According to VGC, Sony is reportedly shutting down original game development at Japan Studio, the company’s oldest first-party developer. The studio, which has produced Ape Escape, Gravity Rush and Knack, has laid off most of its developers after their annual contracts lapsed.
Japan Studio will maintain its localization and business staff, while the ASOBI Team, which develops the Astro Bot games, will remain as a standalone studio within Sony Japan. It is unclear if the changes have affected the studio’s External Development Department, which produced last year’s Demon’s Souls.
Bloodborne producer Masaaki Yamagiwa and video manager Ryo Sogabe are among the developers that have left the company, while executive producer Masami Yamamoto has hinted that he is also moving on. According to spokesperson for Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), the company will relocate external development and other divisions within PlayStation Studios on April 1.
“JAPAN Studio will be re-centered to Team ASOBI, the creative team behind Astro’s PLAYROOM, allowing the team to focus on a single vision and build on the popularity of Astro’s PLAYROOM,” the spokesperson added. “In addition, the roles of external production, software localization, and IP management of JAPAN Studio titles will be concentrated within the global functions of PlayStation Studios.”
Last year, Silent Hill and Gravity Rush series director Keiichiro Toyama departed the company to establish Bokeh Game Studio with fellow Sony Japan veterans Kazunobu Sato and Junya Okura. Meanwhile, Teruyuki Toriyama, the producer of Bloodborne and the Demons Souls remake, also announced that he was leaving SIE Japan.
In response to claims that SIE was sidelining local development teams, Sony spokeswoman Natsumi Atarashi said,“our home market remains of utmost importance” and denied claims that Sony was moving away from Japan, stating that that “doesn’t reflect the company’s strategy.”
Japan Studio, which was founded in 1993, has developed iconic PlayStation IP like Ape Escape, Patapon and Gravity Rush. In addition, the company’s developers have collaborated with FromSoftware, Bluepoint and Q-Games on titles like Bloodborne, The Last Guardian, Everybody’s Golf and Demon’s Souls.
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