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Death Rattle Game:
Growlanser: Generations | 2004
Working Designs made its video game mark by porting over niche JRPG titles no other American publisher would touch, interjecting their exotic stories with a high level of charm and humor that wouldn't go unappreciated stateside.
As the audience for such games grew, securing the rights to the tactical RPG sequels, Growlanser II & III, seemed cause for celebration. Until Sony stepped in to poop all over that party.
Above: Because it's not an RPG without glowing shards of crystal
Perhaps sick of WD's shenanigans (see below), Sony demanded the two games be sold together as a single PS2 package. With 60 hours of radiant gameplay and multiple endings, as well as the America exclusive Auto-Battles and enhanced voice work, the Growlanser: Generations bundle sold decently. But Sony's insistence that the games not be sold separately sliced projected profits in half, and sandbagged the entire company into nonexistence.
Above: Note the similarity between that weapon and the one carried by Death
Cause for Concern
In hindsight, Working Designs' business strategies seemed doomed from the start, admirable though they may've been. The company quixotically sided with doomed consoles like the Sega CD and TurboGrafix CD over cartridge-based systems like The SNES and Genesis. Although, WD would hit its stride a generation of consoles later on the Saturn and PSX, with well received hits like Dragon Force, Arc the Lad, and the Lunar series.
Left: Credited with kickstarting the "Collector's Editions" trend in North America, Working Designs crammed thier titles with hardbound manuals, character standees, buttons, watches, playing cards and a making-of discs
But with premium packaging came premium prices, and you could say the sticker shock effectively priced out most mid-core gamers. Compounding problems were the lengthy delays the company and their commitment to painstaking localization were becoming notorious for. Magic Knight Rayearth took three years to "Americanize," which gave it the dubious honor of being last game released on the Saturn in the US, some time after Sega had called it quits for the system.
Above: Scenes from Dragon Force and the Lunar series
Hope for Resurrection?
True to its previous mission statement, Working Designs President Victor Ireland is looking to his new creation, Gaijinworks (tee hee). But as your PSP and PS2 can attest, Atlus made the wise decision to start publishing similarly niche titles in America, as well as in Japan, so it remains to be seen whether a similar business model could perform again.
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