Atlus Discusses Desire to Grow Within the Industry, Persona 6 Needing to Surpass Persona 5, Studio Overview

Atlus Japan recently posted a recruitment page for new positions through job recruiting website Green. The page includes comments from staff members who were interviewed.

Most of the developer comments revolve around the work environment at Atlus, as well as what the company wishes to achieve in the future.

On Persona 6

When discussing the creative prospects of the company, Atlus director Naoto Hiraoka had the following to say about a sequel to the recently released Persona 5:

Unfortunately, the hurdles to overcome [in game development] increase every year.

Thanks to the large amount of support we received for “Persona 5,” we have gotten a sense of accomplishment. But we can’t stop there. When we created “Persona 4,” there was pressure that it had to exceed “Persona 3.” Now, we will have to create a “6” which exceeds “5.” However, exceeding “5” will be difficult with the current staff. I would like to surpass this tall hurdle with everyone who joins us in this recruitment. The workplace is perfect for those who want a creative challenge when it comes to bringing games to the world.

Previously, Hiraoka responded to a question by GNN Gamer concerning the outlook of Persona 6—considering the Persona 5 creative team’s involvement with Studio Zero—by stating that the Persona series remains Atlus’ most important, and that “the next step” is already in preparation.

On Atlus Company Expansion & Goals

  • Atlus states that, currently, they are a medium sized developer in the 10-12th class range in the games industry. Their brand power is growing dramatically with the expansion of their userbase due to key titles such as PersonaShin Megami Tensei and Etrian Odyssey. The company’s reception in the West is increasing accordingly, as well. Atlus aims to be a 5th class company in the games industry by creating new IP and further growing existing series, with “originality and empathy” as the principle policy.
  • For the time being, Atlus plans to increase the number of major positions at their company such as planners, programmers, and designers in order to achieve a stable sales goal of 1 million units annually.

On Establishing Studio Zero

  • Atlus is currently undergoing a major transformation. Until now, the company’s game development was divided between the first and second production studios; the former responsible for the Shin Megami Tensei series, and the latter for the Persona series. Last autumn, however, a new division called “Studio Zero” was established, specializing in the development of new titles. Hiraoka states that this restructuring is to bring the company to the next level.
  • Persona and Shin Megami Tensei titles are well received, however they are sequels to existing franchises. Atlus has a company policy of “continuation and innovation.” To meet the policy of continuation, they will continue to offer titles in existing series that customers expect of them. On the other hand, “innovation” has been something that they have not been meeting lately. Through this restructuring and recruitment, more resources will be put into “innovation,” to achieve the policy which was the foundation of Atlus.

On Overseas Reception

  • Atlus’ brand power has reached a global stage with the company’s games having surpassed the scope of merely Japan, and they are critically acclaimed abroad. Hiraoka states that, while some other Japanese companies’ titles might sell one or two copies overseas for every 10 sold in Japan, Atlus’ games sell about as much in Japan as they do abroad.
  • Atlus are not specifically aiming to create games that will sell worldwide, however there is a feeling that the overseas audience is seeking the games for their Japanese nature. In Persona 5, the hero is a Japanese high school student, and the game has depictions of Japanese school lunches and school excursions, which might be difficult for the overseas audience to understand. But that has lead to an assessment that Atlus represents Japanese subculture.

First Production (Shin Megami Tensei, Etrian Odyssey, Devil Survivor, Etc.)

First Production – Shinjiro Takada (Joined in February 2004)

 

  • First production is the studio responsible for the development of titles such as Shin Megami Tensei [with an internal team dubbed “Team Maniax”], Etrian Odyssey and Devil Survivor. Takada thinks it is a perfect environment for those who like RPGs and want to impress customers by making high quality games.
  • They have a culture where members are encouraged to voice their opinions, raising the quality of their games. There are no barriers for speaking up, and battle systems, scenarios and other game elements are actively discussed by everyone.
  • The studio will continue to develop new series and new titles in the future, however scenarios in RPGs are voluminous, so development can be long-term, taking two to three years to complete.
  • The company continues to stick to a game’s quality, even when it is no longer possible to continue making a game by thinking only in terms of business. Those who are in love with their work and who want to put their all into it should apply.

