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Discussion What if MonolithSoft went to Sony or Microsoft?

MagiCarbo

Octorok
In 2007, Nintendo made a major move that at the time, baffled the gaming industry. They bought 85% of game developer MonolithSoft, Inc. from then-parent company, Bandai Namco. The move came as a shock as Nintendo had never historically been known to make big studio acquisitions, let alone one known for edgy niche RPGs like Xenogears or Baten Kaitos Since then, MonolithSoft had grown a tight relationship with Nintendo, operating as a unit of the company's Software Planning & Development (now EPD) Division creating the fan-favorite Xenoblade Chronicles series, along with assisting development of Nintendo's internally developed games such as Animal Crossing and the Zelda series.

But what if that didn't happen? What if MonolithSoft instead was gobbled up by one of Nintendo's competitors? Sony Computer Entertainment or Microsoft. How would Sony or Microsoft run the studio, and how would the lack of MonolithSoft affect Nintendo's output overall?

In Sony's case, I could see it working. SCE at the time, surprisingly didn't have large game development operation in Japan compared to its US and European teams, despite being a Japanese company (and to be quite honest, it still doesn't). Having MonolithSoft under SCE Worldwide Studios could've provided Sony with a reliable developer for RPGs, a genre most of their developers were gradually moving away from in the PS3 and PSP era, and if successful, could've prompted Sony to buy more Japanese studios to compliment it, JAPAN Studio, and Polyphony Digital, and make the Japan side of WWS as large as the US and Europe groups. MonolithSoft could've even had access to engines and tech developed by other Sony teams like Naughty Dog, Gurella, or Santa Monica Studio.

What about Microsoft? It might've been able to work too. Microsoft had never historically been a real player in Japan, and in the early 360 days, the company was attempting to make a splash in the scene in a big way with projects like Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, and others. MonolithSoft could've been a vital asset to Microsoft Game Studios, and give Microsoft a Japanese developer that could actually compete with the talent at Sony and Nintendo.

Where would that leave Nintendo? Well they would have to find other partners to make high profile RPGs with them, or simply not bother with the genre at all. It also would made projects like Zelda more difficult to produce, with more games getting hit with delays without a studio like MonolithSoft to help out.
 
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Subrosian Link

#TeamJanuary
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To be honest? Sony literally abandoned Japan and has a history of buying studios just to absorb them into others they already have. So my guess is that they will eventually close their doors as Sony got away. And referencing Microsoft... yes, maybe they would have invested more in them? But numbers don't go precisely their way, Japan-wise, and I fear they'd eventually get moved to other projects or as a purely assist studio.
 
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Pronouns
He, Him, His
Microsoft would have run them into the ground. The company cultures are too different and they would not have been able to properly integrate. Sony would probably try to turn them into an Elder Scrolls competitor, pump loads of money into them way too quickly and shut them down when they failed to produce a 10 million seller.
 

meatbag

Tingle
If MS had acquired Monolith, the real question becomes if Monolith could survive long enough to reach the Game Pass era, where their big, open world JRPGs that sell maybe 3-4 million would be seen as a great addition to their subscription service. Either that or they get shut down or turned into an assist studio, which IIRC MS used to do a lot back then.

Sony was more hands off with their studios back then, too, so maybe Monolith could make their games, and they’d go down in history as interesting quirky entries in Sony’s catalog. Given how they’ve shut down their studios in Japan, though, I’d worry that Monolith would have ended up going the way of the dodo too. With their staff probably being poached by Nintendo, haha.

Interesting question if a Nintendo without Monolith could have made, say, Breath of the Wild. I think they could have, but it probably would taken way longer for them to train and gather the necessary talent. Nintendo would also lose the Xenoblade games I guess, but in the grand scheme of things one Animal Crossing New Horizons would make up for all those potentially lost earnings.
 

freedomseekr

life is noise
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Yeah I think they'd pretty much be dead. 2007 was still a solid year for support from Japan on Microsoft and Sony consoles, but the tides began to shift around that time (we've explored as much elsewhere, but 2008 can be seen as the beginning of the "Smug Era", which was partially dominated by strong sentiments opposing Japanese games on the whole) and by 2010 give-or-take, both Microsoft and Sony began slowing down support from Japanese companies and going pretty much all-in on appealing exclusively to the American AAA style of games.

Even if Sony and Microsoft now SAY they want Japanese games for their portfolio - it's clear that the games Monolith has made under Nintendo's tenure wouldn't have been made under any different platform holders, they want stuff that slides neatly into their general line-up and wouldn't look out of place next to whatever their American studios are cooking up. Heck, Sony barely promoted Gravity Rush 2 but went all-in of building years of hype for the God of War reboot and Ghost of Tsushima. What makes anyone think they'd have promoted any of the Xenoblade games?
 

Galgavias

Bob-omb
It's a fun 'what if' thought experiment, but I echo sentiments that they likely wouldn't be around now if they had been. Microsoft wouldn't know what to do with them, and Sony would have closed them down by now unless they'd produced a multi million selling super hit, which is very unlikely.

It's more interesting to think what might have happened if they'd stayed with Namco-Bandai. I don't know if Xenoblade in it's current form would even exist, but if they did, I could see them being on PS and Xbox primarily with the occasional downport to Switch. I do wonder if they'd be as beloved as they are in such a world...
 
