Atlus USA CEO Discusses Persona 5 and Japanese Console Market

Persona 5 shipped 550k units in Japan only two weeks after its launch and subsequently became the best selling Atlus game in history as of October 5th.

In the wake of this, MCV UK interviewed Atlus USA President & CEO Naoto Hiraoka about the state of the Japanese console market.

On Japanese and Western Persona 5 Expectations

We could not imagine how players would react to Persona 5 at first.

However, it has obliterated all expectations in Japan. The game’s unique style and aesthetic appeals to so many people beyond our traditional fanbase. Working closely with Sony Japan and achieving a simultaneous release with the PS4 Slim, I think we did well in distributing to a large audience.

It was incredible seeing people at TGS and E3 cosplaying as the characters before the game’s release, and that each trailer we released got over 1 million views.

Obviously we have very high expectations for it in the West, and feel that it will become a representative title of Atlus, not only in Japan but in the West as well. Each and every staff member is working extremely hard to ensure it sets the gold standard for our localisations and culturalisations.

One of the reasons stated previously for Persona 5‘s delay in North America and Europe was the game surpassing sales expectations in Japan, pushing Atlus to take more time to improve the game’s localization.


On Declining Japanese Sales

As stated by MCV UK, the Japanese console market is at an all-time low, with the games market having fallen to its lowest point in 26 years in 2015, and with revenue falling by 13 per cen on a yearly basis.

The sales ratio of Atlus titles is approximately the same, which is a very rare case in Japanese-based publishing.

True, the market is narrowing thanks to the prevalence of mobile phone games, and the shrinking of the ‘otaku’ [geek] culture in Japan, but our target audience is not only Japan. After our success in North America, I believe the next step is to move on to Europe; there are many consumers who hold a strong interest in Japanese culture, such as France. We are striving to serve everyone as best we can.

On JRPGS in the West

We’re seeing a resurgence of Japanese developers, that’s for certain. There are a ton of JRPGs slated for early 2017, including Persona 5, that have a lot of buzz around them, which is good. They are still very much their own niche when you look at the average gamer’s tastes, but it seems to currently be a growing segment. We’re even seeing multiplayer shooters like Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 start to truly embrace story and world-building and characters, which is to say a lot of the mainstream gaming titles are making it easier or more acceptable for gamers to approach a 30-hour or longer JRPG. All in all, we’re very happy that JRPGs seemed to have returned from the brink, and we’re forging ahead by continuing to deliver these games to the west.


On Atlus Branding

In recent years, Atlus has been working on our branding strategy.

The Japanese subculture consists of games, manga, anime and so on, and we focus on gaming as the core of our activities, hoping to become a leader, while delivering the best creative content to our fans. There was a stage where Japanese games went through a dark time.

However, with the appearance of the likes of Demon’s Souls, Persona 4 and Catherine, we were able to deliver products which caught the eye of overseas consumers once again. Atlus’ strength is developing RPGs, and creating what we are good at to deliver something enjoyable. That this elicits positive reactions from fans is our greatest pleasure.

The interview also reiterates Atlus’ commitment to supporting Nintendo’s new platform, the Nintendo Switch, which they announced previously.


  • James Jeans

    Maybe when Persona 6 comes out in eight years, they might consider starting localization work for foreign markets before the game ships in Japan. That’d be swell.

    • Rhys Lyle

      Yeah, I was expecting day and date after Zero Time Dilemma did a day and date release world wide

      • vileBrenman

        ZTD wasn’t developed bu Atlus…

    • haku67

      This! I’m tired after so many years of hearing “we are working on getting it out sooner. Or we are working closer to atlus japan this time for a closer release” . At the end of the day I know there issues that atlus usa has to deal and also it’s just PR talk but it would be great if this does end up true.

  • IllusionoisullI

    Don’t bother mentioning Europe, what you said is a complete insult to your overseas consumers.

    More of a disappointment then a success, considering the wait time.

  • Patrick Honeyman

    I wonder if the title was put back to satisfy the balance sheet for the be next financial year? Call me overly cynical but hey its entirely possible.

    That said, Westerners will at least have the most complete version of the game to date in April (at least until the revised version of P5 is announced for Japan. The earliest that will be is mid-late 2018 though).

  • We care so much about the west that we decided to make them wait 8 months later for a story heaven game that has had all the story long since spoiled.

    This guy is pure scum.

  • Mr.Sammich

    You people all need to stop being so pissy about the delay. It’s not like they just did it to fuck with us or something, there was SOME legitimate reason. I doubt it’s that Atlus USA didn’t get the game until after the Japanese release, as they got SMT IV before it was released in Japan, and Persona 5 is much more profitable than that. Atlus USA said it was pushed back to assure the quality of the localization, *cough* Apocalypse *cough*, and to voice scenes that where unvoiced in the Japanese release, until anyone finds solid proof otherwise, that’s why it was delayed.

  • Inconnu

    Ahah, they always talking about France but they has not bothered to do a translation in french in any persona game