I am not going to sit here and try and convince you that Working Designs was one of the best publishers out there. They were far from it. Their role playing game releases were riddled with current event innuendo and jokes that date them today. The few action games they released were marketed in less than stellar ways. They made a lot of mistakes in their 19 years of game publishing. The thing is, they also did a lot right. Some wickedly cool stuff was done right. They showed support for the off the wall platforms such as the Turbo Grafx-16 CD-ROM when it was still $400+. They were not shy about supporting the Sega CD either (single handedly the reason many probably purchased one). They also did some bonehead moves like not supporting the Dreamcast in any way and the aforementioned premature dating of their RPG’s. It has been 10 years since we saw Working Designs close their doors.
The early years of Working Designs were pretty much stuck on the Turbo Grafx-16 platform. Specifically the CD-ROM attachment that was so expensive it was quite prohibitive to most supporters owning it. It is unclear if the boost in sales that TTI/NEC saw with the release of the Turbo Duo was felt by Working Designs or not. By the time TTI came around, Working Designs was already working on Sega CD stuff but they did release Exile: Wicked Phenomenon on the Duo. Interestingly, Working Designs only released two titles on cartridge during their whole tenure. Anyone care to guess which two?
Victor Ireland, founder and pretty much boss for the whole time, worked closely with the translation teams on many of the releases. Working Designs only stepped away from hard hitting situations in the games when it was impressed upon them to do so. This meant getting an almost exact version of Exile on the Turbo Grafx-16 CD-ROM, complete with questionable material. The Sega Genesis version, published by Renovation Games, was heavily censored. As was Cadash, published on Genesis by Taito Games.
Working Designs would bounce from console to console throughout the years. This was supposedly due to behind the scenes disagreements between Victor Ireland and those in control of the Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation, Sega Dreamcast, etc. It is all hearsay as no one has gone on record to discuss this area of the business.
Shortly after the closing of Working Designs, it was announced that Victor Ireland would be launching Gaijinworks. Historically, Gaijinworks has proven to be the spiritual successor to Working Designs. Titles are niche and unique, much like most of the Working Designs catalog. Gaijinworks continues the tradition of snubbing cartridges with their releases, only one so far has been for the Nintendo DS (Miami Law, released in 2009).
The reasons behind Working Designs closing is a mystery. Some state it is because they had trouble getting games out. Some say otherwise. Either way, we reluctantly celebrate the 10th anniversary of Working Designs closing their doors.
Gaijinworks website is available at www.gaijinworks.com
Our historical article for Vay on Sega CD is available here on Retro Gaming Magazine.
A fan translation for Dragon Force II on Sega Saturn is in the works by Verve Fanworks, covered by RGM. WD did the honors for the original game.
What is your favorite WD game? Can you pick just one?