Over the course of this generation, many video game publishers have come under fire by dissatisfied consumers. Especially in recent years, gamers have expressed their distaste for Capcom’s frequent fighting game rereleases and on-disc DLC; Namco Bandai’s reluctance to localize certain promising games; numerous companies’ use of invasive DRM; and much more. It seems that gamers are more at odds with the business side of the industry than ever before, perceiving developers and artists to be the only “good guys.” However, there’s one publisher which is outstanding in how it serves its customers, and its name is XSEED Games.
Boldly Going Where Others Won’t
If you were to tell me you haven’t heard of XSEED Games, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised. For the last few years, they’ve been a favorite among fans of JRPGs, adventure games, and otherwise niche titles. Many see the publisher as a veritable savior who scoops up games which others deem too strange or obscure to be marketable in the West. The somber, post-apocalyptic adventure Fragile Dreams, critically-acclaimed RPG The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, the creepily cannibalistic horror-adventure Corpse Party and three upcoming Playstation Vita titles are just a few of the items on XSEED’s resume.
One of the most recent games the company rescued from the depths of Localization Limbo is The Last Story, the latest RPG from Mr. Final Fantasy himself, Hironobu Sakaguchi. Despite the game’s promising pedigree, and the fact that Nintendo of Europe had already localized it, it was beginning to look like North American fans would be left high and dry—until XSEED stepped up to the plate. The Last Story is easily their highest-profile title to date, but the California-based publisher is most well loved because of their commitment to bringing fans games they otherwise may never get the chance to play. And not only do they translate games; they’re known for doing it well, a relatively rare occurrence within the game industry.
Merchandise and Marketing
XSEED gives each game they take under their wing the love and attention it deserves. One of the first questions following the North American announcement for The Last Story was, “will it have a limited edition?” And with good reason: the company is known for its content-packed and profoundly affordable special editions. For less than mainstream games, collector’s items are somewhat of a rarity—blockbusters like Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed seem to take priority with the cool merch bundles—and especially valuable for gamers as dedicated as the modern JRPG fan.
Many publishers will only devote half-hearted marketing attempts to their smaller franchises (Namco Bandai and the Tales of RPG series are most notorious for this) and are then left wondering why their sales numbers come up short. It’s anyone’s guess how profitable XSEED is at this point, but while they may not have the most universally appealing games, the company makes a clear effort to promote each and every one in its arsenal. From what I’ve seen, this is accomplished mostly through social networking—Facebook, Twitter, and their own forums—and for now, it seems to work well. Their enthusiasm for spreading the word about their games is not only admirable, but infectious.
Keeping in Touch
Yet another reason for XSEED’s loyal following is its readiness to communicate openly with fans. I witnessed an example of XSEED’s open communication with customers recently, when their latest title, Unchained Blades, was released on the PSN Store.
In a matter of hours, I got a definitive response to a question. It’s an inherent advantage of doing business with a small company; much like the comparison between buying games at The Score or at a large corporate chain, the smaller business is capable of offering a personalized, and ultimately a more convenient experience. Many publishers have jumped on board the social networking bandwagon, but their posts are usually impersonal and one-way in nature; they don’t tend to interact with their fans. And unlike XSEED, most publishers’ social networking seems to be done by a PR specialist who lacks the expertise or knowledge to answer questions like the one I asked above.
For those reasons, XSEED is easily the best publisher of this console generation. Not only do they steer clear of the more controversial business practices that shake customers’ loyalty. They actively foster that loyalty by focusing on niche games and the gamers who love them, strive to provide quality merchandise and marketing, and keep their eyes and ears open for consumer concerns—and then respond to them to the best of their ability. Other publishers, please take note!