Monolith Soft’s New Kyoto Studio Sounds Like A Great Place To Work

By Sato . July 5, 2013 . 5:20pm


It’s been about two years since Xenoblade developers Monolith Soft have opened a new studio in Kyoto to be closer to the Nintendo headquarters. During a recent creator’s interview at CG World, Monolith Soft shared how the new Kyoto studio has been working out thus far.


The Kyoto studio is located near the famous local junction of Shijoukarasuma, where the staff members can look outside their windows to enjoy the summer festivities from the comfort of their office. Most of the employees in the Kyoto branch consist of artists with their average age being in the late twenties, and a high ratio of female staff members.



In addition to the company’s own projects, the Kyoto studio has helped out with other Nintendo games, too, such as some of the graphics in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and more recently in Animal Crossing: New Leaf.


That may seem like a lot of work for a small studio consisting of about 30 members, but the office atmosphere is reportedly very laid-back. The Kyoto studio’s work hours start at 9 am and end at 6 pm. Any overtime work is not accepted without  permission from superiors, but when employees do work overtime, they are paid for it, which is a rare occurrence in Japan.


Additionally, employees aren’t allowed to take any work home either, but they are allowed to use office tools and material for personal training purposes within the company until 9pm.


“One of the big opportunities that put the appointed weekly hours into action came from the 2006 occupational safety and  health act revision, which demanded a more thorough employee time management,” says director Yasuyuki Honne. He further shares his beliefs that development styles which anticipate overtime work have already reached their limit. With that in mind, Monolift Soft’s company motto, “Zero overtime and creative work allowed” is what they now go by.


As we previously reported late last year, Monolith Soft are still recruiting new members to their Kyoto studio.


“We’re currently looking for people with the required skills of a CG artist, essential illustrative abilities and sense, along with great communicational skills,” mentions Honne, as they stress that game development isn’t all about fun, but that they would still like to have someone with a forward-looking attitude that can work in a lighthearted and fun manner.


In the creator’s interview, newer members of the Monolith Soft Kyoto studio are asked about their thoughts on working there, along with how their schedule has benefitted them thus far.


Background designer, Subaru Genbe, who had previously worked with Square Enix is one of the new members who joined Monolith Soft’s Kyoto office, last year. Genbe who has lived in Tokyo for a long while, has always been a fan of Monolith Soft and decided to change his job in order to be able to work with them and Nintendo.


“Playing and having fun is the most important part. It’s the key to bringing out the fun in graphics,” says Genbe, as he explains that those are the deep feelings they share at Nintendo, which he has learned since joining. According to the designer, he has also learned to put his time to better use, thanks to the results of the appointed weekly hours.


“When the work starts to overflow, the leader immediately reviews the schedule accordingly. I spend my weekends on hobbies and polishing my skills using ZBrush at home,” Genbe explains, addressing how the lenient schedule has been a great benefit, by providing him with free time to relax and brush up on his abilities as a designer.


Object designer Rika Aoki, who recently worked with Nintendo on Animal Crossing: New Leaf also spoke about the benefits of her work schedule with Monolith Soft.


“Not only have my skills grown as an artist, but I feel as if I’ve matured more as a person, as well. The appointed weekly hours allow me to work with a mental sense of stability,” explains Aoki, also mentioning that she loves being able to visit crowded areas that are nearby, and enjoys walks in Kyoto’s shopping districts on weekends.


More than half of the studio’s members are from different areas outside the Kansai region, but in the short amount of time they’ve spent at Monolith Soft’s Kyoto studio, they’ve become tight-knit group who look forward to continue developing more titles for Nintendo while building the studio’s history, together, in their comfortable and productive environment.

  • EtroAnime

    Kyoto is such a lovely place, sure would love to go back. It is good to see that were able to replicate to the vibe of that city at Monolith Soft; I am really looking forward to play X.

    • I’m pretty sure Xenothing is being developed by their Tokyo studio. The Kyoto studio hasn’t announced any full-time projects just yet.

  • It’s awesome that Monolith Soft employees seem to love their jobs so much. And I’m really happy to see that they’re careful with their employees about overtime work. I definitely feel that this is going to be reflected in their future games.

    • Yause

      Bear in mind that this is a PR image to recruit staff. The anime studio Kyoto Animation routinely employs a similar tactic to attract aspiring talent – claims of fixed hours and no overtime – but the reality (as told by former employees; it’s better than the insanity of the Tokyo studios, but the claims are still lies. They had to put in a lot of extra time to meet deadlines) is a bit different from the party line.

      Remember, it ain’t overtime if a employee feels compelled to “voluntarily donate” his or her time for the good of the team.

