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Why is Sony Japan losing video game developers?

Worn Out Gaming
Original Article on Worn Out Gaming.

Teruyuki Toriyama announced he would leave Sony Japan at the end of December. He is known as the producer of Bloodborne and Demon’s Souls remake. Toriyama thanked fans for the support during his time with the company. Most importantly, he indicates he will create new video game IPs. Here is the message below:

We are left to guess what he means by ‘his new company.’ Will he create his own, or will he end up joining his former colleagues at Bokeh Game Studio? Whatever he chooses to do, the staff shakeup is profound. We are witnessing the beginnings of reshaping the industry.

This latest departure follows the trend of SIE Japan Studio losing talent. Recently, Keiichiro Toyoma left SIE Japan to form Bokeh Game Studio. While leaving Sony sounds unheard of, a statement from Toyama talks about the industry’s changing environment. Here’s what he had to say about Sony:

‘Nevertheless, as the company has grown in size, it’s become necessary to work together as an organization instead. Through this, we learned how to support game development on a larger scale and were able to grow as creators, but on the other hand, we couldn’t only do things that we wanted to do anymore, as it became necessary to think about the overall policy and the effect on everyone else.’

What is happening at Sony Japan?

Sony Japan Studio

In April of 2016, Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Network Entertainment International became Sony Interact Entertainment LLC. The new corporation lies in San Mateo, California, but they still report to Sony in Japan. According to David Gibson, Macquarie Securities analyst, Sony sold 35 million PlayStation 4’s globally, and only 2 million of those came from Japan. These numbers may be why people think Sony is losing interest in its Japan division.

One cause for concern is Sony’s former mobile-first focus. With the growth of mobile gaming in Japan, smart device sales and usage outperformed the PS4. The shift in priorities hasn’t sat well with developers who believe Sony is devoted to the Western market. It doesn’t help that the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller swapped the Cross and Circle buttons to fall more in line with the West.

Jim Ryan, the head of SIE, spoke against these claims in an exclusive interview in Edge Magazine. “The Sony stance is that the Japanese market remains incredibly important to us.” He says, “We have not been as excited about the engagement of the Japanese game development community as we are now for many years.”

Ryan also mentions the move toward mobile gaming and the return to prioritizing consoles. “We saw in the second half of the PS4 cycle a great level of engagement from the Japanese publishers. That continues and strengthens yet again with PS5.”

Is Microsoft approaching Japanese Developers?

A rumor is also circulating that Xbox is in talks with Japanese Developers. Despite the claims, Xbox’s Phil Spencer does not think Xbox is actively seeking developers. Speaking to GameSpot, he said: “I don’t think so. I say, I don’t think so… I mean, I’m not in every meeting that every team has, but I’ll say not from me. Most of the opportunities that we’ve had to date have been a long-lasting relationship, and so, I don’t think we’re out there with our business card, throwing them out on the corner, trying to find people.”

Xbox Series X

He and Xbox are still interested in Japan as a market. Like us, Phil Spencer remembers the days when Japanese games were common on Xbox. After that, they dropped the ball. Microsoft released the Xbox 360, and the brand seemed to forget about Japanese-made games. The Xbox One made things worse, releasing games to the East that did not support the Japanese language at all. Xbox wants the Series X|S to be their way into the market.

The Industry Landscape is changing

Bokeh Game Studio is a product of these ongoing departures. We are sure to see more independent companies rise. Creating a game with a massive studio takes away from the individual creativity that gives us unique games. Instead, we see variations of the same franchises when there used to be a much greater variety. That hurts us in the long run.

I hope Sony Japan will become the company it once was. Until then, we can look at Sony’s bad news as a blessing. Developers are about to gain more control of their video games. That’s a step in the right direction for gamers. I am interested in what studios will exist one to two years from now. More than that, I’d like to know where you think the gaming industry is headed!

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