Atlus is one company that took pride in its game packaging years before collector’s and "limited" editions became so irritatingly vogue.
Perhaps it’s that pride in packaging and the solitary experience of many of Atlus’ games that makes this week’s announcement of Atlus Online–a new web portal and business division–surprising.
Atlus Online, accessible to gamers around the world, will be a supplemental part of the publisher’s business, adding to the revenue mix a "hybrid subscription model that is supported by multiple payment options."
Jamie Ortiz, head of business operations for Atlus Online told Edge in a phone interview that this is a new full-fledged division of the company, as well as a web portal. The destination will support a community where players can partake in contests and other events, as well as serve as a place to play online games with other people.
"This has been in the works for a few years," said Ortiz, who has worked for the past four years on Atlus console titles including the aforementioned Persona and Trauma Center. "We’ve been talking about taking Atlus to the online space and looking at the timing for it. We have a sister company in Japan that’s doing really well. So what we’re looking to do is create something different and special in the online space geared towards that Atlus-type fan that seems to like anime."
Atlus’ Western publishing strategy is admirable because it is able to find success by flying in the face of the "Japanese global game maker" mentality, where you mustn’t release a game that’s "too Japanese," lest you alienate the massive Western markets. By having a laser focus on gamers who absolutely do want Japanese-flavored games, Atlus has been able to build up a loyal fanbase that knows what to expect from the publisher.
But that specialist approach could be detrimental to an online operation that hopes to attract an audience large enough to sustain a business. With the online division, Ortiz intends to broaden the Atlus audience while still appealing to the traditional anime-loving Atlus fan.
"I think the audience for [Atlus Online] is definitely going to be broader than the targeted Atlus fan from the console side. But what we’re looking to do is bring over games that would make sense to an Atlus fan. We’re looking at a multiplayer online game that has tons of players in it. It’ll be a broader scope than our core-targeted RPGs, but definitely the people that like our console games will like what we’re bringing to the online side."
What exactly is Atlus planning to attract this online audience? Ortiz wouldn’t lift the veil on the specifics of the site’s content quite yet, and there is no set date for the full Atlus Online launch. Currently, though, fans can pre-register for the portal for early access to the debut game.
Notable online execs will be driving Atlus Online along with Ortiz: Tyler Kim, an online game vet from K2 Network, ArenaNet and GoPets will be director of online games; former Webzen America COO Jun Hyun Kim will be the division’s head of game operations; and former K2 Network producer Kevin Crawford will serve as online project manager. Atlus’ Japanese parent will be keeping a close eye on operations as well, helping with decisions surrounding games that will appear on Atlus Online.
As for Atlus Online’s debut game, for now Ortiz would only tease: "It’ll definitely be an Atlus-type game."