Bloodborne executive producer Masami Yamamoto has announced he is the latest high-profile departure from Sony Japan Studio.
Speaking on Twitter, Yamamoto stated that he had left on February 28th (Translation: DeepL, adjusted). “Including my previous job at SME, I’ve been with the Sony Group for 25 years. My work at 1st has been filled with happiness as a game creator. This is all thanks to your support!”
It seems Yamamoto will not be leaving the industry however. “Oh, and from now on I can make any PF [platform] game I want… Soooo strange a feeling!” Yamamoto had previously been a producer on Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins, and later executive producer for Bloodborne and Bloodborne: The Old Hunters.
Previously, Demon’s Souls (2020) and Bloodborne producer Teruyuki Toriyama left the company, followed by Siren and Gravity Rush creator Keiichiro Toyama departing Sony alongside Sato Kazunobu and Junya Okura. Most recently, Bloodborne producer Masaaki Yamagiwa left.
Japan Studios is best known for Ape Escape, Gravity Rush, Knack; and assisting other developers on major PlayStation titles such as Bloodborne, Shadow of the Colossus, and Patapon.
VGC reported that according to multiple anonymous sources, Sony Japan Studio was “winding down” original game development, and the “vast majority” of development staff had been let go.
The reason for the drastic restructuring is reportedly due to Sony Japan Studio not being profitable enough in recent years. The developer had desires to make games that appealed primarily to the Japanese market, hoping it would still have global appeal. Meanwhile, SIE wanted “global hits” akin to what its other first-party studios have produced.
SIE later provided an official statement, confirming Sony Japan Studio “will be re-organized into a new organization.” On April 1st they 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 reason for this loss of faith may be born of restrictions on what developers can do, and a growing lack of faith in the Japanese market. In late December 2018, SIE Japan Asia President Atsushi Morita stated the then recent spate of censorship of anime-styled sexual content on PlayStation 4 games had been “to meet global standards.” This censorship was seemingly forced in Japan.
SIE frequently cites global and community standards as reasons for their censorship practices. This has led to Japanese developers to release on other platforms, or create different versions.
This was the case with D3’s “Breast-Expansion Dungeon RPG“ Omega Labyrinth Life, which was released uncensored on the Nintendo Switch at launch. A censored version for the PlayStation 4 titled Labyrinth Life (omitting the “Omega” which is stylized as a busty girl in the logo) was released also at a reduced price to reflect the cut content.
The “restrictions on expression and suppressed the release of titles for Japanese users” was also cited by an analyst for the Ace Research Institute; claiming that it is “definitive” PlayStation will fall in Japan. He also claimed SIE were not realizing the region’s potential. That same analyst also claimed Nintendo has an “oligopoly” in Japan, while PlayStation game sales have been practically “eradicated.”
Most recently, CyberConnect2’s president claimed SIE have policies against depicting dismemberment or missing limbs for Japanese developers. This may be born mostly of criticism and concern from people within Japan however, rather than additional complaints from overseas.
In addition, Bloomberg reported claims that PlayStation employees and developers were losing faith in Japan as a market. The anonymous employees claimed that the company had begun to focus more on the US, after the PlayStation 4 had been disappointing in Japan.
According to several employees of PlayStation Japan, this resulted in the Japanese office being (in Bloomberg’s words) “sidelined” when it came to planning the promotion of the PlayStation 5. Employees from Tokyo told Bloomberg they have been waiting for instructions.
SIE CEO Jim Ryan denied those and prior reports, insisting that the Japanese market is still important to them. It should be noted that Japanese fans were not happy with Sony’s decision to switch the X and O commands to the western standard, and two major PlayStation 5 livestreams premiering at 5 a.m. JST.