SIE Japan Studio (formerly SCE Japan Studio, also known as SCEJ) was a Japanese video game development company and a division of Sony Interactive Entertainment. It was founded in 1993, and was SIE's oldest self-founded studionote , and the longest-surviving of the company's original development teams between its inception until its eventual restructure in 2021, lasting over 27 years.
As its name suggests, Japan Studio served as Sony's central development organization in the company's home country, and was one of two overall alongside Polyphony Digital (which began its life as an internal team within Japan Studio). Unlike other first-party studios belonging to Sony, Japan Studio's role within the development lied less with original productions for the PlayStation consoles, and more as a collaborator and support team for various third-party developers.
Throughout its existence, Japan Studio worked with multiple Japanese and foreign game studios, including the likes of FromSoftware (which led to the creation of the Souls-like RPG sub-genre), Level-5, Marvelous, Media Vision, Clap Hanz (most famous for Sony's Everybody's Golf series), and Bluepoint Games. The studio did have several in-house productions throughout its years, including the Ape Escape series, the Legend of Dragoon, the Team Ico trilogy, Siren, Gravity Rush and Knack. While achieving varying levels of commercial success and sales numbers, many of their internally-developed titles have become Cult Classics.
Internally, while not firmly-defined, Japan Studio had several development teams across the years that worked on specific titles and received recognition in their own right:
- Polys Entertainment: Among the first teams within Japan Studio, whose success in the genre-defining Gran Turismo shaped into its own studio, Polyphony Digital in 1998, thus breaking from Japan Studio.
- Sugar & Rockets: Formerly known as Exact, it was an internal team that worked with the larger Japan Studio on several games, most notably a well-received Ghost in the Shell game. Its existence dates back to 1995, and it quietly disappeared after 2000.
- Team Ico, arguably the most famous of Japan Studio's development teams across the years, was responsible for ICO and Shadow of the Colossus which helped bringing attention to Japan Studio. It was headed by Fumito Ueda, and was also involved in the early stages of The Last Guardian. After Ueda left Sony in 2011, the team dissolved, but its remnants formed genDESIGN under Ueda and helped finishing their final project with Sony. Bluepoint Games was involved in remastering their first two titles, and later remaking Shadow of the Colossus in 2018.
- Project Siren, later known as Team Gravity, was another internal team led by Keiichiro Toyama, the man best known for creating the Silent Hill series at Konami. While not as well-known or acclaimed as the aforementioned Team Ico, Project Siren created the Cult Classic Siren trilogy and later the Gravity Rush series. While neither series was sales hit, they found their fans. Toyama left Sony in August 2020, marking the end of the team.
- Team Asobi: At the time of the studio's demise, it was the youngest of Japan Studio's named teams. Unlike Team Ico or Project Siren, Team Asobi is a more defined team within the studio. They are responsible for the Astro Bot series, and primarily develop titles that are meant to showcase the capabilities of various PlayStation technologies and hardware. The team's head, Nicolas Doucet, became the studio head of SIE Japan in 2020. They would end up spinning-off from Japan Studio in 2021.
In 2020, following Doucet's appointment as studio head, SIE Japan began to reconstructing itself, a second attempt following an earlier one done by previous studio head Allen Becker. As part of the reorganization, an External Development Department was established to better support collaboration and partnerships with other studios, while also strengthening the studio's internal development team. In a November 2020 interview following the announcement of his departure from the studio, Keiichiro Toyama revealed that Japan Studio was rebuilding itself to focus on larger, blockbuster titles.
Unfortunately, throughout 2020 and early 2021, many of the studio's creative heads and producers began to depart Japan Studio. On February 2021, Sony announced that due to the weak sales of the studio's recent original output, Japan Studio will face a restructure that would see the majority of its workforce laid off while its external support team would be merged with Sony's global support teams, effectively ending the studio's nearly three decades worth of existence. This restructure would be completed on April 1, 2021.
Team Asobi, which were deemed the only commercially valuable development team within the studio, were announced to be spun-off into their own entity.
Compare with SIE London Studio, whose structure also supports experimental titles meant to showcase various technologies and tech demo titles for PlayStation, and SIE Santa Monica Studio, who similarly served as a major support studio for third-party partnerships as one of its functions until 2015.
Video games developed by Japan Studio include:
- Jumping Flash! (1995)
- Jumping Flash! 2 (1996)
- Robbit Mon Dieu (1999)
- Ape Escape (1999)
- Pipo Saru 2001 (2001)
- Ape Escape 2 (2002)
- Ape Escape 3 (2005)
- Saru! Get You! Million Monkeys (2006)
- PlayStation Move Ape Escape (2010)
- The Legend of Dragoon (1999)
- Aconcagua (2000)
- Team ICO Series:
- Lifeline (2003)
- Siren (2003)
- Siren 2 (2006)
- Siren: Blood Curse (2008)
- Work Time Fun (2005)
- LocoRoco (2006)
- LocoRoco Cocoreccho! (2007)
- LocoRoco 2 (2008)
- LocoRoco Midnight Carnival (2009)
- Jeanne d'Arc (with Level-5) (2006)
- Piyotama (2007)
- The Eye of Judgment (2007)
- Patapon (with Pyramid) (2007)
- Patapon 2 (with Pyramid) (2008)
- Patapon 3 (with Pyramid) (2011)
- echochrome (2008)
- Echochrome II (2010)
- The Last Guy (2008)
- White Knight Chronicles (with Level-5) (2008)
- Demon's Souls (with FromSoftware) (2009)
- Trash Panic (2009)
- Kung Fu Rider (2010)
- Beat Sketcher (2010)
- Gravity Rush (2012)
- Gravity Rush 2 (2017)
- Soul Sacrifice (with Marvelous AQL) (2013)
- Puppeteer (2013)
- rain (with Acquire) (2013)
- Knack (2013)
- Knack II (2017)
- Freedom Wars (with Shift and Dimps) (2014)
- Bloodborne (with FromSoftware) (2015)
- Astro Bot Rescue Mission (2018)
- Astro's Playroom (2020)
- Déraciné (with FromSoftware) (2018)