Video game companies like to keep the mysterious machinations of publishing deals behind closed doors. Only sometimes - usually via leaks - do we learn the hows and the whys of exclusives and contracts.
This is one of those times.
Our story starts with NIS America boss Takuro Yamashita who, in an interview with UK video game retail magazine MCV discussed SNK Heroines, a game NIS America is publishing on Switch and PlayStation 4. SNK Heroines is set to launch on a cartridge on Switch, and download only on PS4. Why?
"I'll give you a scoop!" Yamashita begins.
"Originally we signed with SNK on SNK Heroines just on the PS4 format. Then last year an opportunity happened at Gamescom, two third parties happened to meet all together outside Nintendo's meeting room. The first meeting was between NIS America and Nintendo of Europe (NOE) and the next meeting was between SNK and NOE.
"Of course, these two were separate meetings. Then after the meeting influential people from SNK came to our booth and said: 'Hey, Mr. Yamashita, is it possible to cancel our contact on PS4? Nintendo wants to work on this title on an exclusive basis!'
"So these third parties come together and the team at NIS and SNK decided to go with Nintendo for the western market. Physical copy-wise, it's going to be a Switch exclusive. PS4-wise it's going to be just digital. That's the deal. We will not release a packaged version for PS4 format. Then Nintendo will act as distributor for this game. Then they promised to buy a lot of units. I can't reveal the number of units they've guaranteed, that's secret talk."
An interesting anecdote, there, that touches on how video game publishing deals are done. But then things get even more interesting, as Yamashita bashes Sony.
"We're starting to do more on Nintendo Switch. SNK Heroines is not the only one. We've teamed up with Nintendo Europe for our other Switch titles. They support us in a good way. Compared to that, Sony is not friendly with small publishers like us. They just care about big Japanese companies. Also, if we simultaneously release a Switch version and a PS4 version of the same title, currently the sales trend is two to one. That means the Switch version sells twice as much as the PS4 version. Physically and digitally."
Clearly, Yamashita upset, well, pretty much everyone involved in this story: NIS America staff, SNK staff and, most importantly, staff at Sony, who will have just adored the revelation that NIS America games sell twice as many copies on the Switch than the PS4, and that "Sony is not friendly with small publishers like us" line.
Overnight, NIS America issued press - Eurogamer included - a statement from Yamashita himself that amounts to a grovelling apology. Here it is, in full:
"I must extend my most heartfelt apology to SNK and Sony Interactive Entertainment. The truth is that the Nintendo Switch exclusive plan was originally decided by NIS America, and only later among discussions with influential SNK people did we decide the best option moving forward would be to have as much exposure as possible. This is why that in the end, we are bringing the PS4 version of SNK Heroines to the market, and even supported this version at the NISA Press Event and in the press meetings in February and March.
"In discussing matters with MCV, I thought that some insider information would make them interested in the overall conversation, and such lip service did not stand on the side of truth.
"Once again, I apologise to SNK and Sony if it made them seem negative towards the PS4 platform in any way, and stress that the original goal of a 'Nintendo Switch exclusive' version of SNK Heroines came from NISA."
That's damage control, right there. No doubt Sony had a... quiet word with Yamashita after the interview went live, and I suspect those "influential" people at SNK had a bit of a chat, too. Yamashita is saying NIS America - he - not SNK was behind the Nintendo Switch exclusive plan. And he's said sorry for the "Sony is not friendly with small publishers like us" line, too.
While SNK Heroines is hardly the biggest game in the world, this case has highlighted how sensitive publishers can be to statements made about them or their policies in the press - and how much they detest the press airing their dirty laundry in public. In the cloak and dagger world of publishing, the door behind which these meetings take place is, most of the time, firmly shut.
I imagine NIS America will, from now on, lock the door and throw away the key.