PlatinumGames’ co-founder, studio president, and CEO has stated he would not be against an acquisition; as long as they have the freedom to make what they want.
Following his promotion to the position of president and CEO earlier this month, VGC asked Atsushi Inaba if PlatinumGames would be open to offers of being brought under the umbrella of another developer, particularly in light of such recent big-name acquisition’s as Activision Blizzard $68.7 billion purchase of Microsoft and PlayStation’s $3.6 billion procurement of Bungie.
“The most important thing for us is to have the freedom to make the games that we want to make,” Inaba replied. “What I hear about the recent acquisitions, I don’t think Microsoft is going to start micromanaging Activision to where they take away all their freedom… I don’t think it’s going to be a relationship like that.”
Inaba then speculated, “I think there’s going to be a lot of mutual respect there and I think Activision will be able to continue doing what they do best.”
“That’s also what’s most important to us at the end of the day, whatever form that takes for us and our company,” he cautiously continued. “So I would not turn anything down, as long as our freedom was still respected.”
Inaba was also asked for his thoughts on why Japanese companies don’t engage in such mergers and buy-outs as often as their Western counterparts, especially with the gaming industry currently projected to see $150 billion in deals completed throughout 2022, Inaba asserted, “I agree, you don’t see that a lot in Japan and personally, I think it’s weird.”
“For some of these big companies with all their money you sometimes think, ‘Come on! Buy some companies up already!'” he said. “It does feel strange to see Japanese companies being passive all of the time.”
However, according to Dr. Serkan Toto, CEO of games industry consultancy agency Katan Games, while “nothing can be ruled out in this day and age,” the acquisition of PlatinumGames by a Western company such as Microsoft is highly unlikely based on precedent.
“In some ways, Microsoft taking over a big Japanese publisher would be bigger news than the Activision deal,” he previously told VGC. “So far no foreign game company has been able to acquire a Japanese studio, and I can guarantee you there have been attempts, from both western and Asian players.”
Dr. Toto explained that, along with having to navigate the country’s “keirestu” system – which allows business groups to own small amounts of shares in one another, thus incentivizing them to take into consideration the best outcomes for the general industry, Microsoft would also need to overcome cultural and language barriers, along with “the diversified business portfolio of key players” such as SEGA’s hotel arm or Nintendo’s theme park endeavors.
In 2020, Inaba – then only an executive director and producer for PlatinumGames – denied rumors, borne from on Xbox head Phil Spencer’s stated desire to acquire a Japanese studio to produce first-party titles for the region, that they had been approached with an acquisition offer by Microsoft.
“I did read some rumours about Xbox wanting to purchase PlatinumGames,” Inaba admitted to VGC, “and I thought, ‘People on the internet write the craziest stuff’, because that conversation has not come to our doorstep at all.”
He added, “We’ve not had any talks like that, but I think even if it was a possibility, we’re now going into more independent self-publishing.”
During the same interview, Okami and Bayonetta director Hideki Kamiya joked “Maybe somebody reminded them that I’m still at the studio, and they were like, ‘right then, forget that! We’re not going to acquire them!'”
At the start of 2020, PlatinumGames received “capital investment” from Chinese tech giant Tencent to help them “strengthen our foundation as a business and expand from game development into exploring self-publishing.”
In April of that year, the studio opened a new Tokyo office and revealed their new focus on “expand[ing] into new genres and styles of play,” including “console live ops game development.”
PlatinumGames and Microsoft previously worked together on Scalebound, a planned Xbox exclusive that was eventually cancelled in 2017, which both parties agreed to after the game was shaping up to be less than what was promised.
Shortly after its cancellation, ” Kamiya tweeted “I’ll work extra hard to never have to let you down like this again,, so I hope you will keep watching over us in the future too.”
Reflecting on Scalebound’s cancellation, Inaba recalled during a 2019 with Eurogamer Portugal, “Watching fans getting angry at Microsoft over the cancellation wasn’t easy for us to watch. Because the reality is, when any game in development can’t get released it’s because both sides failed.”
Nonetheless, Inaba assured Eurogamer, “Whatever happens with this project, we can’t really do anything with it unless Microsoft allows us. But it’s a game that we love and, if the opportunity arises, it’s something we would love to return to.”
Should PlatinumGames be looking to the West for growth? Which company do you think should acquire them, if any at all? Let us know what you think on social media and in the comments below.