John McCarroll
Editorial: Tecmo Koei Should Be Ashamed Of Themselves
Or: How to Hire A Communications Intern in Three Easy Steps
03.20.13 - 3:46 PM

I have to wonder exactly what the management at Tecmo Koei is thinking. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please read yesterday's news story about the stealth launch of Atelier Totori Plus for the PlayStation Vita. There were no press releases, no screenshots, no trailers, not even a single mention of poor Totori on the Tecmo Koei official website. Fact of the matter is, this is a travesty for RPG fans.

Before we take a glance at what could have been done better to promote Atelier Totori Plus, let's first take a look at what has been done for several recent Tecmo Koei titles. I've received the following since the beginning of 2013 from Tecmo Koei via their third-party PR firm (who are fantastic people to work with and are in no way at fault for the Totori fiasco):

  • Four separate press releases for Dead or Alive 5 Plus since the beginning of 2013, including screenshots, logos, and lengthy explanations of game system changes.

  • Six press releases for Ninja Gaiden titles – three for Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus and three for Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge. All of these include trailers, screenshots, and other assets you'd expect.

  • Two press releases each for the beat-'em-ups Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 and Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires.

By comparison, Tecmo Koei has, in that same timeframe, released two RPGs in Atelier Ayesha and Atelier Totori Plus. Since the beginning of 2013, I've received the following press releases about the titles:

  • Zero communication for Atelier Totori Plus.

  • A single press release regarding Atelier Ayesha's release date. However, this press release was written and sent by NIS America, not Tecmo Koei.

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.

Now, if this were a PSone Classic or another such port, a lack of fanfare would be expected. These titles require a minimal amount of business oversight and can be done by a very small team. However, this was a release of a new, full-fledged game. Thinking about it, the following actions had to have been taken before Atelier Totori Plus made its way to the PlayStation Store yesterday: A project manager had to be assigned to the project, said PM had to acquire rights to NIS America's translation of the title, make sure any changes to the Vita version were accounted for, have a development team insert the localization of the title into the game itself, have the game QA tested, work with Sony to have the game qualified for release, and various other tasks like setting pricing and producing screenshots for the PSN store.

Keep in mind that likely all of these actions had to be cleared through the Japanese office, based on how most companies with a Japan-based headquarters work. This was not a job involving only one person, and management had to be involved at various points throughout the process. So, clearly, an active decision was made to not promote Totori Plus. I can't fathom what these reasons might be, though I've seen floated around things such as a contractual obligation to see the title released. Still, there are several things that Tecmo Koei could have done with minimal effort to give Totori Plus at least a small chance at success:

  1. Hire Communications or Business Interns – Tecmo Koei's offices are located in Burlingame, CA. This puts them smack dab in the middle of the San Francisco Bay area, which should make it easy for them to find people for either an unpaid internship for college credit or a paid internship. Minimum Wage in San Mateo County is $8.00/hour. Assuming you work your intern 20 hours a week at a rate slightly above minimum wage with no benefits, you're looking at about $800/month or just over $10,000/year for your intern. That intern can write press releases, they can take screenshots, and they can send basic correspondence to press, even if said emails are "We have no information to share at this time." Anything is better than no communication whatsoever.

  2. Provide Your Current PR Firm With Information – Now, I don't claim to know what Tecmo Koei pays for their outside PR firm. It's a firm that many other mid-size publishers use and they're good at what they do. I tend to get timely, professional responses containing useful information from them. Even giving a PR account executive 1/20th of their time on your account focusing on your niche game, that will more than likely pay returns on your investment.

  3. Change Your Publishing Agreement Back – I get it. Gust is now a fully owned subsidiary of Tecmo Koei in Japan, but the previous agreement with NIS America was working quite well. For those who don't know, Tecmo Koei has served as a distributor for NIS America games in the past. NIS does the localization, the marketing, and all of the behind-the-scenes work on the game. Tecmo Koei then helps bring the game to market with retailers. This isn't an uncommon model for small-to-mid size publishers - Square Enix distributed Deep Silver's Dead Island.

    But even if you reduce costs in publishing by doing everything but the localization in-house, doing such things poorly will not bode well for a game's sales. While I may not like some of the games NIS America publishes, they are one of the best publishers I have ever seen at recognizing their audience and marketing toward them. Their marketing and PR team is friendly, efficient, and best of all, regularly communicate with press of all sizes. They recognize that it doesn't matter if a website gets 6 million monthly uniques or 1,000; if their audience is there, they need to be there. Tecmo Koei doesn't.

Unfortunately, none of these things happened. Instead, a game mysteriously appeared on the digital shelves of the Vita with no supporting marketing at all — not even the kind of marketing that can be produced on a shoestring budget. Let me be blunt: if I know about RPGs or adventure games that are being published by studios whose staffs consist of three people or less, who have day jobs, and who are sending their emails to a press list they culled themselves over the course of a week, and I don't know about yours... you have done something horribly wrong.

I certainly hope Atelier Totori Plus succeeds. I love the Vita platform. I love RPGs. I love that there's a market for the Atelier games in North America, as NIS America has proven. What I hate, though, is that this newest title hasn't been put in a position to sell well. That's more than a shame — that's a slap in the face to RPG fans.