So it may have puzzled long-time fans that the studio, known for dexterous, vibrant console action games, announced its entry into the mobile gaming space, and with the makers of the iPhone to boot. “World of Demons” launched on Apple Arcade in April, and looks a lot like the games that built the studio’s sterling reputation.
For the studio heads, Apple Arcade didn’t just make good business sense. Platinum’s partnership with Apple freed the studio from having to worry too much about ongoing revenue in its original free-to-play concept. Namely, Platinum didn’t want to include microtransactions, small payments players make to alter or enhance the experience. For more than a decade, microtransactions have been a controversial, yet successful, way to monetize video games.
“At the end of the day, we really felt we weren’t able to achieve all the goals we had [with microtransactions]," said executive producer Atsushi Inaba, who also worked on series like “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney,” “Okami” and “Viewtiful Joe." “Simply put, when Apple Arcade was announced, we realized this is different from a typical mobile platform, and we really felt we had opportunities to make a title that would match what we want to do. We didn’t want to pad this out.”
While other big studios have explored different business models, titles by Platinum have always been complete, finished products with a set retail price. And their games are almost always about accessible action with a high skill ceiling. The higher the skill, the more beautiful the action. It’s the kind of video game choreography that inspires players like Twitter user SunhiLegend, who regularly goes viral by staging action GIFs using Platinum games as instruments.
“I felt that the microtransaction part of it was bringing us down. To make [‘World of Demons’] successful, trying to fit in microtransactions was necessary, and this is something Apple Arcade has completely removed from their model,” Inaba said.
Inaba stressed that he has no real qualms with the microtransaction business model. Still, some game designs just don’t jell with it, he said.
“Take ‘Bayonetta.’ If we were to apply microtransactions, it would be locking away content, and I think that is an unfriendly design to our users,” Inaba said. “Adding additional content or bonus content that enriches the original vision of the game? That’s something completely valid and something we’re interested in doing.”
Translating Platinum’s precision-based action to touch-screen mobile devices was a challenge for the studio, particularly since “World of Demons” stays very much in the studio’s traditional lane. The game’s look flourishes with the Ukiyo-e style of watercolor art, much like the beloved action adventure “Okami,” published by Capcom and some of the same folks that make up Platinum today.
“We didn’t want it to be too casual of an experience,” said the game’s director, Ryoya Sakabe, who worked on “Bayonetta 2." “As people get better at it, we wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be too simple to control forever. We tried to think about different ways to add complexity.”
Even though the studio is new to the mobile space, their genre of games isn’t. While mobile gaming in the West has yet to shirk stereotypes of being simple touch-screen games, Asian developers have been producing gorgeous, fast-action titles. Chinese studio miHoYo may now be famous for the global online role-playing hit, “Genshin Impact,” but it came into prominence after the release of “Honkai Impact 3rd," a mobile-only game heavily inspired by Platinum classics like “Bayonetta.”
“We have seen a few titles that surprised me, because up until now, we’ve been a console company,” said Sakabe, when asked if his team had played any of those titles. “To see the things we’ve done on consoles now being achieved on mobile, it’s very inspiring to us! Sometimes we take it back to the team and say, ‘So can we do this or that.’ Hopefully we can all influence each other in this way.”
The Platinum studio heads also recognize that their entry into mobile development is far different from how their Asian peers occupy the space, since Apple Arcade’s subscription service is still finding its footing and microtransaction-heavy games are still the norm. But they’re excited to explore the format.
“We wanted to make this game for us too,” said producer Koji Tanaka, who was a visual effects artist on “Nier: Automata” and “Bayonetta 2.” “We want to bring satisfactory action games on a mobile device.”