It's more interesting to think what might have happened if they'd stayed with Namco-Bandai. I don't know if Xenoblade in it's current form would even exist, but if they did, I could see them being on PS and Xbox primarily with the occasional downport to Switch. I do wonder if they'd be as beloved as they are in such a world...
they wouldn't exist. Bamco absorbed all their internal teams into a single mass, not unlike EPD Kyoto. the question then would be, would Takahashi and Koh Kojima still be able to lead games? to be honest, I doubt it. if the shit about Hideo Baba had an ounce of truth, then I could see the duo doing Tales instead
 

Ray00101

Boo
Founder
They’d either be shuttered or producing something in the AAAAA-cinematic-action-everything-that’s-wrong-with-the-industry genre.
 

fiendcode

Bob-omb
Sony and Microsoft's investment in Japanese development has been less than stellar overall honestly. They both have a good amount of clousures relative the studios still around.

PlayStation:
  • Japan Studio: Founded in 1993 (original staff from SME) and closed in 2020. Small VR group maintained (Asobi Team) and mobile group transferred back to SME (ForwardWorks).
  • Arc Entertainment: Founded in 1996 and closed in 2000. Some staff folded back into Japan Studio.
  • Contrail: Founded in 1997 and closed in 2000. Production only group, some staff folded back into Japan Studio.
  • Sugar & Rockets: Founded in 1996 and closed in 2000. Some staff folded back into Japan Studio but most eventually left to form Epics.
  • Exact: Acquired in 1998 and folded into Sugar & Rockets.
  • Deep Space: Founded in 2000 (ex-Whoopee Camp) and closed in 2004.
  • Cellius: Founded in 2007 and closed in 2012. Joint venture with Bandai Namco.
Xbox
  • Microsoft Game Studios Japan: Founded in 2001 (ex-Sega, SNK and Square staff mainly) and closed in 2005. Staff went on found AQ interactive with Cavia and also acquired Scarab (Feelplus) and Artoon.
 
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Magic-Man

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They wouldn't be around today. Monolith Soft is one of the few acquisitions I'm actually a fan of (Next Level Games/Nintendo and Insomniac/Sony are also good).
 

NXthethird

Rattata
Would it even be possible for Microsoft to purchase a Japanese company, due to the Japanese company laws?
Zenimax, an American company, bought Tango Gameworks, a Japenese developer based in Tokyo, in 2010 because the studio was facing financial troubles. And funny enough Zenimax is now owned by Microsoft, effectively making Tango Gameworks a first party developer.

I always thought this sounded like bullshit and now I know it is.
 

Hailinel

Musou Mania!
Zenimax, an American company, bought Tango Gameworks, a Japenese developer based in Tokyo, in 2010 because the studio was facing financial troubles. And funny enough Zenimax is now owned by Microsoft, effectively making Tango Gameworks a first party developer.

I always thought this sounded like bullshit and now I know it is.
I know nothing about the specific laws in question, but this might specifically regard hostile takeovers, which the Tango buyout was not.
 

EtherPenguin

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It's hard to imagine what types of games they'd even be making. Others mentioned if Sony would want them to do Elder Scroll clones or if Microsoft would see value in big open RPGs on gamepass, but I wonder if Monolith would even make games like that without adopting Nintendo's gameplay-first mentality. None of their pre-Nintendo games are known for large environments. Baten Kaitos doesn't stray far from feeling like a PS1 RPG with the prerendered backgrounds and Xenosaga was mostly linear dungeon crawling. Attack of the Saiyans generally follows the same structure as Xenosaga as well.

They talk about how they had to change their approach to designing games in the Iwata Asks for the first Xenoblade. Stuff like each Xenoblade having a core gimmick that the rest of the game works around (visions in 1, driver and blades in 2, interlinking pairs in 3) is something that I think comes from Nintendo's influence. I think Takahashi first got the idea of the world on the back of two giants before the change to Nintendo was fully settled, but that version of Xenoblade 1 we could've gotten had they stayed with Namco or gone with Sony would probably play pretty differently than the one we got. Especially when you consider the first Xenoblade would have to be their first attempt at working in HD if they were developing for the PS3. It might've still taken place on titans but through linear corridor environments like FF10 or 13.

I wonder if they would've become one of those devs making small-scoped RPGs for the Vita. No idea what would happen with Microsoft since those two Mistwalker games are their only experience with JRPGs. There was some attempt to make Blue Dragon more of a thing with an anime and a DS sequel before fizzling out. Maybe they still would've made their DS games under Microsoft.
 

barrend

Rattata
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There is a very nice article by kotaku (see below) which explains how monolith soft became what it is today and what role nintendo played in that change. If you subtract all this and add what sony/ms could have offered, you get an general idea of an alternative present :p.
 
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Hailinel

Musou Mania!
It's doubtful that Sony or Microsoft would have put them in charge of ES-like RPGs. When Nintendo bought them, they were known more for JRPGs of a structure more traditional to the PS2/GameCube era and their first Wii project as a Nintendo studio was Disaster: Day of Crisis.

Microsoft and Sony might never have let them make an RPG anywhere close to the scope of Xenoblade.
 
at the time of Monolith's transfer to Nintendo, Microsoft was investing in games that were more "traditional" JRPGs like Lost Dragon and the like. Monolith definitely wouldn't be making an Elder Scrolls, but probably another linear sci-fi jrpg
 
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Hailinel

Musou Mania!
Why would either company do a hostile takeover? That would be politico-economic suicide. None of the recent acquisitions have been hostile takeovers.
They wouldn't. I'm just saying that I don't know the specifics of Japanese acquisition law, but I'm speculating that hostile takeovers may be particularly protected against in terms of a foreign company seeking a takeover of a domestic Japanese company. I could be wrong!
 


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