Level-5 has virtually halted operations in North America

Sources say Level-5 International America, Abby have been running with a "skeleton crew" since August 2019

Ni No Kuni and Yo-Kai Watch developer Level-5 appears to have all-but-shuttered its North American operations.

According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, both Level-5 International America and the company's spin-off office, Level-5 Abby, began winding down operations in the middle of last year, part of which included laying off the majority of both offices' staff.

The precise number of people impacted is unknown, as is the number of employees still currently in each office, but sources estimate around ten employees were laid off at Abby in August of 2019, and around the same number were let go at International America.

Sources say that no clear reason for the lay-offs was given, though those connected to Abby say that employees were "given every indication" that the studio would be closing down, with one or two employees remaining for a few more months to carry out essential functions throughout the process while the company consolidated its business between the Japan office and international advertising and branding company Dentsu.

Additionally, Level-5 Abby COO and head of Abby's day-to-day operations Yukari Hayakawa is said to have departed the company earlier this year according to multiple sources, though the job is still listed on her LinkedIn page. Attempts to contact Hayakawa for comment went unanswered.

In July of 2019, Level-5 International America confirmed it was closing its design department, laying off two employees, though at the time the company said this was "not a large-scale restructuring."

It is unclear what the future of Level-5 releases in North America will be. One source suggested that there were currently no concrete plans for any more Level-5 games to be released outside of Japan.

Publicly, the company has not made any specific announcements for future North American game releases. A Western localization for Yo-Kai Watch 4, which launched in Japan in 2019, was announced that same year but thus far there have been no further details. And while upcoming Level-5-developed and published RPG Inazuma Eleven: Great Road of Heroes was most recently delayed to 2021 in Japan, and there has been nothing concrete on a Western release since 2018 -- prior to multiple delays.

The most recent title from the company to be released in North America was Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl - Gold in February of this year -- prior to that, it was Yo-Kai Watch 3 in February of 2019.

The company's social media accounts have been almost entirely silent since multiple job postings from October 2018, with the only update since being a July 2020 announcement that a compatibility bug in 2013's Layton Brothers Mystery Room had been fixed. reached out to Level-5 International America and Abby by both email and phone, as well as the company's Japanese headquarters by email, and received no reply from any official channels.

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Latest comments (2)

Art C. Jones Writer / Blogger A year ago
There is a lot of missing information in this and similar articles.
Level-5 had, previous to starting US operations, been 100% published in the US.
Ni No Kuni and Yo-Kai Watch are both published in the US, Level-5 doesn't publish those titles in the US, other companies have those rights, so any comments about future games in those series, and Professor Layton, should go to the publishers.

Level-5 opened US operations with an intent of self-publishing.
They changed titles (Katrielle Layton) so that they could do this (they couldn't self-publish Professor Layton in the US b/c Nintendo owns the US publishing rights).

Unfortunately, their self-publishing hasn't gone well, and it brings to question what the overall impact to the company has been, but, as for the games such as Professor Layton, Ni No Kuni and Yo-Kai Watch, which other publishers have US rights for, I expect they are completely unchanged, and may be likely to get more US sequels now that Level-5 has given up on self-publishing (and creating titles they can self-publish) in the US.
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Rebekah Valentine News Reporter, IGN EntertainmentA year ago
@Art C. Jones: There is certainly more to the story but based on the conversations with my sources, the fact that third-parties were doing the publishing doesn't equate to their relationships being "unchanged." Other publishers had publishing rights to certain titles in certain markets, but that means nothing if both parties aren't willing to work together to bring future titles outside Japan.

The impression from the information I have is not that Level-5 is giving up on self-publishing in the US: it's already done that largely. It appears to be far less interested or no longer interested in Western releases in general.

I sympathize with feeling information is "missing," but that's largely due to Level-5 being a bit impenetrable due to both language barriers and the fact that it's shut down its NA offices and won't respond to requests for comment. I'm pretty confident it's not due to a misunderstanding of what's going on here.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rebekah Valentine on 13th October 2020 7:03pm

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