As of February 2020, Xenoblade developer Monolith Soft has grown to 243 employees—its highest employee count ever. This comes amidst Monolith ramping up production on at least two projects that are in development simultaneously: a Legend of Zelda game and a new RPG.
Nintendo acquired Monolith Soft from Namco Bandai in 2007. Ever since, the company has grown into one of Nintendo’s most prominent first-party development studios, and has assisted with the creation of a number of Nintendo games, in addition to its own popular Xenoblade series. Here’s a look at how Monolith Soft has grown over the years.
A timeline of Monolith Soft’s growth
2007: Monolith Soft is acquired by Nintendo. Soma Bringer is in development for the Nintendo DS using a more organized development structure compared to Xenosaga. Disaster: Day of Crisis is in development for the Wii. Xenoblade Chronicles is in pre-production at this point.
2010: Xenoblade is released on the Wii in Japan, and a year later in the West.
2011: Monolith Soft opens a second studio in Kyoto, closer to Nintendo. This studio is led by co-founder Yasuyuki Honne and goes on to develop art assets for a number of Nintendo games, including The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Animal Crossing.
2012: Referring to its next game, Monolith says it wants to be the Bethesda of Japan. (This is in reference to the scope and ambition of Xenoblade Chronicles X, which is revealed the following year.)
2013/2014: An “urgent” recruitment drive begins for Xenoblade Chronicles X. The studio ramps up to 120 employees.
2015: Xenoblade Chronicles X is released. A large portion of the X team goes on to work on environment design for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Meanwhile, development of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 requires a large number of external contract studios.
2017: Project X Zone director Soichiro Morizumi and co-producer Koji Ishitani leave the company. Later in the year, a recruitment drive begins for a new project that is described as being “different from Monolith Soft’s brand image” and features concept art for a medieval fantasy project. Vacancies on the project make it sound like an action game.
2018: A recruitment drive begins for a new RPG developed by Monolith Soft’s 1st Production department, the team behind Xenoblade. Series creator Tetsuya Takahashi says the game will continue in the vein of the Xenoblade series and that the company is also seeking a talented character designer that can be the face of its games. Meanwhile, it appears that longtime Xeno character designer, Kunihiko Tanaka, is no longer working with Monolith Soft.
2019: Monolith Soft opens a new studio in Osaki, Tokyo. Recruitment begins for a Legend of Zelda game (likely Breath of the Wild 2) developed by a “2nd Production” department at the company. The general consensus is that this project is the same one Monolith Soft was hiring for in 2017.
2020: Early in the year, the studio grows to 243 employees. Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is scheduled for release this year. Monolith Soft’s other projects have yet to be revealed.