Atlus Co. Limited is a Japanese video game developer, publisher and distributor wholly owned and controlled by SEGA, based in Setagaya City, one of the Special Wards of Tokyo. The company is best known for the wider Megami Tensei franchise (Which also includes branch series like Persona, DemiKids and Last Bible) as well as the Etrian Oddysey, Power Instinct and Trauma Center series, along with several one-off games. In addition, Atlus also acts as a publisher for smaller developers, wholly owns Career Soft (The developers of the Growlanser series), and also operates selfie booths across East Asia (Purikura). The company's mascot is Jack Frost, a demon from Shin Megami Tensei II.
Beginnings (1986 - 2003)
Atlus was initially founded in April of 1986 and mostly developed titles for other publishers until 1989, when it began to make its own games. The Megami Tensei series quickly became popular, but was largely kept away from the West due to its frequent religious references and taboo, which Atlus presumed would've caused controversy especially in the rural United States. By 1994, Atlus had diversified in its offerings, now also selling karaoke equipment and operating selfie booths — by 1996, these services accounted for over 70% of Atlus's revenue. In 1997, Atlus became a publicly listed company on the JASDAQ stock exchange, and in 2001, bought Career Soft.
Acquisition, sale and dissolution (2003 - 2013)
In 2003, Japanese toy maker Takara bought Atlus. This was short-lived, as in 2006, Takara sold the company to the Index Corporation. Index initially operated Atlus as a subsidiary, but in 2010, they dissolved Atlus altogether while retaining their game rights and brand name, the latter of which was used as a marketing tool. As part of the merger, most employees of what was once Atlus were relocated to Index. From 2010 to 2013, Atlus effectively didn't exist, being reduced entirely to a "label" with no employees, autonomy, offices or legal structure. This caused a large wave of concern across Atlus's fanbase.
Index suffered from serious financial problems throughout this period, and was accused of illegal practices. In 2013, following a successful investigation that revealed the company to be guilty of fraud, Index was forced to enter bankruptcy and dismantle and sell itself by the Tokyo District Court, while at the same time suffering from US$250 million in debts. A large-scale bidding war for ownership of the company ensued, which was eventually won by SEGA with a bid of US$128 million. In 2014, Index's accusations of fraud were fully confirmed as true when its Chairman Masami Ochiai and his wife Yoshimi Ochiai (The president of Index) were arrested by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office for falsifying stock reports, accounting fraud and inflating prices.
Restoration by SEGA and resurgency (2013 - present)
SEGA's first action as the new owner of Index was to fully recreate Atlus following its three-year 'interregnum' of not existing, and its seperation from Index. On 5 September 2013, they created a new company known as Sega Dream Corporation, transferred all of Index's assets and employees to it, and renamed it to Index Corporation. In February 2014, SEGA finalized the splitting of Index; the 'old' Index Corporation, which was created as Sega Dream, was renamed to Atlus and retained all of Atlus's assets as well as Career Soft; the rest was moved into a 'new' Index Corporation. SEGA later sold what remained of Index to Sawada in December 2015, finally ending an era of union between Atlus and Index.
Under SEGA's leadership and ownership, Atlus has seen a huge resurgence in popularity, success and stability. The Persona series achieved a worldwide fanbase and cult following, becoming a cultural icon in the process, and the other Megami Tensei games finally started to find their audience in the West. Through SEGA, Atlus also has a far larger budget and much more resources; as of 2018, they have 270 full-time employees. This all allows Atlus to develop a variety of AAA games simultaneously without any serious side-effects.
- Megami Tensei
- Devil Children
- Devil Summoner
- Devil Survivor
- Last Bible
- Majin Tensei
- Shin Megami Tensei
- Etrian Oddysey
- Trauma Center
- Power Instinct
- Career Soft
- Langrisser (Formerly, now owned by Extreme)
Other notable games
- Puzzle Boy
- Radiant Historia