Atlus Co., Ltd. (株式会社アトラス, Kabushiki gaisha Atorasu) is a Japanese video game development and publishing company owned by Sega.
They are best known as the creators behind Megami Tensei / Persona, Trauma Center, Etrian Odyssey, and Catherine. They are also known for their purikura selfie photo booth services throughout East Asia.
Atlus was founded on April 7, 1986 as a video game developer for other companies though its business ventures quickly expanded onto amusement park and karaoke equipment. Their first video game was released in 1989, being Puzzle Boy for the Game Boy.
Atlus' ventures expanded further into the arcade business in 1992, first with the release of BlaZeon, and in 1995 with the launch of the Print Club (purikura) series of photo booths in partnership with Sega. They were first introduced in the arcades before expanding to other popular hotspots such as train stations, karaoke centers, and fast food places. Since its introduction, they have become a hit with the East Asian youth and is credited with laying the foundation for modern day selfie culture.
In order to gain a much larger presence in the amusement business, a series of acquisitions would occur throughout the course of the late 90's and the early oughts. These include manufacturer Apies in 1999 and video game development studio Career Soft in 2001. Atlus also entered into a joint partnership with publisher Kadokawa Shoten to distribute and sell games. Eventually, Apies would be sold back to its employees in 2001 as part of a management buyout during company restructuring as a result of deficit financial results, while Career Soft would merge with Atlus' main development team to work on the Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor series, leaving the developer brand to eventually dissolve.
On October 2003, it was announced that Atlus was acquired by Japanese toy company Takara, only to later be acquired by Index Holdings in October 2006. Atlus officially became a subsidiary of Index Holdings a month later. In 2009, Atlus entered into a partnership with development studio Sting Entertainment to publish their titles in Japan. Later that same year, Index separated Atlus' amusement operations into its own subsidiary named New Entertainment Waves.
On August 30, 2010, Index announced it was to fully merge with Atlus effective the following October, with Index being the surviving company. Addressing the fans' concerns, CEO Shinichi Suzuki assured that Atlus will continue to provide "the finest quality game experiences possible" and that the merger "further strengthens the foundation of Atlus, both in Japan and here in the United States." Atlus, as a company, technically "ceased" to exist following the merger between 2010 to 2013 and only became a brand name.
In June of 2013, Index faced bankruptcy after filing for civil rehabilitation, reported to have over ¥24.5 billion worth of debt (though a spokesperson confirmed that Atlus was largely unaffected). In September 18 of the same year, it was reported that Sega had won a bid to acquire Index for ¥14 billion, with all of its operations transferring to the newly-established Sega Dream Corporation subsidiary on November 1, which would change its name to Index Corporation. On February 18 of the following year, it was revealed that Index's contents and solution businesses were to be separated into its own subsidiary, with the old Index Corporation being renamed back to Atlus effective on the following April 1st. Index's former international subsidiary, Index Digital Media, was also announced to revert back to Atlus USA.
In January 2018, Sega Sammy Holdings (Sega's parent company) relocated its offices from the Tokyo metropolitan area to Shinagawa-ku. According to the company, this was to consolidate its scattered head office functions, which included Atlus. Since being acquired, the company has expanded into three divisions: Creative Department 1st Production (the team that is responsible for the Megami Tensei and Etrian Odyssey series), Creative Department 2nd Production / P-Studio (responsible for the Persona series), and Creative Department 3rd Production / Studio Zero (responsible for Catherine).
Atlus U.S.A., Inc. is the North American branch of Atlus, primarily known for the localization of games from both its parent and various other third-party companies such as SNK and Arc System Works. Outside of its localization efforts, it also acts as a publisher for certain other third-party companies in a similar vein to NIS America and Aksys Games. Some of the games they've published have included Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest, Guilty Gear, Demon's Souls, and some of the recent The King of Fighters entries.
The studio was first established on February 27, 1989 as Asuka Technologies, then Atlus Software on January 18, 1991, and finally as Atlus USA on April 1, 1999 as a separate subsidiary to its namesake. The company was formed as Atlus wanted to establish a local company in the States with the goal of publishing Japan's high-quality games in North America. One of the first titles the company published and localized was Revelations: Persona for the PlayStation. It was an attempt to break into the Western RPG fanbase by properly establishing the Megami Tensei franchise, which at the time had yet to be localized as it had been deemed to dark for a western audience (largely due to its religious imagery and subtext and taboo, a stark contrast to a lot of other publisher's content guidelines for overseas releases). The mainline entries wouldn't see a Western release until 2004 with Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.The decision to finally bring Megami Tensei to the West was also so it could compete with the likes of Final Fantasy and Breath of Fire. Following the success of Nocturne, the "Shin Megami Tensei" moniker was attached to several of Atlus' releases that would apply in the West for marketing purposes, though this practice has since been dropped recently starting with Persona 5.
Until 2017, Atlus USA was the company's only subsidiary, which meant that other companies such as Nippon Ichi Software had to publish Atlus' titles for Europe and Oceania. Their partnership was formally ended in 2016 following the Sega Sammy Holdings acquisition as several difficulties started to arise. A partnership with Deep Silver briefly occurred for the remainder of the year before they finally opened a dedicated distribution and publishing team in Sega Europe's offices.
Involvement with Super Smash Bros.
Atlus became the seventh third-party company to join the Smash Bros. series with the inclusion of Joker, the protagonist of Persona 5. He was announced as the first fighter in the Fighters Pass and is the game's second DLC character overall. Bundled with Joker is his home stage Mementos, several music tracks from Persona 5, Persona 4, and Persona 3, and multiple Spirits on a unique DLC Spirit Board. Separate paid DLC Mii Fighter costumes based on the protagonist of Persona 3, Yu Narukami and Teddie from Persona 4, and Morgana from Persona 5 are also available. A special DLC Spirit of Sophia from Persona 5 Strikers was later added as a bonus for players who have save data of the game on their Nintendo Switch.
Outside of the Persona series, Atlus received minor representation in the base game with a Spirit of Tsubasa Oribe, the protagonist of Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE - an Atlus-developed Wii U and Switch title that is a crossover between their Megami Tensei series and Nintendo's Fire Emblem series. The Spirit can be enhanced into her Carnage form after reaching Level 99.
- Atlus is one of five companies to be introduced to Smash through DLC; the other four being Square Enix, Xbox Game Studios, SNK, and Mojang Studios.
- Atlus is one of two companies to be separately credited alongside their parent company, the other being Mojang Studios. This could be because both of their respective series, Persona and Minecraft, were made long before their acquisitions by Sega and Xbox Game Studios.
- Atlus is the only third-party company to be represented by spin-offs, as Persona is an offshoot of the Megami Tensei series, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE is treated as such for Fire Emblem.
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