Level-5’s North American Office Working On Games For The West

By Spencer . March 18, 2011 . 11:43am

ninokuRemember when we mentioned Level-5, creators of Studio Ghibli project Ni no Kuni, was opening an office in Santa Monica? It’s open and currently has five employees, Akiko Hino revealed in an interview with Nikkei’s Trendy Net. The North American office isn’t localizing Level-5 games, though. Level-5 is focusing on developing games there specifically for the North American market.


The heart of the office is Japanese staff, but their style of development is to collaborate with local staff, as well. Hino believes this will lead to a successful title for the North American market. An announcement about specific titles will be mentioned at this year’s Level-5 Vision press event.


Concerning trends in North America, Hino said the market is a little opaque. However, he hears the proportion of downloadable games for iPhone, smartphones, and home game consoles are rising over packaged products.


Later in the interview, Hino says Level-5 will continue to create products for the Japanese, North American, and European markets. In the West, Nintendo handles Level-5’s titles such as the Professor Layton series and Inazuma Eleven in Europe. Sony Computer Entertainment has contracted Level-5 to develop RPGs such as White Knight Chronicles and the Dark Cloud series before that for their consoles.

Read more stories about & on Siliconera.

  • Jirin

    I’m glad they’re making games for the Western market, but can we have the ones for the Japanese market too? What works for the majority doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.

  • Im glad for making titles for us North Americans, but surely he could have told us they were going to bring us that awesome Ni no Kuni and that Little Battlers.

  • JustaGenericUser

    Thanks for getting my hopes up with the title and picture and then dashing them in the actual article.

    • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

      “The North American office isn’t localizing Level-5 games, though. Level-5 is focusing on developing games there specifically for the North American market.”

      My heart sank to the bottom of my shark aquarium when I read this. If Ni no Kuni PS3 doesn’t get localized I’m going to hurt somebody. And when I say somebody I mean this entire planet.

      • landlock

        Considering they have a good relationship with Sony, you’d think that Sony may well release it in the west at least in Europe. Considering they can be bothered doing WKCII and WKC PSP.

        • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

          But the WKC is a second party franchise published and commissioned by Sony (i.e. inFamous, Ratchet & Clank, Heavy Rain, Heavenly Sword). So unless Sony secures the publishing rights (which they should do), it’s an independent exclusive. It might also have the extra cost/ barrier of licensing issues involving Studio Ghibli. Sooo… who knows. I hope you’re right.

  • malek86

    So they are going to let the western office develop western games, and the japanese office to keep making japanese games.

    This could work, but only if the western office (which apparently is made up of japanese developers) can really understand what western gamers want. Namco pretty much failed, Capcom was already geared toward the west since a long time ago, and Squenix is only recently starting to do well due to acquiring Eidos and their know-how.

  • HarryHodd

    All I really want is Ni No Kuni.

    Interested to see what they bring though I’m skeptical anytime a Japanese dev says they are making a game with the west in mind.

  • Exkaiser

    I… I just wanted news about The Little Battlers, Level-5…

    Incidentally, the show is pretty alright so far.

    • SlashZaku

      Been waiting for this for the longest (since it was announced). Really hope it gets localized.

    • puchinri

      Did the anime start already? Is it only raw right now?

      • Exkaiser

        Up to episode 4. No subs yet.

        • puchinri

          Oh, okay. Thanks.

  • DarkWaterClone

    Please don’t be a shooter. That is all I ask. I have really enjoyed L5 games. So I hope they stay in that style & do not try to go after the shooter crowed or I will be really disheartened. I want to know with them opening a office in North America will this allow their games to not take as long to come out of Japan?

    • SlashZaku

      Hoping they don’t focus on shooters as well. I’d like to see the NA branch probably do a platformer or something in that area.

      • Being that the Shooter market is so hard to break into and differentiate ones self, I doubt they will be going for it. Another Bad Company, Medal of Honor, or Call of Duty, will immediately make their shooter game be forgotten, if they pursued the genre.

    • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

      With only five people and already working on games, on top of what Hino said, they’re most likely making mobile/ iPhone games.

    • puchinri

      I would hope that if it’s a shooter, it’s one like Sin & Punishment or a SHMUP (Level-5 equivalent to Touhou, Bullet Soul or Hard Corps?). But I would strongly prefer that they still make games in their own style and don’t pull a Squeenix or a Capcom.

      I would except and hope that they address that soon though too.

    • alundra311

      I can see it now. “Professor Layton and The Call of Duty”. Hahahaha. Lol. NO. -_-

  • Good move, hope to see Layton arrive on iPhone/Android

  • Zero_Destiny

    :( Oh well. I suppose if it gives the company money I got no problem with that. I still want all those games out in Japan but I’ll be hopeful and just wait for another company like Nintendo or something to bring them out over here.

  • 5 employees? Man, if only I know how to game design (which I’m working towards on), I would apply there.

