‘Professor Layton’ Developer Level-5 Ending North American Operations

by Jason Venter

Level-5, the development studio responsible for a number of very popular games over the years, is withdrawing from North America, a gamesindustry.biz report indicates. The process began in late 2019. Only a skeleton crew remaining to oversee the company’s projects in the ensuing months.

According to the report, Level-5 is closing Level-5 International America and Level-5 Abby, a spinoff venture. The exact state of both operations is uncertain at this time. A source indicates there are currently “no concrete plans for any more Level-5 games to be released outside of Japan.”

The most recent major release from Level-5 in North America is 2018’s generally overlooked dungeon crawler, Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl Gold for Nintendo Switch. The majority of the developer’s other software has been published outside of Japan by major partners including Nintendo, Bandai Namco, Sony, and Square Enix.

Level-5 has developed games for roughly 20 years. Its first releases were Dark Cloud and Dark Cloud 2 for the PlayStation 2. The studio continued developing for Sony hardware, with follow-up efforts such as Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King for Square Enix and Rogue Galaxy and Jeanne d’Arc for Sony. It struck gold with Professor Layton and the Curious Village on Nintendo DS.

The success of the first Professor Layton game led to the development of numerous others. Level-5 continued to focus largely on Nintendo hardware with the likes of Inazuma Eleven (a series that has found much greater success in Europe than stateside) and the more recent Yo-kai Watch series. The company also developed Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, again for Square Enix. It also partnered with Bandai Namco to bring Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch west after self-publishing in Japan.

Level 5’s efforts as a publisher in North America have met with only limited success. They consist mostly of 3DS and smartphone digital titles, including a handful of indie titles such as Liberation Maiden, The Starship Damrey, and Weapon Shop de Omasse that were created in partnership with other studios. Some fans have looked forward to the eventual release of Yo-kai Watch 4 and Inazuma Eleven Heroes: Great Road in North America. The future of those games in the west is now in question.

For years, Level-5 has worked successfully with major publishing partners to bring its games to North America and Europe. It’s possible that activity will continue and allow players to continue experiencing new installments in favorite franchises from the beloved developer, even in the event they are no longer self-published. Hopefully, this is only a rough patch and the company’s interest in a worldwide presence can continue at a later date. In the meantime, are there any Level-5 games you hold especially dear?

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