Sony’s oldest first-party developer, Japan Studio, is winding down development, according to sources who’ve spoken to VGC.
Japan Studio, known for developing series like Knack, Siren, Ape Escape and Gravity Rush, has been seeing an exodus of talent of late, which seems to be culminating in a round of layoffs ahead of Sony’s next fiscal year, beginning April 1.
While the majority of the staff seems to have been let go, at least one development team contained within the studio’s umbrella appears to still be intact: Asobi Team, the team behind Astro Bot Rescue Mission and Astro’s Playroom.
VGC notes that Japan Studio’s localisation and business teams should remain intact alongside Asobi. VGC also reports that while it’s “not entirely clear” how these changes will affect Japan Studio’s external development team, which has had a hand in numerous Playstation titles like Bloodborne or last year’s Demon’s Souls remake, one source said operations “would continue.”
Sources familiar with the situation at Japan Studio have told VGC that the studio “simply hasn’t been profitable enough in recent years,” developing games for a Japanese audience first, while PlayStation has been looking for bigger, broader tentpole games that can be global hits. This apparently falls in line with reporting from Bloomberg that Sony has been consolidating its power in the west more and more, marginalizing its Japanese studios, partners and divisions, leaving them “sidelined.”
This marginalization seems to have manifested in departures ahead of today’s news. Key talents at the studio have been leaving for other ventures for some time now, perhaps clueing us into how long there’s been trouble at Japan Studio. Keiichiro Toyama, the director of Silent Hill who then formed Team Siren under Japan Studio, left the studio in late 2020, with other Japan Studio developers and formed his own studio, Bokeh Game Studios. Teruyuki Toriyama, producer on both Bloodborne and the Demon’s Souls remake, similarly left the company at the end of 2020.
Japan Studio isn’t entirely dead yet and while we don’t know what to expect from them from here on out, you can probably safely place a bet on more Astro Bot from Asobi. In the meantime, pour one out for Patapon and all the weirder tiles we probably won’t hear about after today.