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PlayStation is winding down Sony Japan Studio

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Sources: PlayStation is winding down Sony Japan Studio 

MAJORITY OF DEVELOPMENT STAFF HAVE BEEN LET GO, BUT ASOBI TEAM REMAINS, SOURCES TELL VGC

 

Sony is winding down original game development at its oldest first-party developer, Japan Studio, multiple sources have told VGC.

 

The iconic developer behind Ape Escape, Gravity Rush and Knack has seen the vast majority of its development staff let go, the sources said, after their annual contracts were not renewed ahead of the company’s next business year, which begins April 1.

 

Localisation and business staff will remain in place and ASOBI Team – the group responsible for the Astro Bot games – will continue as a standalone studio within Sony Japan, it’s claimed.

Some Japan Studio staff will join ASOBI, we were told, while others have followed Silent Hill and Gravity Rush director Keiichiro Toyama – who left Japan Studio last year – to his new studio Bokeh.

 

It’s not entirely clear if the restructure has affected the studio’s External Development Department, which collaborated on games such as last year’s Demon’s Souls, but one person VGC spoke to suggested it would continue.

 

Sony Interactive Entertainment did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

 

Multiple Japan Studio developers have announced their departure from the company on social media in the last few days, including Bloodborne producer Masaaki Yamagiwa and video manager Ryo Sogabe – who are both leaving at the end of February – while a cryptic tweet from executive producer Masami Yamamoto also hints at his departure.

 

This also follows several high profile staff at the studio leaving. At the end of 2020, the director of Silent Hill and the Gravity Rush series Keiichiro Toyama announced his departure to set up Bokeh Game Studio. He founded this new venture with fellow Sony Japan veterans Kazunobu Sato and Junya Okura.

 

Meanwhile, the producer of Bloodborne and the Demons Souls remake Teruyuki Toriyama said he was leaving SIE Japan at the end of 2020.

 

People with knowledge of the matter told VGC that Sony Japan Studio simply hasn’t been profitable enough in recent years; the developer wanted to create games that appealed to the Japanese market first with hopes of having global appeal, while PlayStation wants the kind of global hits that its other first-party studios produce.

 

One person VGC spoke to said that Japan Studio’s fate had been sealed over a year ago, following the departure of its long-time president Allan Becker, who was replaced by Astro Bot: Rescue Mission director Nicolas Doucet, allegedly due to frustration over the developer’s lack of hits.

 

Another source said that this was part of PlayStation shifting more power from its native Japan to its new US headquarters. Since the company moved its HQ to California in 2016, it has been centralising power there, leading to layoffs and restructuring in SIE’s regional offices.

 

VGC’s reporting corroborates a Bloomberg article from November of last year, which said that Sony Japan had been “sidelined” and its development teams had been cut.

 

PlayStation boss Jim Ryan has downplayed this narrative several times; in December, he claimed that Japan continued to be a hugely important market for Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Meanwhile, just earlier this week Famitsu published an interview with the exec in which he said he considered all of SIE’s studios to be important and that he continued to support Japanese game development for PS5.

 

Bloomberg’s earlier report claimed that, as of November last year, many Japan Studio creators had already been informed that they would not have their rolling contracts renewed.

PlayStation’s US office has held a critical view of the Japanese operation, the publication claimed, and believed that the PlayStation business didn’t need ‘games that only do well in Japan’.

 

Responding to the November Bloomberg report, Sony spokeswoman Natsumi Atarashi said at the time that “our home market remains of utmost importance” and claimed that any suggestion Sony was shifting its focus away from Japan was incorrect and “doesn’t reflect the company’s strategy”.

 

Speaking to VGC’s network partners at GamesIndustry.biz about PlayStation’s globalization efforts, SIE CEO Jim Ryan said we shouldn’t expect its Worldwide Studios to create games designed for specific territories going forwards.

 

“The nature of AAA PlayStation 4 and certainly PlayStation 5 development… We’re obviously not going to have Worldwide Studios make a game for one specific European country,” Ryan said at the time.

 

“And that might have been the case back in the PSP times with Invizimals [which was popular in Spain]. I think this will be where Shuhei Yoshida‘s new task [of working with indies] will come in. If we are nimble, flexible and global, we can work with smaller developers to allow those countries’ specific needs to be met.”

 

Japan Studio was founded back in 1993 and has created IP iconic PlayStation IP like Ape Escape, Patapon and Gravity Rush, in addition to assisting other developers such as FromSoftware, Bluepoint and Q-Games.

 

Japan Studio is Sony Interactive Entertainment‘s oldest first-party studio, with a focus on introducing new styles of gameplay.

 

The developer is known for games such Gravity Rush, Knack, LocoRoco and Ape Escape, as well as its collaborations on the likes of Bloodborne, The Last Guardian and Everybody’s Golf. It most recently worked on PS5’s Demon’s Souls with US studio Bluepoint.

