Report: PlayStation May Be Phasing Out Sony Japan Studio, Developer Behind Ape Escape, Gravity Rush, Knack

With some high profile departures announced recently, new reports from VGC now suggest that PlayStation is winding down original development at Japan Studio. Speaking with sources familiar with the situation, VGC reports the the “vast majority” of development staff at Japan Studio have either been let go or not had their contracts renewed. According to VGC, the studio will continue to operate its localization and business divisions, and ASOBI Studio, the internal Japan Studio team behind the Astro Bot games, will continue to operate independently.

Formed in 1993, Japan Studio has been known for many of PlayStation’s more quirky and unique titles since the beginning of the platform, having developed franchises like Ape Escape, LocoRoco, Gravity Rush, Knack, and Legend of Dragoon. It also assisted on development of numerous other titles, with around 300 games attached to the studio in some way.

The VGC report is supported by the recent exodus of big names from Japan Studio, including Bloodborne Producer Masaaki Yamagiwa, Video Manager Ryo Sogabe, Executive Producer Masami Yamamoto, and more. Gravity Rush Director Keiichiro Toyama left at the end of 2020 to start his own studio, and the producer for Bloodborne and the Demon’s Souls PS5 remake also left at the end of the year.

Sources told VGC that the scaling back is due to Japan Studio not being profitable in more recent years. As the developer focused on the Japanese market before considering global appeal, PlayStation wanted to focus on broad appeal of its other first-party studios out of the gate. Another source indicated that the writing was on the wall for Japan Studio more than a year ago, starting with the departure of  then president Allan Becker.

This follows other recent reports of Sony “sidelining” Japan and decisive brand decline in the country, as well as Nintendo forcing Sony out of the market there. Sony and PlayStation have repeatedly reiterated the importance of Japan and denied the reports of the company shifting focus away from the country, but these continued reports are telling a different story. The balance has been steadily shifting since Sony moved its PlayStation Global HQ to California in 2016.

VGC also says that it doesn’t think Japan Studio’s recent External Development Department, which would have assisted third-party developers, will continue either after being created last year. This team would have played a regional mirror to Sony Santa Monica in the US and XDEV in Europe. With this report, don’t expect Japan Studio to introduce any drastic new development anytime soon. If any of its IPs do continue, it’s likely they’ll be handed to other first-party studios.

What do you think of the news that PlayStation appears to be soft closing Japan Studio? Do you lament the loss? What are your favorite games from Japan Studio? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

[Source: VGC]