News: The Bells Toll for Istolia

Studio Istolia Has Been Thanos Snapped

Studio Istolia was established in 2017, with the aim of of producing a Square Enix Action RPG in the mold of an anime influenced Tales of ___ game which was referred to as Project Prelude Rune. Square Enix was even able to poach long time Tales producer Hideo Baba in order to run the studio. When, earlier this year, Baba quit the studio in order to “make room for the next generation“, many people had wondered what this meant for Project Prelude Rune. Well, it turns out that the game has been cancelled and the studio dissolved, with employees being relocated to other Square Enix divisions, probably to work on Final Fantasy VII and the rumoured Final Fantasy XVI battle royale game. It is unclear whether Hideo Baba left the company because his game was about to get cancelled, or whether the game had to be cancelled after losing Baba, its chief architect. The former is perhaps a little more likely than the latter, but regardless the result is much the same.

This looks quite a bit nicer that your typical Tales of game.
Unrealised potential.

Following evaluation of various aspects of Project Prelude Rune, development of the title has been canceled. Studio Istolia is no longer in operation and we have been taking appropriate steps to assign studio staff to other projects within the Square Enix Group.

Given the evident Tales of influences that formed the identity of Project Prelude Rune, many readers may be responding to this cancellation with a decided ‘meh’, but one wishes to make the case for this being a sad development for a couple of very important reasons. Firstly, Project Prelude Rune may take stylistic influence from the Tales of series, but it was being made by a Square Enix studio, with a Square Enix budget, using Square Enix technology, and [presumably] scored by a composer other than Rehashtoi Sakuraba – so there is every reason to expect this to result in a better game.

The second and more important reason that this is sad news is because ever since the the seventh console generation Square Enix has become very risk averse, and have moved away from developing new IPs into big budget console games. We used to see Squaresoft develop fresh new ideas into ambitious console releases such as Chrono Trigger and Xenogears, but these days Square Enix relegates most new IPs to handheld consoles, or worse, as smartphone releases. Square Enix developing Project Prelude Rune as a full-blooded console game was an extremely positive move for the company, so its cancellation comes as a sad loss.

Nippon Ichi Software In Serious Trouble!

From one sad loss to a potentially much sadder one, this week it has been announced that Nippon Ichi Software has applied for an MS Warrant to raise 573,638,750 Yen in funding, which has people speculating that the venerable software developer is insolvent to the point of no longer being able to pay employee wages. MS Warrants only tend to be used as a method of last resort for raising funding, as it sells stock in the company for a far cheaper price than is normal, which devalues the company as a whole and effectively burns existing investors. This basically means that Nippon Ichi is in such a bad financial state that they can no longer borrow money from banks and investors.

The game looks OK to me.
Destiny Connect appears to have been a costly failure for NIS.

While Disgaea 5: Complete did well for the company, a number of other Nippon Ichi games such as Yomawari, Princess Guide, and Disgaea RPG [a mobile title] have under performed, and their full 3D HD JRPG Destiny Connect failed to even make the top-20 sales chart when it released in Japan. Nippon Ichi appears to have suffered from the precise opposite problem as Square Enix; while Square Enix has been way too conservative when it came to green lighting new IPs on console, Nippon Ichi seems to have been far too aggressive in this respect, and the failure of several of these IPs within the same window appears to have punched a hole in their finances. This is worrying news indeed, as TDT has a particular affection for the quirky company. Seeking an MS Warrant sounds worryingly like the beginning of an irreversible downward spiral, but maybe it will buy Nippon Ichi enough time to line-up a buyer like Sega or Square Enix. Anyway, fingers crossed that they find a way to get through this. If anyone has been planning on picking up an NIS game, then now would be the time to pull the trigger on that purchase, because they are clearly hurting for the money.

Nintendo Announces Stupid Voucher Program

This week Nintendo has decided to announce pretty much the dumbest thing ever. They are introducing a voucher system to purchase selected games, but it is only available to people already subscribed to Nintendo Online. Ooh an exclusive offer! To make an offer this exclusive it must be pretty sweet, no? Looks like Nintendo is going to really break the bank with this one, yeah? So what do you get for being a Nintendo subscriber then?

And thus these games offer no saving whatsoever!
Fitness Boxing is one of the SEVEN games available through this scheme which carry a $49.99 price tag!

Well, it seems that you are allowed the profound privilege of paying $100 up front in order to receive a voucher allowing the holder to obtain two digital games from a list of 27 Switch games within the span of one year, after which the voucher expires and becomes worthless. Thus if one is willing to jump through all these hoops, pay upfront for the games they plan to purchase that year, and settle with digital rather than physical versions, then there exists the potential for them to save up to ten dollars per game. One says ‘up to ten dollars’ because roughly a third of the games on this 27 game list are priced at $50, meaning that using the voucher to obtain one of them will result in no savings whatsoever!

If you are currently paying for Nintendo Online, then perhaps now is the time to begin considering ending your subscription. Like if this is the kind of offer that Nintendo makes to their valued subscribers, then what offers would they make to their enemies? This is obviously Nintendo’s riff on Sony and Microsoft’s game discounts, only it has been convoluted to the point of retardation, and barely offers any kind of substantial saving. Offering questionable savings schemes is not uncommon to the games industry, but requiring that your customers be subscribed to your barely operable shitty online service to even access it really takes this to another level. Nintendo has done it again, folks!

One comment

  1. Farewell Istolia, we hardly knew you!

    “Following evaluation of various aspects of Project Prelude Rune” YIKES. Sounds like it couldn’t even meet Squeenix standards, which are pretty low these days.

    Terrible news re. NIS, but your analysis is fair. They have been too willing to push forward with expensive console titles that didn’t really add up. One can’t develop in the console space as cavalierly as in the mobile space. The studio bosses need to get together and decide that just because a game is ‘okay’ and ‘kinda fun’ doesn’t mean it should be given the green light for a console release.

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