    • Zero_Destiny

      No they can only have 5 employees or else they’d have to change their name. lol

  • PurpleDoom

    I kind of hope this will turn out more like “we’re making games at our American office, but we’re also localizing.” I would be disappointed if a bunch of games never came over (Ni no Kuni and Little Battlers, specifically.)

  • Aoshi00

    Speaking of Inazuma Eleven, the European localized char names were actually not bad at all.. most of them retain or have similar meaning as the Jpn counterpart, a lot of creativity gone into thinking up the Eng. names just like Phoenix Wright.. I think people worried for nothing…


    I still haven’t played much Ni no Kuni yet other than the first several hours.. Gyakuten Kenji 2 is a blast, near the end of the 2nd case.. I love the music :)

    • puchinri

      I think some of the character names sound close and others are close in meaning, but don’t hold the same coolness and it’s really mix and match. I like the sound of them, but they also don’t particularly match the characters to me. But the technique names/translation got handled very well it looks like.

      • Aoshi00

        I know, some names are better than the others, just like Phoenix, but I like how they tried their best to retain the same feel, because to a regular person who doesn’t know Jpn at all, the unique fire-themed name Gouenji Shuuya just flied over their head, but Axel Blaze means something.. just like Naruhodo and Mitsurugi really don’t mean anything to those who are accustomed to Wright and Edgeworth. So at least they weren’t lazy and just slapped on names like John, Tom, etc, but the whole name resembling the Jpn counterpart in one way or another conveying the attribute of the players, some rather clever as well. Like for each Phoenix game, I rather look forward to seeing what their fun Eng. names are.. like the assassin Koroshiya Sazaemon was Shelly de Killer, pretty much meaning the same thing.. I appreciate so much thought gone into the localization process.

        For the Ace Attorney games, I’m actually more used to the Jpn name too.. (I played the trilogy in Eng., but haven’t finished Apollo or the 1st investigation in Eng yet)

        • puchinri

          I like the name Phoenix a lot, but I do wonder where that even came from… But yeah, that’s mostly true. I think keeping the names can help, because a little research or even a translation note somewhere can bridge that gap, but it doesn’t hurt to make give people something to connect with (I suppose it’s an odd little circle in that way). I do appreciate good localization, but I just wish they could be a little more consistent sometimes. I’m mixed, because I do enjoy some changes, but often times, I feel that it would have been better to keep the original names.

          I’m used to seeing it in English more, but I am familiar with the Japanese names and enjoy them a lot. But I haven’t played much of the series, so I probably can’t say too much. x’D

          (I’m just the kind of person who thinks that if something is being localized, the original names should always be kept, whether the product, entire cast, one small place or just one character had a name that was French, Japanese, English, Malaysian, whatever. But it is hard not to enjoy fun localization that does make changes.)

  • idrawrobots

    what a deceptive article image, I want Ni No Kuni!

  • puchinri

    Well, that was disappointing and nice. I wanted localization news, but it’s cool to know that we’ll be getting titles developed her. I just hope that when Hino says things like that, they don’t mean ‘lets appeal to Americans and make a bunch of FPS’, which is not what I’d expect anyway. It sounds like maybe he’s considering ‘themes’ and ‘views’ alongside considering the console thing, but I really don’t know.

    I’m just looking forward to what they’re going to announce and still looking forward to and hoping for localization news.

  • videoman190

    As long they don’t games with stereotypical characters and predicable storylines, uninteresting gameplay, and thinking every game needs to be a shooter then we’re OK with Level-5 being a developer and a publisher! In short I don’t want them to be like Square-Enix!

  • HarryHodd

    So who handles localization for Level 5?

    • Yusaku_Matsuda70s

      Probably continue to be split between Square, Sony, and Nintendo like it has always been.

      • Joanna

        Well SE and Sony only localize their commissioned games….so right now it’s only Nintendo….which means, we probably won’t see many of the L5 games here unless Sony decides to bring over the ones on their systems and some other publisher decides to bring over all the DS games that Nintendo hasn’t touch (not likely given where the DS is in it’s life). So in conclusion, I am sad.

  • PrinceHeir

    im glad level 5 is trying to branch out on different regions of the world. definitely applaud their courage and such. let’s just hope they still create their core games instead of giving it to other developers *cough capcom

    i also hope more studios open up in different regions of the world like korea(well technically they have tons of studios there; PM Studios(DJ Max) but very few makes console games. they usually have tons of MMORPG or any PC game.

    good luck Level 5, hope you succeed in your future endeavors :D

  • MrRobbyM

    Level 5, why have you abandoned me?

  • Eh even if it is a localisation thing, I’m still interested since its Level-5, my fave developer (next to Treasure). So I look forward to your westernized games Level-5 :D

  • Joanna

    I am sad. I was hoping against my better judgment that once we heard news about the North American branch, we would hear about Ni no Kuni’s localization. I’m really disheartened by this news. :(

Video game stories from other sites on the web. These links leave Siliconera.

Siliconera Tests
Siliconera Videos