Atlus bankruptcy news time. The famed RPG and quirky game maker is in a tight spot now, through no fault of its own. Its parent company has been implicated in certain shady dealings, best not discussed in polite company, and is on the verge of splitting up THQ style. Atlus, the most interesting part of the excitingly named Index Corporation, is up for sale. And guess what? Nintendo is going to buy it.
The Atlus bankruptcy came to a head late in June, when Index Corporation declared bankruptcy in light of accounting fraud. Index Corporation is a large holding company with a wide variety of holdings, from Atlus to movie and anime studios, telecommunication infrastructure, and a soccer "football" team. Like traditional American conglomerates, it has no particular core business. It dabbles in everything.
It also dabbles in accounting fraud, which led to the Atlus bankruptcy. The company's stock is being delisted on July 28, and bids for various and sundry subsidiaries will start basically next week. It's unclear exactly which subsidiaries are up for sale, but presumably all of them. Index is essentially being broken up. And that means Atlus is on the chopping block.
The single most likely bidder for Atlus in the Atlus bankruptcy case is Nintendo. As a matter of fact, I'd like to suggest that a Nintendo-led acquisition of Atlus may actually have been in the works for some time. That's because Nintendo has been working unusually closely with Atlus lately, treating them practically like an in-house studio. That may be because Atlus is about to become one.
Look at the evidence surrounding the Atlus bankruptcy. Atlus traditionally publishes games on every console and platform; for a long time, it had a heavy PlayStation focus thanks to the Persona games. But more recently it has worked very closely with Nintendo. That's not new; the Trauma Center series came from Atlus.
But newer projects suggest a closer partnership between Atlus and Nintendo in the wake of the Atlus bankruptcy. One of the most notable is Shin Megami Tensei IV, which is offering a major crossover promotion with Fire Emblem. Specifically, if you register both titles with Club Nintendo by August 31, you'll get a $30 eShop credit (North America only, sorry). Nintendo doesn't offer deals like that with third parties. Ever. You're not going to see a discount on Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games if you buy Sonic Lost World and Super Mario 3D World. It's unprecedented.
But that's not the biggest evidence that Ninty will bail out the Atlus bankruptcy. The biggest is their actual crossover title, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, in active development for Wii U. This is only the second major crossover Nintendo has ever done, after the Mario & Sonic Olympics series. It's just not in their DNA. And they've talked lately about how closely Atlus has been working with Intelligent Systems, the Fire Emblem team.
So it only makes sense for Nintendo to make the most of the Atlus bankruptcy and buy Atlus outright, maybe at a bit of a discount. It would not only shore up an increasingly significant third party developer - especially in its home market - but it would also simply create more capacity for Nintendo's homegrown development, which is something they've discussed expanding. Their recent collaboration suggests that the cultures mesh well together.
What's more, the other major gaming companies aren't as interested in the Atlus bankruptcy. Sony is the biggest threat; if they decide they're interested, they can certainly outbid Nintendo. Square Enix would make a lot of sense, but wouldn't help them diversify - quite the opposite - and they don't really have the money. Capcom or Konami could pick it up, but there are no obvious synergies. And Microsoft and other Western developers just won't care.
Atlus is Nintendo's to lose. Let's hope they don't. In the meantime, don't worry - all of Atlus's operations will continue as normal.