Some rather unfortunate news has recently come out in regards to the Japanese video game developer Level-5. According to Gamesindustrybiz, the developer has essentially shut down its entire North American branch, completely ceasing all operations. According to the report, this process actually began last year when Level-5 International America and its subsidiary Level-5 Abby started to slow down their day-to-day functions and laying off the majority of their employees. The exact number has not been disclosed, but according to the report, “sources estimate around ten employees were laid off at Abby in August of 2019” with a similar number being reported from International America.
Level-5 has virtually halted operations in North Americahttps://t.co/K7obplyQ8t
— GamesIndustry (@GIBiz) October 12, 2020
In the post, it states that their sources claim that they were “given every indication” that the studio would eventually be shutting down, although they also state that there was no clear reason as to why they were let go. In the post, it also mentions that only a few employees remained in order to finish up any remaining functions while the consolidation between the main Japanese office and branding company Dentsu was finalized. Last year, the International American office closed its design department, laying off two employees in the process. The main office claimed that this was not part of a large-scale restructuring, though the recent tidbit of information indicates otherwise.
Level-5 currently has no games planned for North American localization, and with the shuttering of their American branch, and another source from the same post states that they currently have “no concrete plans for any more Level-5 games to be released outside of Japan.” To further emphasize this, the information on the next game to receive a western localization, Yo-Kai Watch 4, have all but stopped as the majority of Level-5’s social media accounts have been mostly inactive, merely announcing that a bug from the mobile game Layton Brothers Mystery Room had a bug that was removed.
With all these recent movements by the company now coming to light, things don’t look very good for future Level-5 titles coming stateside. While they weren’t quite as successful outside of their native Japan, a few of their IP’s obtained a very loyal fanbase, including the excellent JRPG series Ni No Kuni, the aforementioned Yo-Kai-Watch, Inazuma Eleven, Dark Cloud, and the runaway puzzle/narrative franchise on the Nintendo DS and 3DS Professor Layton. Level-5 themselves haven’t confirmed or denied any of this, but we wouldn’t be surprised if they make an official announcement sometime soon.