      Edit: I have little doubt that Honne is copying the Kyoto Animation PR strategy.

      • Odin

        So you’re saying someone put in overtime to produce Endless Eight?

      • That’s actually why I said “seem” in my comment. You never really know what goes on behind the scenes, but I do hope that they are telling the truth.

      • Keep in mind, though, that Kyoto Animation doesn’t have a parent company, like Nintendo, that is also known for their above-average treatment of employees. Also, that video games (unless you’re workong for a company like Activision) do not usually have the same kind of strict, non-negotiable deadlines as TV animation.

      • Happy Gamer

        In Japan, you don’t go home before your boss goes home. There is no legal law to this, but it’s almost written in stone. I worked in Japan for 30 days and stopped because of this. This is especially more apparent in mid sized companies (but also pretty abundant in large ones as well). Your overtime hours (which they often ask you) are not compensated, there are no laws of 1-2hr lunch breaks like in US etc. People work using “common sense” which are all of the above. It’s pretty much a norm. Also, if you are a woman and plan to get married right after, or have a baby when you get a new job, get ready to get laid off.

        It’s not a grim outlook or being pessimistic, it’s just how the culture is like. In our standards it is def pessimistic tho lol

        • Happy Gamer

          oh yeah, although I didn’t participate, you MUST go drinking with your boss after working from 6:00am to 11:00pm and u wanna just go home. Then you must drink if they tell u to drink, then go home an expect to wake up at 4:30 to go to work again. This is actually a pretty common cycle of the common salary man. (unless u are way up there in the social ladder)

          • What happens if you politely tell him to piss off because you aren’t much of an alcohol drinker?

          • SohoX

            You become ostracized as you are differentiating yourself from the norm, followed by endless bullying until you quit seems to be fairly common sadly…

          • Happy Gamer

            very rarely there are people who are very straight forward with what they believe in (which is very unusual in Japan where conformity is king), but it’s pretty rare. In that case there are two scenarios. One, that person will never climb the social ladder (in fact this is what most people are afraid of). VERY rarely u will have those who are strong enough to push through and somehow make it but it’s rare.

            One thing you have to remember is that “piss off, this is what I believe in” is a very American attitude and it is very hard for you to understand this aspect about Japanese culture, but to them, what you think is unthinkable not because they are shackled down, but rather it is what is believed the right thing to do. Being a part of the mass/group and conformity is a huge part of Japanese culture. Although my heritage is over there, I was born in the states and grew up in places with not many asians. I had a huge culture shock when I experienced this. Although I looked exactly like them, it’s like I was a totally different person.

            What is funny though is that if you “look” American, sometimes you can get away with it. But people like me, even if you were adopted to white/black/hispanic American parents, lived here all your life, they look at your face and sort of expect you to behave that way. It was very very stressful at first for me lol.

            I think a good mix between the two is great. The work ethic there is great but the outcome for all the extra hours they put into really makes zero difference than vs when they go home at 5-6 on a purely economical scale.

            Whereas here, the input ratio is very low, but the sheer mass quantities of huge companies and people sort of make up for it.

            Like with everything, its good to work hard, and rest when you deserve to.

            Culture is a powerful thing. I learned alot thru that experience.

            After that experience, I worked in a place where you specifically deal with health care for foreign workers who had bad coverage. I was the “boss” there and I had a real tough time getting people to go home. It took me about 3 years to finally have them leave early, but I had to lie that I will go home even when I had extra work.

          • I see. I guess Japanese collectivism is in full-force. I don’t mind collectivism in general, but like you said… a balance between individualism and collectivism should be the most desirable. We should encourage people to work along and do the best we can do, but we also need to encourage people to voice their opinions on various matters and that they’re not afraid to jump out of the norm.

  • Shane Guidaboni

    I wish I could work there.

  • Epic Markell Joshua

    wow amazing people and amazing games.

  • Ethan_Twain

    Lol. “where the staff members can look outside their windows to enjoy the summer festivities from the comfort of their office.” Great. Awesome. That definitely sounds like a plus, having a festival going on right outside but “getting” to stay in the “comfort” of your office until 6.

    It sounds like a great place to work, but that one line in particular struck me as not a positive thing at all :)

    • Sato

      People usually go to those festivals just to watch it as part of a crowd. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be able to spectate the lively festivities from my office, rather than staring at cubicle walls all day :P Besides, all the good stuff happens after 6!

  • almostautumn

    Sound like an amazing company; going to go order Xenoblade now—

    Oh wait. It was a Gamestop exclusive and now costs $100. Fuck that.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Be glad its not 200$.

      Its a steal at 70$ lol.