 

SIE Japan Studio also housed Project Siren – aka Team Gravity – which had worked on the Siren and Gravity Rush series.

 

 

https://www.videogameschronicle.com/news/sources-playstation-is-winding-down-sony-japan-studio/

Edited by ziggypossum
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Damn that sucks. 

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There’s a reason why Sony is getting its ass kicked in Japan.

 

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Unfortunate news. I'm just glad Asobi is safe.

Also, this puts even more serious doubt on the rumours of Sony's Silent Hill game. (An "insider" who was pushing those rumours now says that the game may have been recently cancelled)

 

Personally, aside from Astro's Playroom, I didn't super enjoy the small number of Japan Studio games I've tried (Gravity Rush, Ape Escape 2) and don't feel excited to play the other ones I own (Last Guardian, Knack, Bloodborne, Shadow of the Colossus). So I guess this doesn't affect me that much.

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I havent played many of their games but from what i have, i've enjoyed.

They seemed pretty adventurous in terms of gameplay mechanics from the games i can see .

 

We need more adventurous games studios. 

 

Sadness

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36 minutes ago, Undead Wolf said:

But guys, Jim Ryan keeps reiterating that Japan is important to PlayStation, so surely this must be some kind of mistake. 1f644.png

Who needs unique exclusives like Gravity Rush when we can get another western-developed third person open world action game instead? 1f643.png

 

Gravity Rush: A Thiefs End would be nice. Because America stole the Playstation Brand from Japan.

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Let's be honest Ape Escape hasn't seen a new entry in years, Gravity rush was super niche and honestly just okay. Then there's Knack...

 

As long as ASTRO Bot team is in good standing I'm not too concerned. Theyre also supposed to be announcing some new Space IP soon so its not doom and gloom like some of ya'll are acting. 

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Oh shit, if this means we aren't getting another Astro Bot VR I'm going to be pissed - my favorite VR game of all time. Gravity Rush was good, but Gravity Rush 2 took a fun formula and made it a generic open world game with ridiculous amounts of having to fly around - I still enjoyed it, but the first game benefited from slowly ramping up with longer travel times, and flying infinitely was never the most fun part of the game.

 

8 minutes ago, Sikutai said:

Gravity Rush: A Thiefs End would be nice. Because America stole the Playstation Brand from Japan.

 

Nothing was stolen. A corporation restructured itself for its own profit.

Edited by Darling Baphomet
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49 minutes ago, TalalHmd said:

Why keep a studio that don’t make cinematic, third person games, with 2 characters bantering between encounters? 

 

. . .That is exactly what Gravity Rush 2, the best installment in the series, is.

Edited by EcoShifter
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41 minutes ago, Dav9834 said:

 

Moving the company headquarters to California was the worst decision they made

i agree

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That's a real shame, but at least it sounds like some of the staff have been able to join Asobi or move on to Bokeh. Hopefully there will be new opportunities at other studios/teams for those still looking for their next position. 

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https://www.mcvuk.com/business-news/sony-is-shutting-down-development-at-japan-studio

 

Well if this is true I find this news really shocking. I mean, they just released the awesome Astro Boy on PS5 and also worked on PS5 Demon Soul's and also made the awesome Astro Boy, especially the VR one which I really love.

 

I mean, If Sony's best first party studio closes, that seems pretty worrying news to me.

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4 minutes ago, enaysoft said:

https://www.mcvuk.com/business-news/sony-is-shutting-down-development-at-japan-studio

 

Well if this is true I find this news really shocking. I mean, they just released the awesome Astro Boy on PS5 and also worked on PS5 Demon Soul's and also made the awesome Astro Boy, especially the VR one which I really love.

 

I mean, If Sony's best first party studio closes, that seems pretty worrying news to me.

 

Well, its pretty clear in that link that they are to be re-organized, so it will hopefully be even better in the future :)

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This is a bummer because I found their games to usually be unique game experiences that deserve a playthrough. I particularly loved Gravity Rush 1 and 2 so it's a shame if there isn't anymore games set in that universe. 

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On 2/25/2021 at 11:48 AM, EcoShifter said:

. . .That is exactly what Gravity Rush 2, the best installment in the series, is.

 

I mean, not really, it's a pretty generic open world game in terms of structure and you're alone for most of the game time. I liked it, but this is a stretch.

 

6 minutes ago, diskdocx said:

The wording on that is open to interpretation, but I read it as 'the studio made money, just not enough'. This would be easier to accept if the studio was losing money and had a string of failed games. But not every venture needs to make a massive profit. People's livelihoods and jobs should mean more than just an extra dividend to shareholders. If the studio was holding it's own, bringing unique games to the Sony portfolio and generating some amount of profit - this is so much more disappointing.

 

If I was a long time Japanese gamer supporting Sony, I would feel very betrayed by them.

