Sony: JAPAN Studio to be “re-centered” to Team ASOBI to focus on a “single vision” and to build future Astro games

Sony: JAPAN Studio to be "re-centered" to Team ASOBI to focus on a "single vision" and to build future Astro games
In an official statement provided to IGN, Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) has confirmed that JAPAN Studio will be re-structured into a new organization as of this April.

The Tokyo-based, Sony first-party game studio which has existed since the dawn of the original PlayStation and brought the world countless original, experimental and memorable games over 26 years and over five generations of PlayStation hardware will soon cease to exist in the form that Sony gamers have come to know it, according to the studio:

In an effort to further strengthen business operations, SIE can confirm PlayStation Studios JAPAN Studio will be re-organized into a new organization 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.

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.

JAPAN Studio

The restructuring announcement coincides with several recent staff departures from JAPAN Studio, most notably that of game designer and director Keiichiro Toyama, former Silent Hill co-creator and leader of JAPAN Studio’s Project Siren/Team Gravity division, which was the team behind the Siren and Gravity Rush franchises. In late 2020, Toyama along with designers Kazunobu Sato and Junya Okura left JAPAN Studio to form Bokeh Game Studio.

Knack (Ps4) Review 2
Knack, along with JAPAN Studio’s numerous IPs will be managed under the larger PlayStation Studios umbrella moving forward. – Image Source: PlayStation

Before the official acknowledgement surfaced late last week, website Video Games Chronicle claimed that multiple sources had informed them that the vast majority of staff at JAPAN Studio were effectively let go after their annual contracts were not renewed ahead of the upcoming fiscal year, which begins April 1st. Team ASOBI was left largely untouched however, giving credence to the rumors that SIE had deemed the rest of JAPAN Studio unprofitable and no longer fitting within Sony’s increasingly western-focused business model.

While the above statement from Japan Studios effectively spells out the consolidation of JAPAN Studio into Team ASOBI as a developer for Astro titles, it’s important to keep in mind that the studios many original IPs will still be managed under Sony’s PlayStation Studios umbrella, and if Astro’s PLAYROOM is any indication, Sony is a company that is still very aware of the significance of its IPs and back-catalogue. In other words, despite JAPAN Studio being dissolved, it’s quite possible that we will still see many of the studio’s most popular original IPs like Ape Escape, LocoRoco, Legend of Dragoon, Puppeteer, Knack and others make a return.

In addition, JAPAN Studio was an even more prolific collaborator with other studios than it was in producing its own original games, teaming up with fellow developers like Clap Hanz (Minna no Golf/Hot Shots Golf/Everybody’s Golf), Exact (Jumping Flash!), NanaOn-Sha (Parappa the Rapper, Um Jammer Lammy), Level 5 (Dark Cloud), Pyramid (Patapon), From Software (Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne), Bluepoint Games (Shadow of the Colossus Remastered, Demon’s Souls Remastered) and many, many more. With such a literal treasure trove of JAPAN Studio-related IPs in SIE’s back pocket, it’s impossible to imagine a future in which we won’t be seeing these iconic franchises again.

It’s just unfortunate that many of the people behind all these magical experiences at Sony have been given their walking papers and will no longer be a part of them moving forward.