Last Saturday at Otomate Party, a huge bombshell was announced that no one familiar with the otome game scene had ever expected: QuinRose was making its return as an Otomate label.
I’m sure for those newer to the otome game scene (cough came in after 2016 cough), they’re all wondering so what? So I’m here to catch everyone up to what exactly QuinRose is/what happened to them.
What is QuinRose?
QuinRose (QR from now on) was an all ages PC and console otome game company that had started in 2005. Their game’s distinguishing characteristics were that they were all fantasy romances that used either fairy tale or classic settings featuring independent heroines with a lot of personality as well as a strong dose of sexy content. Their most well known game series would likely be Heart no Kuni no Alice (aka. Alice in the Country of Hearts) which ended up with several remakes and ports, continuations, an animated movie and stage plays.
Aside from particular games, they were particularly well-known for constantly pushing out games throughout the year, with 11 games released in 2013.
On September 25th 2015, the company filed for bankruptcy and the company was closed down. The main reasons cited were increased competition in the market and introduction of mobile games causing sales to drop (source). Boy did they get ahead of themselves ( ´˂˃` )
Satsuki Kou is most well-known as the lead writer and head of QR.
“Other” Satsuki Kou
This section is a reference to the ghost writers who claimed to be employed by QR to write under the same pen name, Satsuki Kou.
Scenario writer Azumi Shione (current pen name Nanase Mio) wrote up a blog post on the dawn of the dissolution of QR claiming credit for a lot of the writing in the Alice series games including the prototype and scenario for all of Dia no Kuni no Alice ~Wonderful Mirror World~, Heart no Kuni no Alice ~Wonderful Twin World~ and fixing up/adding to the remakes of Heart/Clover no Kuni no Alice. She says it was fine to publicise this information because the confidentiality agreement she signed doesn’t exist anymore with the destruction of QR.
On top of this, she claims that the real Satsuki Kou barely makes any input in those games written by other Satsuki Kou.
While this post caused a fuss in the QR fanbase, a comment made on the post by “an ex-employee” further inflamed the situation.
Since deleted on the official post, the comment basically said “no you’re wrong, it’s the opposite of what you say”. It stated that the data Azumi had sent them had to be rewritten and the final product was “a completely different thing”.
The comment also mentions specific details of Azumi’s employment at QR such as her contract and time at the company which lead some to speculate that this “ex-employee” was actually Satsuki Kou herself. (´°ω°｀)
QR in its last days
While this section does not focus specifically on Satsuki Kou, the condition of the company in its final days does reflect poorly on the management of the company by her and those high up beside her.
Mermaid Gothic and its pornification
Mermaid Gothic was a PSP game released by QR using The Little Mermaid as its motif. Additionally a PS Vita port was announced prior to QR announcing bankruptcy.
The artist for Mermaid Gothic, Taira Miya, was informed the following Summer after release that there would be a social game version of it released. Apparently according to her contract, it did not rule out the possibility of ports so she accepted this.
Following this, a strange rumour about a “porn version of her game” reached her and upon searching, she found Mermaid Gothic in the explicit section of DMM games. Upon playing the game, she found the characters she drew being involved in explicit scenes that she did not draw. This was when she realised it was a mishmash of her original art with someone else’s. She then sued QR for reputational damage but soon after, QR went bankrupt. (source)
Given that QR was clearly not going to do anything about it anymore, Taira took to twitter to announce that she was not involved.
She also added that DMM was accommodating and removed the game soon after she had contacted them about the game. (source)
Filing for bankruptcy
Right up until the day before QR was to announce their bankruptcy, they were still promoting their new games/ports. Staff were still being asked to do work for new games without knowledge that they were to lose their job soon.
We know that staff were not informed that QR was going bankrupt since most of their staff expressly stated they were not informed and had no idea what was happening with all the games that were announced.
On top of not telling staff they were closing down, it is now known that they owed 121 creditors (which includes staff) about 270 million yen (~2.5 million USD). (source)
To make matters worse, Satsuki Kou let slip in a post that the decision within the company to file for bankruptcy was made in July of that year (announcement was in September), meaning they wilfully destroyed their staffs’ lives.
Not only that, but Satsuki Kou was able to transfer QR’s IP to Burlesque (her private archive) means that it still belonged to her rather than being subject to liquidation as per normal bankruptcy protocols. This begs the question as to whether staff were ultimately paid for their work.
If that ain’t douchebaggery I don’t know what is.
QR and Otomate’s relationship
Ultimately one of QR’s song writers, Mari (who also wrote under the name “QuinRose”), was taken in by Otomate in 2016 following the collapse of QR. This caused a fuss in the Jpn otome game community, who all thought Otomate was buying QR but this was false.
Otomate released a statement on twitter saying they were only allowing Mari to use her pen name from her QR days, and had no plans on releasing QR games under Otomate.
So since then, any hope of QR’s games being continued and released were basically killed.
Ultimately QR ended up disappearing from the public eye, as did Satsuki Kou.
On the 29th of May, 2019 Satsuki Kou started a twitter account and tweeted that she had something to announce.
And then Spade no Kuni no Alice was announced by Otomate under QuinRose Reborn.
Clearly Otomate had reached some agreement with Satsuki Kou, as well as (somehow) roping Fujimaru and Mari back into this project. How though, I’ll keep wondering.
My speculation on what happened with QR and Otomate teaming up
Why Otomate decided to bring back QR is up for speculation. I read in the Jpn otome game community that Otomate may be feeling some pressure from the low sales for Switch otome games which forced them to rely on QR’s properties to get some extra cash. This is possible but potentially spells doom for the otome game genre in general, particularly in Japan.
Another less savoury possibility is that QR may be acting something like a phoenix company. A phoenix company is where a company transfers or sells it’s assets (e.g. intellectual property) to a separate business entity under the same management or ownership at a discounted rate to reduce it’s liability during bankruptcy, as those assets are no longer a part of the original company and hence cannot be sold off to repay creditors. I don’t know business law in Japan nor can I find any info on it so I’ll just hope this entire thing wasn’t just some shady way to avoid paying staff for money owed.
In the end, whether QR coming back is a good thing or not depends largely on how they’re gonna operate this time around.
Most people who lived through the first QR disaster have mixed feelings about the current announcement, especially with Satsuki Kou’s involvement.
But I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.