Gameological At E3Snapshot

Aram Jabbari, Atlus PR manager

Aram Jabbari, Atlus Games PR manager

One of the people responsible for bringing offbeat Japanese games to the states talks about the challenges in finding the next big, little thing.

By Gus Mastrapa • June 6, 2012

Amid the noise and hype, we encounter some interesting, down-to-earth people on the E3 show floor. This week, we’re cornering a few of them for brief interviews that we’re calling Snapshots.

Atlus USA isn’t just the American arm of a niche Japanese game maker. The company is also a kind of curator, the way that Miramax once was for movies. Atlus has made its name by seeking out, translating, and publishing great games that other companies are too conservative to touch—like Demon’s Souls and 3D Dot Game Heroes. If Atlus has a Harvey Weinstein it’s their always-on public relations and sales manager Aram Jabbari. The Gameological Society spoke to Jabbari on the E3 show floor.

The Gameological Society: Visiting Atlus every year is like walking into that antiquities dealer in Gremlins where Billy Seltzer’s dad bought Gizmo.

Aram Jabbari: You mean the incredibly racist stereotypical shop?

Gameological: Yeah. Where do you find all these offbeat games?

Jabbari: We meet with independent developers. We meet with small developers. And we also evaluate products that are finished and waiting for a publisher. Traditionally, that’s the case with games that are in Japan.

Gameological: You have developed a reputation for publishing Japanese games that wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day here.

Jabbari: Projects that we’ve had success with haven’t necessarily all come from Japan. We had tremendous success with Trine 2 from Frozenbyte and Rock Of Ages from Ace Team. Answering this question addresses one of the biggest criticisms that we’ve received from our fans over the past couple years and that’s that Atlus has abandoning its base, or that it’s abandoning its traditional offering.

Gameological: You’re not moving away from Japanese games?

Jabbari: The reality is that in the last couple years the channel or the source of games from Japan has slowed. We would love to publish a number of games like 3D Dot Heroes, which we had tremendous success with. We fought very hard to continue to be involved with From Software’s Boletaria [series]. [Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls—ed.] We do want to continue to publish as many RPGs as we can, because we recognize that’s what our brand is most strongly, and accurately, affiliated with. And we try to think about opportunities to grow our brand as well. Game Of Thrones was an opportunity for us to take a tremendous [intellectual property] and work with a developer that was, like us, a bit of an underdog.

Gameological: Seems like there’s a lot of passion for these games.

Jabbari: Demon’s Souls was a game that had been out in Japan for seven, eight, nine months before we looked at it. I recall it was Sammy Matsushima, one of our senior product managers. He brought in his personal copy and played it in the office. A lot of other publishers had passed on this. I remember reading an interview with Sony in Japan. Basically they were saying, “We should have published this.” That kind of makes us feel proud.

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242 Responses to “Aram Jabbari, Atlus Games PR manager”

  1. HobbesMkii says:

    He had me at  “You mean the incredibly racist stereotypical shop?”

    • duwease says:

      With an opener like that, it’s no surprise the interview was short..

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        I’d also imagine it’s because they interviewed them during this whole E3 thing. But yeah, aaawkward.

  2. GhaleonQ says:

    “The reality is that in the last couple years the channel or the source of games from Japan has slowed.”
    Boy, that’s not true.  XSeed and the like don’t have the ability to take on work-intensive projects, so they’re stuck now that small- and medium-sized developers there have been run out of town.  Atlus could announce Terror Of The Stratus localization at any time, since Nude Maker isn’t tied to Capcom or Sega and Konami won’t bring it.  Hero 30 Second?  Really, people could keep listing PSP, Vita, and 3DS games.  They’re risks, but “it wouldn’t be wise” doesn’t mean “there are none.”

  3. Asinus says:

    I love 3D Dot Game Heroes. I rushed out to buy it after reading the review here only to discover it wasn’t out yet. I waited very impatiently for it and was not disappointed. I would love a sequel or at least some DLC. I might be one of my graphically favorite games, too– fairly complex in its apparent simplicity. Great music, loads of fun… I might play it now.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      What in the heck?  GameFAQs says they’re doing the aesthetically phenomenal, nonsensically titled (the best combination) Bravely Default: Flying Fairy.  I had no idea.  I thought they worked for From the way SystemPrisma works for Nippon Ichi.

      • Destroy Him My Robots says:

        Oh sod it, why does it have to be Atlus? *curses regional lockouts, pins hopes on Rising Star yet again*

  4. AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

    Atlus is one of my favorite companies because of pretty much everything said above. They (and their close friends at NIS America) localize the stuff I’d never have a hope of seeing otherwise. And they do it well.

    It certainly doesn’t hurt that Atlus’ main branch also puts out the Shin Megami Tensei series and all of its spin-offs.

    • Heck, Atlus releases the Disgaea franchise for NIS (which is another awesome example of a quirky game series that would never have seen a US release otherwise.)

      Speaking of Shin Megami Tensei spinoffs, if there isn’t a Persona 5 announcement at E3 this year, I’m going to be so bummed. At least P4: Arena will help shorten the wait a bit regardless.

      • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

        I’m not sure about P5, but we certainly won’t be seeing a shortage of Persona 4, what with the fighting game sequel, the expanded Vita remake, the American release of the anime series, and a frickin’ MUSICAL PLAY in Japan. (I think I’ll pass on that last one.)

        It somewhat smells of milking a cash cow, but I honestly love Persona 4 (and the entirety of SMT) so much that any further exposure and sales it gets really don’t bother me.

        That said, if they DO make an announcement, and they put the same incredible writing into Persona 5 on top of using the engine they developed for Catherine? I will be a happy, happy man.

        And yes, Disgaea may reside with Atlus’ friends in Nippon Ichi Software, but I’m thankful it’s over here now.

        • We don’t own any handhelds, and I’m not a huge fighting game person, so I’m not as thrilled with the P4 bonanza. On the other hand, the way it continues the story, it has my favorite characters from P3, plus the dual audio for Arena and the fact that I love a lot of the seiyuu involved all mean that I’ll be buying it anyway.

          My big fear is that the next Persona game is going to be on the new console. I only just bought a PS3…