SUDA51’s studio, Grasshopper Manufacture is part of the current absorption of all individual studios into many massive homogenous lumps, as they’ve been bought out by Chinese publisher Netease.
Netease specialises in bringing tonnes of the same variation of mobile MMO to app stores, as well as the upcoming Diablo Immortal and handle various different licenses in China, including Blizzard’s Overwatch, Warcraft and some of Warner Brothers’ properties including Harry Potter. Essentially, if there needs to be a Chinese version of a game that has to be managed remotely by a company based in China, Netease is one of the many that handle bringing it through the perilous gates that might prevent games from getting published in the country.
Microsoft and Mojang use Netease to ensure that Minecraft Pocket Edition has a home in the various alternate app stores available in China.
Grasshopper Manufacture has entered its 23rd year of existence and let’s be honest, is quite fascinating as to how they’ve made it nearly a quarter of a century with either niche, art titles like Killer7 or games that never landed properly like Lollipop Chainsaw, which saw the Japanese studio try to make a splash overseas with Shadows of the Damned, only to be hindered by EA. This then became a plot point in Travis Strikes Again in 2019 as part of the No More Heroes franchise.
The studio is best known for No More Heroes and its quirky leader, Goichi Suda (SUDA51), who only recently returned to directing games for them after a hiatus since the failure of Shadows of the Damned.
Their games are often described as having a punk attitude, with them being janky in many ways and filled with personality. Their free-to-play live service game, LET IT DIE, has a cult following, while Nintendo and Marvellous have helped them publish their last two entries in the No More Heroes series, with the third and final entry being released earlier in 2021 exclusively on Switch.
From Netease’s statement announcing the acquisition:
“NetEase is honoured to be the companion of Mr Suda and Grasshopper Manufacture on this new journey into the future. We hope to give the studio creative freedom and sufficient resource support in order to empower said studio to create even more sensational works for gamers worldwide.”
The buyout means that Grasshopper will provide Netease with three new titles over the next ten years, with Netease ensuring consumers that they’ll have the creative freedom to do what they need to, as well as providing ‘technology’ to aid in their development.
Netease isn’t slowing down either, as recently the original lead on the Yakuza series left to join the company and they’ve put the call out for other Japanese developers to join them. All of this is presumed to be part of what’s going on in the industry, as everyone begins to head under various branches of publishers in an effort to provide the best services to users. This can be seen in Microsoft’s and Sony’s acquisitions of studios they’ve worked with for a long time.
In 2018 they invested heavily in Bungie, developers of Destiny and have a minority stake in Detroit: Become Human developer, Quantic Dream.