Developer Level-5 Reportedly Closing North American Offices
According to a report from Gamesindustry.Biz, the North American branch of developer Level-5, including Level-5 Abby, is closing down, affecting "the majority of both offices' staff." Though there is no confirmation of the shutdown as of this writing, sources said the move has been a slow process that began in 2019.
A portion of the Gameindustry.Biz report says:
...no clear reason for the lay-offs was given, though those connected to Abby say that employees were "given every indication" that the studio would be closing down, with one or two employees remaining for a few more months to carry out essential functions throughout the process while the company consolidated its business between the Japan office and international advertising and branding company Dentsu.
As pointed out, games currently slated to release in North America or receive localization for the region are in limbo. This includes a Western localization for Yo-Kai Watch 4 and Inazuma Eleven: Heroes' Great Road, which was delayed to 2021 after its initial announcement.
Previously, the three separate Japanese versions of Yo-Kai Watch 3 were combined into one for the Western release, and since Yo-Kai Watch 4 had received an updated version, as well as a PS4 port known as Yo-Kai Watch 4++ in Japan several months after the release of the original, it may have had an impact on localization efforts. But nothing has yet been confirmed.
While the Level-5 Twitter account was dormant for nearly two years, according to Gameindustry.biz, interestingly enough, the Yo-Kai Watch Twitter was active throughout 2019, giving out QR codes for specific items and Yo-Kai for Yo-Kai Watch 3 and promote the anime series. The Snack World Twitter was active until June 30, giving out item passwords and promoting the game.
GameSkinny's own Joshua Broadwell reviewed the game, giving it a 6/10 score, saying "Snack World works as a tasty, but not entirely satisfying, appetizer, with too much filler and some strange balancing choices." Ultimately, Snack World received mixed to average reviews overall.
But what does that mean going forward? According to the report:
It is unclear what the future of Level-5 releases in North America will be. One source suggested that there were currently no concrete plans for any more Level-5 games to be released outside of Japan.
However, SEGA Localization Producer and former LEVEL-5 International America Inc. Product Manager Scott Strichart said on Twitter following the news:
Most of Level 5’s greatest games were published by third parties or Nintendo themselves, and they don’t need a U.S. office to continue licensing their content that way.
They can still localize in-house from Japan, which was where the majority of that happened anyway. The U.S. office more or less stopped directly localizing content after I left, taking on more of an advise and assist role across its multimedia productions and games.
To learn more about the reported Level-5 closings, see the full article on Gameindustry.biz. To know more about the history of Level-5 and the games they've developed, you can also check out Parallax Media's multi-part retrospective series.