Sony's PRISM Project announces operations closure: Why it's happening and more - Hindustan Times
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Sony's PRISM Project announces operations closure: Why it's happening, VTubing explored

Mar 02, 2024 06:20 PM IST

Sony Music Entertainment's (Japan) VTuber agency PRISM Project currently holds 18 talents under its banner - all transitioning to independent talents in April.

Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc.'s VTuber agency PRISM Project is set to cease its operations on March 31, 2024. The virtual talent management label issued a press release on March 2, claiming that all eighteen talents currently managed by the agency will become independent performers starting April 1, 2024. They will be retaining their original talent aliases and personas. All rights to their character images will be transferred to them to facilitate their seamless transition to independent artists as they maintain their presence on YouTube and other social media profiles.

PRISM Project to cease operations on March 31, 2024.(PRISM Project)
PRISM Project to cease operations on March 31, 2024.(PRISM Project)

PRISM Project advises fans to tune into each creator's streams or social media in early March for more updates about their individual plans and upcoming activities after March 31. Moreover, fans may rest assured that all events and schedules announced for March will carry on as planned. Even merchandise orders placed by the March 31 deadline will be completed after the PRISM Project operations are concluded. All fan mail received until the deadline will always be delivered to the individual talents. On top of that, the PRISM Project social media accounts - YouTube and X (formerly Twitter) will remain for posterity as an archive.

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The VTubing project encouraged fans to continue supporting artists even after the agency's activities have been finalised at the end of March. However, it has also asked the fans to refrain from inquiring artists directly. All business-related queries about the new announcement should be directed to contact@prismproject.jp .

Also read: Jujutsu Kaisen S2 dominates at Crunchyroll Anime Awards 2024; Winners list out!

About the VTuber agency PRISM Project:

The “multinational VTuber agency from the future” was originally founded by Anotherball Inc. Eventually, Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) took over operations in May 2022. In these nearly two years, the PRISM Project was able to expand its hold. Its artists were featured at major anime conventions and even other events worldwide. The agency released a plethora of original musical releases, debuted a music label and achieved several other milestones that were originally out of reach for PRISM.

Shogun, the PRISM Project producer, also remarked how proud they were of their contributions. 

The current PRISM Project agents list is as follows:

1st Generation:

  • Iku Hoshifuri
  • Aoi Tokimori
  • Meno Ibuki

2nd Generation:

  • Luto Araka
  • Rita Kamishiro

3rd Generation

  • Shiki Miyoshino
  • Nia Suzune
  • Yura Rikudou
  • Pina Pengin

4th Generation:

  • Naki Kamizuki
  • Sara Nagare
  • Non Anon

5th Generation:

  • Ami Amami
  • Kou Tsubame

6th Generation:

  • Jun Akane

7th Generation:

  • Mako Sameshima
  • Nana Asteria
  • Emma Oumiya

Why the PRISM Project's closing operations - according to Shogun:

“After careful consideration and discussion between management and talents regarding each talent's goals as virtual performers, and with an eye towards industry trends and the considerable staff resources required not only to sustain but to further grow the brand, together we have made the incredibly difficult decision to cease talent management operations and make it possible for each talent to continue their activities under their current talent names with their current character IPs,” continued Shogun in the press release.

Fans on online discussion forums shared their views on the matter. As always, the debate has fuelled two sides with different ideas. One side is considering the ‘death’ of VTubing in the West due to the deflation of interest after the pandemic. The other side points out that with their Japanese corporate association, artists didn't have the freedom to pursue the latest ‘trends’ like playing games.

A 4chan user wrote: “Well reading the message it seems they agreed that the goals everyone (staff and talents) wanted wasn’t obtainable with the company. They couldn’t play games they wanted since it was a Japanese company which is what they’re referring to by “trends” they mentioned resources they couldn’t provide considering the size of company. Ultimately the goals they wanted to achieved couldn’t be achieved as a company so letting them keep their models and do their own thing was the option they chose.”

Reddit discussions also dug into other possibilities. A longtime VTubing enthusiast brought recent layoffs in the gaming sector to attention: “Considering the very public and massive layoffs in the gaming sector that Sony had just a few days ago; I'm inclined to believe that PRISM might have just fallen victim to Sony purging parts of their business to pad their bottom line for the next investment meeting.”

Despite the heartbreaking decision, many fans appreciated the PRISM Project's initiative to transfer all rights and IPs to all talents going independent soon. “It's a shame it has ended, but this is the best way it could have happened. No drama, good terms, and the talents all able to keep their IP's as they go independent. After the mess of the last few months, I gotta give Prism Project credit for their class act. They were full of heart, which will carry them onwards!," a Reddit user responded.

What is VTubing?

Like any other form of live-streaming, VTubing follows a similar route, except that the creators adopt a virtual avatar here. Each VTuber has a signature avatar that sets them apart from the others. These avatars can be commissioned by an artist or bought off a marketplace. Some VTubers even chose to design their own avatars. State-of-the-art fusion of animation software programs and motion capture technology allows these avatars to come to life on various streams.

While this form of live streaming originated in Japan in the 2010s, it achieved booming popularity by 2020 as English-speaking audiences also warmed up to it. As soon as you look at these avatars, you'll instantly recognise the influence of Japanese pop culture, including anime and manga, in their creation.

As of February 2024, these are some of the most popular VTubers (according to their follower and subscriber count on Twitch / YouTube): Gawr Gura, Nimu, Filian, Houshou Marine, Kizuna Ai, Nyatasha Nyanners, Ironmouse, Shxtou and others. A significant observation from the list of Top 20 VTubers (Dexerto) is that several entries in the chart correspond to independent artists, signalling a positive future for other individual talents.

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