Level-5 International America and spin-off office Level-5 Abby, the arms of Japanese developer Level-5 operating in North America, have all but ceased operations according to GamesIndustry.biz. Level-5 is the developer of Professor Layton, Ni no Kuni, and Yo-kai Watch, among other franchises, and these North American offices reportedly “began winding down operations” in mid-2019. The majority of staff at both locations is said to have been laid off, with 10 being let go at Abby in August 2019 and roughly the same amount being let go at International America.
Level-5 Abby COO and head of Abby operations Yukari Hayakawa reportedly left the company earlier this year but has not changed her LinkedIn to reflect this or responded to GameIndustry.biz’s requests for comment. Essentially, “skeleton crews” have been maintaining North American operations as business consolidation occurs “between the Japan office and international advertising and branding company Dentsu.”
What this actually means for Level-5 in North America is not yet certain. While one of GamesIndustry.biz’s sources suggested that there are “currently no concrete plans for any more Level-5 games to be released outside of Japan,” it is probably too early to entertain such doomsday scenarios. Yo-Kai Watch 4 is currently still planned to release in the West, though we have heard nothing substantial about that since last year. The company did at least launch Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl – Gold on Nintendo Switch this past February.
Taking a glimpse at the International America website, it suggests that North American operations began in full in 2011, with the hopes of creating games in both Japan and North America to cater directly to both markets.