Japanese developer and publisher Atlus has been in business since 1986, and is headquartered in Tokyo.
Of course, in addition to publishing titles from outside developers, such as innovative sleeper Steambot Chronicles, the company's development teams that have created games including recent entries in the macabre Shin Megami Tensei RPG series, as well as the Trauma Center games.
For this 'Breakthrough' award, Gamasutra is honoring its internal Japanese development studio, in particular for managing to enchant the Western market in recent months with gameplay intricacies in the Persona series.
Katsura Hashino was the director and producer for Shin Megami Tensei Persona 3 and is reprising his role for Persona 4. He was also the producer for Trauma Center: Under the Knife.
Shigenori Soejima acted as art director and character designer for Persona 3 and will return to those jobs for sequel Persona 4.
While Atlus has been developing games for many years, the quality of recent titles such as the Persona games, a spinoff of its Shin Megami Tensei series, has set a new bar for console RPGs.
Persona 3, and the subsequent expanded edition Persona 3 FES, garnered a rave reception from critics, who praised the original plot, deep combat, and sim-based resource management system.
Persona 4, which has been developed for the PlayStation 2, recently released in Japan and is due to be released in North America in December.
"Atlus has long been a publisher of niche Japanese RPGs and quirky action games, but the company seems to be coming into its own both in terms of development and publishing. Of course, the former is what interests us here.
The center of this awakening is the Persona series. Persona 3 FES, an updated version of its 2007 title Persona 3, became one of the biggest sleepers on the PlayStation 2 this year.
Its mixture of engrossing plot, J-pop style, and a refried mixture of simulation and RPG gameplay has captured surprisingly large audiences globally.
Persona 4 is by all reports a refinement of the formula that Persona 3 pioneered, while returning to the more disturbing and contemplative storytelling the under-the-radar series was best known for before Persona 3.
In a time when the JRPG genre
has been largely written off by the gaming press - and many gamers - one
company has managed to find a way to successfully revitalize it, and that's why
Atlus deserves a place on this list."
- Christian Nutt