AlphaDream, developer of such classic mobile Mario role-playing games as Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, has filed for bankruptcy. AlphaDream has produced seven Mario games for Nintendo platforms, along with a handful of Hamtaro titles and other miscellany. The studio’s first game — a card battling RPG called Koto Battle: Tengai no Moribito — was released for Game Boy Color in 2001.
AlphaDream had accumulated $3.7 million in debt as of March 2018, according to Kotaku’s translation of a Yahoo! Japan post about the filing. That figure, as I’m sure you noticed, is well over a year old, so there’s no telling how much additional debt AlphaDream may have accrued since then.
Bankruptcy in Japan works about the same way that it does in these United States — a company, unable to square up with its mounting list of creditors, goes to court and says “hey, we donked it.” After the court acknowledges that the company has indeed donked it, a trustee is appointed by the court to oversee the liquidation (read: sale) of everything the bankrupt company owns. That final lump sum is then divided up amongst the company’s creditors, based on a hierarchy of needs that I’m not sufficiently educated enough to understand.
The bankrupted corporate entity is dissolved once that’s all over, so AlphaDream will no longer exist when proceedings are completed. Given that the vast majority of AlphaDream’s games were made using licenses owned by other companies (specifically Hamtaro and Mario), it’s unlikely that it owns any intellectual properties noteworthy enough to make up that full $3.7 million on their own. Most of AlphaDream’s debt will be recovered through the auction of office supplies, computer equipment, any real estate the company may have owned, and other physical goods of that sort.
Based in Tokyo, AlphaDream was founded in 2000 (then under the name “Alpha Star”) by former Squaresoft president Tetsuo Mizuno, whose pre-AlphaDream credits include beloved Super NES classics Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and Chrono Trigger, as well as groundbreaking PlayStation titles such as Bushido Blade, Xenogears, and Parasite Eve.
Since leaving Squaresoft, Mizuno has overseen AlphaDream’s development of the Mario & Luigi series of portable RPGs, which first debuted in 2003 on the Game Boy Advance. The most recent original game in the series, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, launched on Nintendo 3DS in 2015 to mixed reviews.
I qualify that with “original” because in January of this year, AlphaDream also released Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey, a remake of its 2009 Nintendo DS game Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. The 2019 version featured updated graphics, overhauled combat systems, and a new mode detailing Bowser Jr.‘s whereabouts during the events of Bowser’s Inside Story.
It’ll be interesting to see where Mizuno and the rest of AlphaDream’s Squaresoft alumni, including Super Mario RPG director Chihiro Fujioka, end up after the bankruptcy proceedings are finished. A bankruptcy in Japan can take anywhere from three months to several years to fully conclude, based on the relative complexity of the company in question, so if anyone at AlphaDream wants to start another new studio, we probably won’t hear about it for a minute.