      Its amazing that it sold the most in NA being a Gamestop exclusive

    • puchinri

      I was going to try and be smart and say that you could just order it from Nintendo themselves, but further searching shows that you can only get it from GS and that it is even $70 pre-owned. Wow. Ouchies.

      • almostautumn

        Seems crazy. I mean— everyone is nuts about Xenoblade. I mean, this just seems like a terrible idea to not have more readily available copies, especially as they’ve a Wii U title in-motion. Why not have your games available to generate more fans, not only for themselves but for Wii U as well?

        • On the bright side, this means that Nintendo probably won’t make the same mistake with Xenothing.

        • puchinri

          I know, I’m kind of surprised. I can’t really begin to guess what it is, but I do hope that Project 2501 is right and they probably won’t make the mistake again.

  • bdp

    the thought of one of the bosses yelling at one of their employees to stop working and go home is amusing to me.

  • equalequation

    This is pretty rad, especially for Japan. I mean, you’re expected to put in overtime until at least 8PM in that country.

    Applauding Monolith’s attempt to change the paradigm and I hope their business goes well. It’s a little bit sad that I won’t get to play most of their future games, but if they succeed, it might mean changes in the Japanese games industry, which might mean changes for Japanese games as a whole.

    • Tenoko

      Monolith Soft’s X is coming over here.

      Nintendo is giving them the chance.

      • equalequation

        Eh, I’m not talking about localizations. I play most of my games in Japanese. (Besides, if ‘here’ is referring to English-speaking countries, then ‘here’ is not where I am. ;) )

        It’s just that I don’t own a Wii U, and don’t plan to own one any time soon. I guess I might play their 3DS one, but since I don’t know what it’s about yet….

  • Riseabovethesky

    There seem to be a lot of pretty women working at Monolith Soft <3

    • Morricane

      Looks like a good place to work :D

  • Jeff O’Connor

    Wonderful news.

  • Richard N

    Take notes EA.

  • Lubulos

    Good article. Tetsuya Takahashi is my personal hero since the old Square days. I started playing Soma Bringer just yesterday, and god if it isn’t addictive.

    • Morricane

      It’s more fun in multiplayer! :)

  • puchinri

    Woohoo Monolith Soft~! It’s pretty cool that they have a high ratio of female employees, I wonder if they’re all mostly the artists in general or was that just all over? That’s also quite the interesting age average.

    They have it together pretty well it sounds like, and I hope they are able to hire some more talent that blends beautifully with the rest of the present team.

    That’s really fantastic overall, and seeing all that makes me hope that even if I don’t get into the field I want, I’m able to enjoy a job like that and in a similar environment.

    • Nintendo is pretty much the best company at helping ambitious but potentially disorganized developers come together and realize their potential (c.f. Rare, Silicon Knights, the Tetsuya Takahashi side of Monolith) so that combined with a studio of young and starry-eyed developers, a veteran studio head (<3 Yasuyuki Honne) and what sounds like a working environment specially designed to foster employee enthusiasm and creativity has me really excited for their future prospects.

      • puchinri

        Haha, definitely agreed on the first point, and I think that also works true and well with the other parts. I’m really excited too, and it feels nice to know that the team themselves are able to be excited too.

    • Slayven19

      Not to mention the majority of them are female, that’s something you don’t see everyday even in the U.S for companies.

  • Thanks to Siliconera for the article and the translation. News about how people work and create always are always something valuable for websites (and websites readers).

  • Göran Isacson

    Ha ha, man, this almost reads like a PR-puff piece… then again, considering it’s an interview about them, it most likely IS. Still, if things are even half as good on Monolith-Soft as this article says it is, kudos to everyone who managed to land a job there: beats working for Capcom!

  • sfried

    I have a feeling Monolithsoft will become Nintendo Kyoto Team.

  • TruSpindash

    Sounds great, I always found it a bit sad when I would hear stories about developers working so much they would sleep at the office. It is good to be passionate and hard working but never at the expense of ones health.

  • So basically the Kyoto studio is mostly fresh faces and ex-Baten Kaitos staffers, working in a progressive and employee-friendly environment under Nintendo’s guidance? I’m salivating for their next project already.

  • Slayven19

    I work 12 hours a day so they are doing better than me I guess. I don’t work in an office environment either I work in a warehouse doing forklift(which is easy I admit) and linework sometimes(which is painful on days I have to do it on) That said the pay is great at my job but the job itself is pretty tiresome. Not that I’m really complaining because I’m glad I have a job at all. Monolith soft seems like a great place to work and hopefully one day I’ll have a job like that.

    • AndreasStalin

      So just like shenmue then. ;-)

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