 

That is how corporations tend to operate; e.g. Death Stranding made a profit, but not as much as Sony wanted, so it's unlikely they'll give Kojima as much creative freedom as they did for that venture. Corporations want infinite growth, not sustainable income.

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1 hour ago, Darling Baphomet said:

I mean, not really, it's a pretty generic open world game in terms of structure

 

It really is, though, especially the Vita version. It has a more interesting openworld and uses the ow system better. The amount of improvements GR2 made from GR is utterly ridiculous: length, content, Raven herself being playable(!), online related features, gameplay depth, story depth (this includes the conclusion of multiple story arcs that GR glaringly left open!), gameplay improvements (stasis and gravity slide being the most apparent, bosses, combat is just no contest at all, etc), quality of life aspects, soundtrack, cast and character designs, themes, exploration, powers, traversal, replay-value (especially, like my god), world-building, presentation in most cases, etc. GR is far more limiting as a game and especially product, entirely. I love both games, but GR2 is indefinitely better when you consider the game as a whole rather than selective areas you care about. The faults (even if lets say it has more of them than GR) it has are outweighed by the pros.

 

Quote

and you're alone for most of the game time. I liked it, but this is a stretch.

 

There are still a lot of parts with Kat and Raven talking to each other during the gameplay segments of the story, expositional and cutscenes' based. The same way the Uncharted and TLOU (mainly Part II) series don't always have you with a companion (which there are a good amount of when it's just you as Nathan or Ellie/Abby), with people still referencing those games often for "cinematic third person games with dialogue between two characters", GR2 falls under the same category. It takes a few episodes, but it does happen fairly often after "meeting" Raven. After all, the game focuses on teamwork between her and Kat. Not to mention Raven's importance to not only her but the story too, and as a result she is around often. Thus dialogue between two characters (in a cinematic, third-person game) :l

Edited by EcoShifter
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Not great news. Since Sony switched the PlayStation seat of power to the USA, I was afraid something like this would happen. And it did. Sometimes being right sucks. Is anyone else afraid PlayStation might become another Xbox?

 

https://www.vg247.com/2021/02/15/bokeh-game-studio-horror-game/

It's good that Bokeh will not stick to just one system. Their new horror game will be PC first, but they plan for it to be multiplatform.

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1 hour ago, RadiantFlamberge said:

Not great news. Since Sony switched the PlayStation seat of power to the USA, I was afraid something like this would happen. And it did. Sometimes being right sucks. Is anyone else afraid PlayStation might become another Xbox?

 

https://www.vg247.com/2021/02/15/bokeh-game-studio-horror-game/

It's good that Bokeh will not stick to just one system. Their new horror game will be PC first, but they plan for it to be multiplatform.

 

The 'Americanisation' of Sony PlayStation initially started with the Shawn Layden era. He busted the kneecaps of a bunch of non-American studios like:

  • Bigbig Studios
  • Studio Liverpool
  • Evolution Studios (this one still hurts me)
  • Guerrilla Cambridge
  • Manchester Studio

And what's the left-over wisdom for creating a high concentration of studios in U.S.A? Developers have to operate and try to develop games in a country where COVID-19 is the worst, worse than any other country, even the UK. 

Shawn Layden also fucked over the Gravity Rush series by setting retail exclusivity to Amazon for GR:Remastered. I remember that year, going into forums and seeing people asking where they could buy a copy of the game because they weren't the digital types. It was completely sold out from Amazon and there was still more interest from newbies who wanted to try out the series but eventually they moved on when it turned out to be a dead end.

Then comes Gravity Rush 2. What does the head of SIE Layden do for a gem of a game like this? Gives it an absymal marketing. That combined with the GRR fuck-up led to mediocre sales.

 

When Jim Ryan came in, he had this pitch that he was more of an international type of leadership guy. He was someone who worked the Europe region and some people say he's the reason why PS3 eventually overtook 360 in the end of 7th gen.  Now I don't know what the internal conversation has been like, but it seems to me that a lot of veterans of Japan Studio were not happy with the hierachy of leadership shifting to ASOBI as overlord. Another person in the equation here is Hermen Hulst (head of PS Studios). He nurtured Horizon: Zero Dawn  so it's safe to say that a Dutch executive had input in this.

 

I think it sucks that key creatives who gave us Gravity Rush are gone. I think it's unfair they've been punished by the current leadership because of the past regime. But I hope things will prevail. I read before this restructure that Japan Studio was the largest in PS Studio by headcount, so maybe even after the restructuring, they will still be a sizeable studio. Santa Monica studio has also gone through something like this, after GoW Ascension came out and directors were leaving.

 

2 hours ago, Darling Baphomet said:

 

I mean, not really, it's a pretty generic open world game in terms of structure and you're alone for most of the game time. I liked it, but this is a stretch.

 

 

Did we play the same game? Kat is with Dusty most of the time and I don't see how omni-directional exploration and city-scapes is "a pretty generic open world game in terms of structure".

Edited by Eraezr
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