Platinum Games and the failure of excellence

A heartfelt response to the recent Polygon interview with Platinum Games CEO Tatsuya Minami

Tatsuya Minami was the recent focus of a Polygon article. One of his first major projects in the video game industry was as a project lead planner on Super Ghouls n Ghosts for the Super Famicom, so this is obviously a man who's contributions to gaming are not to be taken lightly. When combined with his studio's track record this generation Tatsuya Minami has cemented his place in history as an iconic game designer, because he has displayed a pursuit of excellence that is common to all who do great work on games. The only difference between Platinum games and many other studios though is that they have a carefully selected group of artists and tech leads that are working for a very defined goal, that is to produce great action games. Personally i still find that goal slightly vague, which I blame for the lack of polish in games like Madworld and Bayonetta, however when you consider the studios growth into the masterpiece that is Vanquish it becomes immediately apparent that Platinum Games are not a studio that is content with critical acclaim and sticking to one type of game.

Why then is one of the most innovative game developers struggling to make sales of over 1 million on its titles? Put simply, and i hope that Mr Minami realizes this soon, but it has a strong relationship to what high budget games have become since the end of the arcades. It used to be that games were only successful based on playtesting and proof of concept, a staple of the arcade business model. Once the business model changed towards marketing and what can be termed 'pre sales' though, quality was no longer a requirement for game design. Quality became measured not by gameplay, but by graphics, sound design and franchise potential. What a terrible, stale industry this has become. When Platinum games is disbanded (which would have probably happened already in some form or another if it werent for Sega) you can blame console makers like Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft for calluding and price fixing the market so that only $60 with their stamp of approval stood any chance of success. Blame publishers like EA, Activision and Square, who showed as much interest in their marketing departments as they did in QA, and lastly blame the turncoats who left the arcade industry in favour of an easier game devlopment cycle, blame Namco, Konami, Sega, and Capcom. 

It used to be that talented developers who were given AAA budgets could translate their success in game design into franchises and financial success, but theres no longer a market for excellence, for platinum quality titles.

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