Massive publishing and media conglomerate Kadokawa is buying Dark Souls developer From Software, and nobody’s quite sure how that’s going to affect the direction of future games from the scrappy Tokyo-based studio.
After years of languishing in obscurity, developing niche titles like the mecha simulation Armored Core and first-person RPG King’s Field franchises for over a decade, From Software finally found major worldwide success with 2009’s Demon’s Souls, an action RPG for the Playstation 3 that exceeded sales expectations and became something of a cult phenomenon. From followed it up with two spiritual sequels which both found even greater critical and commercial success: Dark Souls, released in 2011, and Dark Souls II, released this past March. Both titles were published in the US by Namco Bandai Games, along with From’s recent Armored Core titles. Whether they will continue to act as publisher on From’s titles going forward remains to be seen.
There’s been some concern over the announcement, with fans wondering whether Kadokawa’s going to mess with the good thing From’s got going. Even as a casual observer, From always struck me as being one of the most stoic and stubbornly uncompromising game developers in the world, refusing to cow to market pressures while continuing to release games without any direct appeal to the otaku crowd.
Kadokawa, meanwhile, just recently released Demon Gaze, a dungeon crawler for the PS Vita that you probably couldn’t play on the bus without getting strange looks, and I don’t mean because you’re playing a Vita on public transportation: I mean it’s filled with scantily-clad pre-pubescent girls.
Is that the kind of thing in store for From? While the announcement mentioned From would be working with Kadokawa Games to develop games and new IP for the corporation, there’s no mention of any change in the kinds of games they’ll be making, beyond a statement by From Software CEO Naotoshi Zin that they’ll “be able to make newer and more in-depth games.”
Kadokawa has also published titles like Grasshopper Manufacture’s Lollipop Chainsaw and Killer Is Dead, so it’s probably safe to say they won’t be forcing From to radically change the way they make their games. Here’s hoping.