Covid has hit many studios hard across the world. We’re still seeing effects of that now and will into at least 2022. Has Level 5 studios joined the increasing number of effected studios?
Level 5 is set to close studios in America. Currently they laid off all but a small few of their American side employees. They’ve kept just enough to keep operations maintained for now. This has perhaps been in the making for most of the year as even games that released in 2019 have had no set release date for America.
Level 5 is known for many charming games with unique aesthetics. From Ni No Kuni to Professor Layton to Yokai Watch and more, their games are quite beloved in all territories. For now, there’s no word on a port of the Switch’s most recent Yokai Watch title. The recent Ni No Kuni phone game and the in development Ni No Kuni 3 also have no American release dates set. The phone game was showcased with English subtitles, but this does not signal a release in our territory is imminent.
As hinted at earlier, this move may be unrelated to covid, although certainly not helped by it. In 2019 the American side sectors were facing lay offs as early as the middle of the year, well before covid stepped into the scene. Employees have been given every inclination that the company wishes to move its focus solely to Japan and cut the cost of localization.
Both Yokai Watch and Ni No Kuni both currently have anime versions you can watch on Netflix. Yokai Watch was popular, but didn’t quite take off in America the same way it did in Japan despite marketing’s best efforts. I remember GameStop being given extensive benefits regarding Yokai Watch including shirts and foldable paper hats. I was the only one who took the Yokai Watch 2 quiz at my store and won two digital copies of the game, one of each version. The game was clearly not for me, but there was a lot I felt kids could get into from bug hunting to farting demons.
It’s always a shame to lose games to the lack of localization. Digimon fans lost several entries before their voices were heard and we got Digimon Cybersleuth here in the states and that title is very beloved. Something like that could happen for Level 5’s games. I, however, do not feel they have the same cult following. Even Professor Layton’s fans seem quiet as of late. Only time will tell how missed Jibanyan and Ghibli animated games will be to American gamers.