Monolith Soft Inc.(JP)(CN) is a first party Nintendo developer purchased by Nintendo in 2007. Prior to the buyout, Bandai Namco owned a majority of the company. Nintendo originally only purchased 80% of Bandai Namco's 96%, but they bought out the rest in 2011. Company President Hirohide Sugiura and lead designers Tetsuya Takahashi and Yasuyuki Honne each also own a limited number of shares.
Monolith Soft was created in 1999 by Tetsuya Takahashi, Hirohide Sugiura, and Yasuyuki Honne after they left Square Co. feeling that the company no longer allowed them to have some creative freedom. At the time Square was prioritizing established IPs over new ones, this was in part caused by the immense popularity of the Final Fantasy series following the release of Final Fantasy VII. Namco was at the time the company who invested the most in Monolith due to shared values at the time, as a result it became its subsidiary.
From Namco to Nintendo
As their first work under Namco, Monolith Soft started working on Xenosaga Episode I, which released in 2002 as the first spiritual successor of Xenogear. After 2002 the relations between Namco and Monolith Soft began to slowly deteriorate. They later released Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean for the Nintendo GameCube in 2003. The same year, Honne was approached by Satoru Iwata to develop a new game in the Earthbound series. Honne developed a pitch that he describes as a "felt-style recreation of 80s America" but it was ultimately rejected by Shigesato Itoi. Xenosaga Episode II was released in 2004. Xenosaga was at that time reimagined as a trilogy rather than an hexalogy with the future of the series depending on its success.
In 2006, they released Xenosaga Episode III and Baten Kaitos Origins as well as Xenosaga I & II. After the release of Xenosage Episode III, the series proved itself to be a mixed bag both commercially and critically, which ended any future plans for the series. At this point another Baten Kaitos game for the Nintendo DS but Namco now merged with Bandai decided to cancel it. The newly formed Bandai Namco became more hostile to creative risks, which was similar to what the founder of the company wanted to escape in doing so.
It was around that time that they recieved consultation from Shinji Hatano who at the time was an executive director at Nintendo. Hatano advised them to continue working on innovative projects, this is what motivated to broke off from Bandai Namco and become Nintendo's subsidiary.
First years under Nintendo
Nintendo purchasing the majority of Monolith's shares was announced in 2007 with 80% while Bandai Namco kept 16% and remained as a a partner while the remainig 4% were split between Tetsuya Takahashi, Hirohide Sugiura, and Yasuyuki Honne. Bandai Namco also declared this exchange also strengthened their relationship with Nintendo. Their first games released under Nintendo's leadership were a trio of game, Soma Bringer, Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier for the Nintendo DS , and Disaster: Day of Crisis for the Wii, all released in 2008. During that time they also worked on Super Smash Bros. Brawl for Nintendo as well as Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans, which released in 2009. Takahashi also had since mmid 2006 ideas for a game about "rival civilizations emerging on the frozen bodies of two warring gods". The project was brought to Nintendo and was started in 2007. The game was designed from the start with an international release in mind unlike prior Monolith Soft projects. The game was also at the time the biggest project Monolith Soft had worked on and was under threat of being internally scaled down but with Nintendo's support, the game was able to meet the scope of what was originally envisioned. The game was first shown during E3 2009 under the title of Monado: Beginning of the World and set to release on the Wii. In January 2010, Satoru Iwata proposed to change the title of the game to Xenoblade Chronicles to honor Takahashi's past games.
Xenoblade Chronicles released during 2010 in Japan and became the starting point of the Xenoblade series. It later released in Europe and North America in 2011 and 2012 respesctively after some internal struggles and delays. They also released Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier EXCEED, a sequel to the original, in 2010.
