The Koei Tecmo Dark Souls Factory
Koei Tecmo is famous for hitting on a good idea then producing a million copies of that idea. You need look no further than the long-running Dynasty Warriors game franchise to see this in action.
What started as a simple one-on-one fighting game grew into a massive action franchise about one hero character taking on thousands of enemies — and then Koei made thousands of sequels. The core franchise has nine main entries and dozens of spin-offs. The Samurai Warriors side franchise is nearly as big. And the real money in these games is in the licensed tie-ins where Koei collaborates with other studios and uses much bigger world-recognized characters and IP, like Fire Emblem, Persona, Zelda, and One Piece.
These side licensed games are also often better pieces of software than the core franchises, probably due to the increased oversight from the partners involved and also the increased budget that comes with working with established IP that gamers outside of the core Japanese market will enjoy. If you know your thing is going to sell to a larger audience, it’s easier to spend more money on its production.
Dynasty Warriors isn’t the only franchise that Koei Tecmo regularly exploits in this manner. They also put out a new Atelier game every year or so for all your magical girl RPG needs. Just like with Omega Force and Dynasty Warriors, the developers at Gust have honed their formula down to a predictable science, and their games are sort of like comfort food or serialized fictional novels.
It seems clear to me that the new frontier for this business concept is “what if we kept making copies of Dark Souls?” Recently, Team Ninja has joined the “crank out a new thing regularly” Koei Tecmo bandwagon and they’ve been churning out Souls-likes at a rapid pace. They’ve even already hit the groove of the formula, with both original storylines and licensed IP drawn into the mix.
The first of these was Nioh, which ironically was in development for over a decade and was the resurrection of a cancelled project. It’s about a dude who is totally not Geralt from the Witcher fighting his way through demon infested lands to try and find magical gems. The game was a surprise hit for Koei…