There’s been a double whammy of bad news this week for anyone who enjoys the games of Marvelous Entertainment. First it was reported that the Japanese publisher had sold off its 50% share in UK publisher Rising Star Games. And then came the even more worrying news of pay cuts across the board, including a whopping 77% cut for Marvelous CEO Haruki Nakayama.
This, I shouldn’t have to point out, is extremely worrying. For a company to take such drastic measures it must be hanging on by a thread, doing everything it can to stay in operation. It’s doubly worrying in this case, since Marvelous has been one of the few Japanese publishers to consistently develop and release genuinely interesting games – the sort of titles that have been championed on this very blog. No More Heroes, Little King’s Story and Muramasa: The Demon Blade are just a handful of the excellent games that have come from Marvelous and all made their way to UK shores via Rising Star. And it looks as though those types of games may soon become an endangered species.
Sure, Marvelous has managed to bail itself out of trouble this week and has retained an agreement with Rising Star so that the UK publisher can continue to release Marvelous games despite the two now being wholly separate entities. But if both companies are to survive, realistically, then they’re going to have to change the kinds of games that they release.
What do the three games mentioned above all have in common? They all sold very, very few copies. 470,000; 170,000; and 180,000 respectively according to VGChartz. Those aren’t sales figures that can support a big business like Marvelous and the company will have to make some huge changes to turn the situation around. Rising Star, meanwhile, will now have zero interest in keeping Marvelous alive now that it is no longer a part of the same company. So even if Marvelous does continue to create interesting niche games, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Rising Star will choose to localise them.
If anyone has some bright ideas on how Marvelous can continue to create niche games without going out of business then please let me know. Personally I see a dark vision of the future – it has fewer interesting videogames available and even fewer of those on British shelves.