In 2011, Nintendo expanded Monolith Soft, and created a smaller branch of the company in Kyoto, so that they could work more closely with Nintendo. Yasuyuki Honne was made head of this branch, and their first game was Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which was released in Japan on November 8, 2012. Meanwhile, the Tokyo branch was providing support to Nintendo EAD for the development of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which would become a common occurence for the development of Zelda games going foreward. Outside of co-developing Nintendo software, Monolith Soft Tokyo was also creating original software for Nintendo systems. By early 2012, Nintendo had completely bought the remaining shares Namco still had in Monolith Soft. After the release of Xenoblade Chronicles, the Tokyo branch started to work on their next in house project. They wanted it to be a science-fiction themed RPG with a scope estimated to be five time bigger than Xenoblade Chronicles in term of map size. It being their first High Definition game, as it was made for the Wii U, made it their most ambitious project yet due to its sheer scale. The game was hinted at in 2012 by Nintendo , who revealed that the studio was working on a new project for their console.
In 2013 Pikmin 3 and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds were released, both game had support from Monolith Soft's Kyoto branch during development alongside the involvement of their main developers. Their new in-house title was revealed during E3 2013 under the working title of X and with a release window set for 2014. During E3 2014, the game's title was revaled to be Xenoblade Chronicles X, as it was intended to be a spiritual successor of the original game, and the release window was pushed back to 2015. In 2015, the Kyoto branch provided support for both Splatoon and Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer. Meanwhile Xenoblade Chronicles X released worldwide over the course of the year. During the last stages of development of Xenoblade Chronicles X, as early as mid 2014, the Tokyo branch started to work on the initial stages of a new Xenoblade game made for what was at the time known as the NX. They wanted it to feel closer to the original Xenoblade instead of Xenoblade Chronicles X in term of structure and story so they decided to title it Xenoblade Chronicles 2 to reflect this decision. During development, part of the Tokyo brach tasked with designing environement was assigned to Nintendo EAD in order to work on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Splatoon 2 was also helped by the Kyoto branch during its development.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was first shown during the Nintendo Switch presentation of early 2017 alongside Breath of the Wild and Splatoon 2, which were all games Monolith Soft had been working on at the time. All three of these games would release in 2017 as part of the Nintendo Switch's first year lineup. In September 2017, they opened Nakameguro GS studio. Some events of the backstory of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 were originally part of a scrapted initial plot of the game, however. Takahashi had that entire script inside his hard drive but decided against showing the prototype to Nintendo because they knew it would inflate the budget and development time of the main game. This story was originally planned to be located between chapter 7 and 8 of the main game. The prototype was later revived as Torna: The Golden Country, which was released independently and as part of the base game's expansion pass in 2018. In June 2018, they opened fourth studio in Iidabashi. The Tokyo team announced that they would be hiring for a new "RPG" project in October of the same year. Between 2018 and 2019, the Iidabashi studio closed and was replaced by a second one in Tokyo, this time in the Ōsaki district. In March 2019, the main Tokyo team announced that they were working on a new Zelda project, which is assumed to be the Breath of the Wild sequel that was announced a few months later during E3 2019. No details on this are currently known. In september 2019, it was announced that a remake of Xenoblade Chronicles for the Nintendo Switch, named Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, was in development.
In March 2020, it was announced that the remake would feature an epilogue, similar to Torna, called Future Connected. In the same month, another game that recieved the support of the Kyoto Team, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, was released for the Nintendo Switch.
List of games
As a third party developer
- Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean - GameCube (co-developed with tri-Crescendo)
- Baten Kaitos Origins - GameCube (co-developed with tri-Crescendo) (First game published by Nintendo)
- Xenosaga I & II - Nintendo DS
As a first party studio
- Soma Bringer - Nintendo DS
- Disaster: Day of Crisis - Wii
- Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier (co-developed with Banpresto) - Nintendo DS
- Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans - Nintendo DS
- Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier EXCEED (co-developed with Banpresto) - Nintendo DS
- Xenoblade Chronicles - Wii
- Project X Zone - Nintendo 3DS
- Xenoblade Chronicles X - Wii U
- Project X Zone 2 - 3DS
- Xenoblade Chronicles 2 - Nintendo Switch
- Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition - Nintendo Switch
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl - Wii
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - Wii
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Wii U / Nintendo Switch