certainly needs the brand recognition that PlatinumGames and its library of weird titles bring. PlatinumGames themselves could also benefit from a merger of sorts by getting access to more technology and funding. Phil Spencer, the head of the Xbox brand, has said several times he wants to break into Japan. And adding a Japanese studio to their portfolio could help with that.
The problem is, PlatinumGames and their members are very independent. Atsushi Inaba explained why he and other staff would likely resist such an acquisition, saying that the company has too much at stake. Platinum has spent years developing their reputation and creativity, and wouldn’t want to stifle that. Inaba would personally consider a PlatinumGames and Microsoft counter-intuitive.
What Happened to Xbox in Japan
The Xbox brand has always been very troubled in Japan. The launch fo the original console was so poorly received that Microsoft even considered pulling out of the region at various points. IDC, a market research company, has said that Xbox One has made just 0.3% of its global sales in Japan. Other outlets like Famitsu have reported on the sad stat of Xbox in Asia. The Xbox One sold just 15,339 units in Japan for all of 2018. This is a laughably poor sum compared to 1.7 million for the Playstation 4 and 3.5 million for the Nintendo Switch.
The biggest problems always come back to a few core issues. The markets in Japan are fundamentally different compared to the West. Consoles have a harder time breaking in without serious name recognition or franchises that appeal to Japanese consumers. Microsoft just doesn’t have the relationship with Japan that Sony does. For PlatinumGames and Microsoft to work together to change that, there would have to be some serious interest to fix that. It just doesn’t seem likely though.
Hideo Kamiya, the designer of PlatinumGames’ Bayonetta, has said that Xbox has failed for these specific reasons in Japan, and that it’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Atsushi Inaba, the head producer of PlatinumGames was pretty clear when he spoke at length about the prospects of PlatinumGames and Microsoft coming together. As well, Inaba offered some advice saying, “I agree with the foreign feeling nature of the hardware, but I also admire that Phil wants to try hard in Japan. I would love to give him some advice, but I also feel that the success route into Japan has not always been about having the best hardware.”
Inaba was also very clear about their feelings about a potential relationship saying, “I did read some rumours about Xbox wanting to purchase PlatinumGames,” explained Inaba, “and I thought, ‘people on the internet write the craziest stuff’, because that conversation has not come to our doorstep at all.”
Phil Spencer and the rest of the Xbox team will be very eager to right some of these mistakes when the Xbox Series X launches this year. Whether Japanese gamers in particular bite on the new console is a bit of a problem though. If PlatinumGames and Microsoft enter into some kind of deal it could help. But if the smaller studio is resistant, that poses a big issue in tapping into their creative talent.