Level-5 CEO Akihiro Hino spoke with Nikkei Trendy, a Japanese tech site, about the new Level-5 office in the United States and what types of games the company will be developing. Level-5 is the company behind massively popular titles like Professor Layton and Dragon Quest IX. As with most Eastern development studios, the work the company produces tends to be very Japanese in nature and delivery.
The new Santa Monica branch of the studio will, according to Hino, work towards developing games with a more western focus than their current catalogue. Hino describes the studio:
Titles that are being planned in the North American office are being developed in that region. The office staff is mostly Japanese, but we’re using a style of development where we collaborate with local staff, so I believe we’ll be able to make something that matches the North American market well.
Level-5 has been a rising titan in the gaming industry, especially when one considers the current appeal of Japanese games in the rest of the world. Examining the industry, even at a quick glance, reveals something interesting about the developmental landscape. Japanese developers used to be far and away the most unique and creative forces in the industry. Now, however, their games have found routine and formulaic mechanics that make their appeal in the Western world rather limited.
Look towards the RPG market for proof: Japanese RPGs do not perform as well, commercially and critically, as Western RPGs. That’s not to speak ill of the titles themselves, it just says a lot about the current marketplace for those types of games. Western developers are using game design practices that are more viable by today’s standards. Level-5 is installing an office in the U.S. and working with local staff in order to counter the gaming shift and create Japanese developed games with Western world appeal.
The Santa Monica Level-5 studio has not announced any specific projects yet. However, one can assume that the company will make their work public in the latter portion of this summer at their next press event.