Treasure Co.

The history of the forerunners of modern indie games.


The history of Treasure Co., and the ways they changed the game industry.

Jackson Sutherland, Contributor

To quote Masato Maegawa, the founder of Treasure Co., Ltd, “If we don’t make the game interesting to ourselves, we won’t be satisfied with it.” This quote sums up the ideals of the game developer Treasure Co, Ltd. and their games — along with the modern indie game industry.

Frustration grew amongst a small group of employees at Konami as the project that would become Gunstar Heroes was repeatedly rejected. Eventually, they broke away from the giant and formed their own company. They were quickly met with difficulties as a small studio with no publisher.

The cost and difficulty of making indie games in the 1990’s was incredibly high; unlike today’s developers having a wider array of resources available to them; and yet Treasure was able to create instant classics like the aforementioned Gunstar Heroes and even managed to beat Nintendo to creating the first side-scrolling 2-D game for the Nintendo 64 with Mischief Makers.

While they currently have not released any games since 2014, they have instead focused on porting and remastering their back catalog for modern systems and platforms.

Which is making their games even more interesting than they ever were. Treasure Co., Ltd. revolutionized the idea that an indie game developer can publish their own games and be successful. As Maegawa said in an interview with Gamesbeat, “The threshold for a small studio to self-publish its own game has been slowly getting lower, we feel.”  To elaborate, In the 90’s publishing a game meant spending an incredible amount of money. With the development of modern platforms like Steam, developers can remain individual and no longer need to find publishers.

If any studio were to develop games before Treasure, they would have needed a publisher, a larger company with the financial resources to buy the licensing for the hardware the game would run on, as well as the cartridges and/or disks the game would be stored on. Because the publisher was paying for all this, they would take a large amount of the profit, and also demand a fair amount of creative control over games in development, so as to maintain those profits. Treasure published games themselves; a task unheard of at the time; and made a profit. This self-publishing model inspired many of today’s indie games, as well as paving the way for platforms like Steam.

With many of their classic games getting additional polish, they definitely do not stand out due to the traditions they helped set; they rather stand out due to the sheer quality of their games, both on the original hardware or otherwise.