Gravity Rush artist and animator Shunsuke Saito and senior Bloodborne producer Kentaro Motomura are the latest departures from Sony Japan Studio.
Saito’s tweet published today was short and to the point, with no other details provided other than announcing his departure in both English and Japanese. It was accompanied by artwork of Gravity Rush protagonist Kat, as seen above. Saito was the character designer for Gravity Rush’s main characters, and the art director on Gravity Rush 2.
Motomura’s tweet (also published today) expressed gratitude for the games he had worked on, and that he would continue to produce games.
“Today, as of the end of March, I will be retiring from SIE, the company I have worked for for many years. I can’t thank you enough for the many games I’ve been involved in, including Dark Cloud, WildArms, Soul Sacrifice, Bloodborne, and Everybody’s GOLF. I will continue to produce games in the future, so please continue to support me! Thank you very much!”
Translation: DeepL, Adjusted
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 and executive producer Masami Yamamoto 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.