Clover Studio (Japanese: クローバースタジオ株式会社 Hepburn: Kurōbāsutajio Kabushikigaisha) was an independent Japanese video game development studio funded by Capcom. The studio developed the PlayStation 2 port of Viewtiful Joe, both versions of Viewtiful Joe 2 for the Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation 2, and the PS2 titles Ōkami and God Hand. The name "clover" is an abbreviation of "creativity lover" as well as the Japanese syllables mi ("three") and ba ("leaf") coming from the names of Shinji Mikami and Clover's Atsushi Inaba.
The studio consisted largely of existing Capcom R&D talent, who had formed the company (then called Studio 9), in order to achieve greater executive control, and thus creative freedom, but like Sega's semi-autonomous studios did in the early 2000s. The studio focused largely on creating new intellectual property rather than sequels. When these failed to perform on par with Capcom's more popular series, Capcom attempted to merge the studio back into their internal R&D. Those at the studio chose instead to leave the company, and Clover was closed.
Some of the key members of Clover founded Seeds Inc., a new development group that merged with ODD Incorporated in October 2007 to form Platinum Games, which has since built up a staff composed of former Clover staff. Other members (including the art director of Ōkami) went to join Ignition Entertainment at their Tokyo development studio, which developed the game El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. On October 28, 2010, one of the most prominent members of Clover Studio and then Platinum Games, Shinji Mikami, joined ZeniMax Media in a deal where ZeniMax acquired his new development studio Tango Gameworks.
To facilitate Viewtiful Joe 2's development, Capcom turned "Team Viewtiful" into Clover Studio, a semi-autonomous production company with a focus on developing new intellectual properties (IPs). The separation was also in part due to Resident Evil 4's PlayStation 2 release, which caused significant tensions between Capcom and Mikami, who had touted the game's console exclusivity. Clover Studio was able to produce two more games in the Viewtiful Joe series, which serve as side-stories, and commissioned an anime adaptation which was handled by Group TAC. Clover's next big project was Ōkami, a "brand-focused project" fitting with Capcom's goal for Clover to develop new IPs. Although it was a critical success, it failed to live up to Capcom's sales expectations; Clover's next project God Hand did even worse. Compounding this problem, Clover's developers still felt stifled under the weight of Capcom's corporate management, who were reluctant or actively opposed to risky new ideas. Capcom shut down Clover Studio in late 2006, following the resignations of Atsushi Inaba, Hideki Kamiya, and Shinji Mikami. They would go on to found Platinum Games with members of their old studio. In 2008, they announced the "Platinum Three", referring to MadWorld, Infinite Space, and Bayonetta, which would attempt to carry on the Capcom Five's ambitious and creative original spirit. These resignations were part of a series of high-profile departures from Capcom, including Yoshiki Okamoto in 2003 and Keiji Inafune in 2010. Inafune complained of similar problems as Inaba, Kamiya, and Mikami, namely that Capcom management had a rule dictating that at least 70-80 percent of all new projects must be sequels of existing properties, with the actual number very close to 100 percent at any time.
- Viewtiful Joe, 2003 - Nintendo GameCube (as Team Viewtiful) and PlayStation 2
- Viewtiful Joe 2, 2004 - Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation 2
- Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble, 2005 - Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation Portable
- Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble!, 2005 - Nintendo DS
- Ōkami, 2006 - PlayStation 2
- God Hand, 2006 - PlayStation 2