Wonder Momo 001 - 20140129Yesterday, Shiftylook announced that their service will cease operations. The company’s blog was updated with an open letter to readers, which was equal parts eager and melancholy. On one hand, the staff expressed eagerness that they were able to revive a number of lower-key proeprties for Namco Bandai. On the other, there was an air of sadness that their work was done.

In the coming weeks, ShiftyLook will wind down their operations. The comics will end as follows:

  • Bravoman: #300
  • Wonder Momo: #200
  • Katamari Damacy: #150
  • Galaga: #100
  • Valkyrie: #100
  • Klonoa: #65
  • Tower of Babel: #26
  • Dig Dug: Volume 2, #18

The Bravoman: Binja Bash! mobile game will be removed from digital markets on March 30, while the Namco High browser game will be discontinued on June 30, 2014. The Wonder Momo games will be released on schedule, while the anime series will remain on YouTube and Crunchyroll. In addition, all Wonder Momo merchandise will remain for sale via their respective outlets.

That said, the announcement is fairly surprising. Shiftylook was an outlet that, just three weeks ago, had staff on ANN talking up their service. Wonder Momo just received an anime adaptation that, while mediocre, sported decent production values and a fairly large budget. At the same time, Namco High was receiving high praise both from the Homestuck crowd (creator Andrew Hussie lent his talent and several characters to the project) and from the larger visual novel crowd. Overall, things seemed to be looking up, from a glance.

To see the plug pulled so quickly, therefore, is something that’s inspired a unique combination of confusion and interest among observers. Some expressed dismay, others showed indifference. Common arguments asserted that the shut-down was due to a lack of profits, or that Namco misjudged the market ShiftyLook was created to capture.

Unfortunately, in a situation like this, we also see more rampant speculation begin to arise on social media and in forums. Conversations are being colored by more extreme arguments, like the idea that this is a nail in the coffin for outlets like Daisuki. Without concrete figures on ShiftyLook’s performance, though, it’s impossible to really say what led to the service’s demise, or what its closure means for Namco Bandai’s other ventures. Regardless of the reasoning, today is a sad day for fans of the service. A number of talented people will be reshuffled or laid off, and a number of quirky intellectual properties will again become dormant.

What will be truly interesting to see, though, is whether Namco kicks off a similar initiative in the future. If ShiftyLook was as successful as their open letter claims, then I don’t doubt that we’ll see a similar initiative kick off before too long. If not, then they at least tried to capture a new ocean of customers?