Second Production (P Studio)

Second Production – From Left: Naoya Maeda (Joined in March 2002), Daisuke Kaneda (Joined in April 1997), Director Naoto Hiraoka, Kazuhisa Wada (Joined in November 1998), Hirokazu Toyama (Joined in August 2002)

  • Second production is the studio based on Atlus’ flagship series, Persona.
  • Wada: “Although the latest title, Persona 5, had a considerably prolonged production process, fans were still looking forward to it. Those involved with Persona 5 wanted to release a game which would meet these expectations. From now on, I would like to create more and more new titles, and we are recruiting for that. Personally, I would like to gather people who have a ‘sharp’ confidence in their strengths as an asset, even if they might have other weaknesses, in order to create more unique games.”
  • Maeda: We are aiming to create games which will stand out, and not be buried by all the other games in the world. Creating something that people will sympathize with, we give top priority to what we want to express.”
  • Toyama: Our company’s game production has a lot of trial and error. It’s often necessary to point out something that isn’t fun. It’s good to have someone who can analyze that and give a reason for why something isn’t interesting.”
  • Kaneda: I want to work with people who can enjoy creating things. These people need knowledge and can respond flexibly when being advised. Someone who has had experience in something like music or theater in the past, like one who has experienced making something with someone before, who was never self-satisfied in their work, who has been evaluated by others and who has produced results.”

Third Production (Studio Zero)

Third Production – Katsura Hashino (Joined in April 1994)

  • Third production is called “Studio Zero.” Its aim is to develop the future of Atlus and the industry, established as Persona 5‘s development ended. The challenge embarked by the studio is to develop a completely new IP targeted at household game fans.
  • When the world was overflowing with fantasy games, Atlus released strange titles with contemporary drama, mythology and demons as a counter to this trend. In that way, they built the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona series. However, nowadays, all kinds of games are available around the world. So in this situation, what could Atlus do as a counter to this era? Studio Zero was born from this problem.
  • Studio Zero wants to daringly challenge the idea of a fantasy RPG. What makes a fantasy RPG good? Hashino would like to delve into the reason why game players would want a fantasy world in the first place. The project which is currently underway is titled Project Re Fantasy A Fool’s Journey Begins.
  • The fantasy RPG is a challenge returning to Atlus’ policy of “continuation and innovation,” with the perspective of entering an underdeveloped medium and entice a wide variety of customers. It’s starting from zero, hence the name Studio Zero.
  • Studio Zero is recruiting on a large scale as it is a newly formed production studio. They look forward to welcoming people who lend to the “Innovation” which “Studio Zero” aims for.

On Atlus’ History

  • One of the most important games Hiraoka worked on was Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, as the first title he worked on for the company. It was a game that signified a turning point for Atlus. Before then, their games were critically mixed and there were some bad titles. With the great positive reception of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, they decided to focus on quality and going beyond the customers’ expectations from then on.
  • The second most important game for Hiraoka was Persona 3. Until that point, the games Atlus sold were “dark” but, for the first time, they released a title that was “stylish” and “cool.” It was successful, and appealed to a younger generation compared to “Shin Megami Tensei.” This was when fans started to want to buy games for the “Atlus” brand.
  • The turnover rate at Atlus is low, so most of the key members from the time Hiraoka joined the company (in 2002) are still there. Everyone there has an attachment as a team.

On Hiraoka’s Role as Director

Director – Joined Atlus in 2002. Served as project manager for “Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne,” “Persona 3” and “Persona 4.” Became responsible for seeing company development as a whole in 2007.

  • For users, Hiraoka’s director role consists of meeting their expectations. Atlus will not release a game until they are sure they can meet expectations. Even if the planned release dates need to be shifted, they will not release the game until they’re satisfied.
  • For employees, his director role is about protecting their employment. Game development takes many years. In the past, Atlus had a period of unstable business conditions due to changes in capital ties. For game companies, work environments that can function reliably for a long time are indispensable. Atlus has a system where employees will get bonuses if they reach the budget, but if the budget is surpassed, their salary will go down instead. Part of Hiraoka’s role is to properly respect the budgets and give out bonuses.

Jobs Atlus is Currently Looking For

First ProductionSecond ProductionThird ProductionAtlus
System PlannerSystem PlannerSystem PlannerInternal Systems Engineer
Scenario PlannerScenario PlannerScenario PlannerProject Manager
Designer.
Specifically:
1. 3DCG Design
2. Motion Design
3. Technical Designer
4. Concept Art Production
5. Event Scene Production video director)
6. Effects Design
7. Interface Design
Designer.
Specifically:
1. 2D Artwork
2. 3DCG Design
3. Motion Design
4. Event Scene Production (video director)
5. Effects Design
6. Interface Design
Designer.
Specifically:
1. Concept Art Production
2. 3DCG Design
3. Motion Design
4. Event Scene Production (video director)
5. Effects Design
6. Interface Design
Executive Secretary, Human Resources, General Affairs Assistant
ProgrammerProgrammerProgrammer

Atlus Company Details

  • Capital: 10 million yen
  • Founded: September 2013 (acquired by Sega)
  • Number of Employees: 210 people

Green-Japan

The Art of Persona 5
Prima Games Prima Games (2017-06-27)