You’ve probably seen this news already, but a bombshell went off in Japan’s gaming industry today when famed game director Tomonobu Itagaki announced that he’s quitting publisher Tecmo and subsidiary development studio Team Ninja and is suing Tecmo’s president, Yoshimi Yasuda, in Tokyo District Court for 148 million Yen, or approximately $1.42 million US.
Itagaki cites Tecmo’s failure to pay bonuses promised him for completing Dead or Alive 4 as the basis of his claim. In addition, he claims Yasuda all but double-dog dared Itagaki to “quit or sue” Tecmo if he didn’t like it.
The annoucement, faxed to Japanese media and translated for US outlets, comes on the eve of release for Itagaki’s latest game, Ninja Gaiden 2, which is set to hit stores tomorrow morning.
The English version of Itagaki’s statement slams Yasuda and Tecmo. According to Itagaki:
The conduct of Tecmo Co., Ltd. and its president Yoshimi Yasuda towards me has been unbefitting of a publicly-listed company. I have filed this lawsuit with a strong intent to question the social responsibility of Tecmo Co., Ltd. and its President Yoshimi Yasuda, as well as condemning them for their unjust acts.
He also expresses disappointment to fans of his work that he will not continue producing future iterations of his games:
I truly feel sorry to all the fans of the games I have made. Ninja Gaiden 2, which will launch on the 3rd of June will be the last Ninja Gaiden I will create. I will also never be able to make Dead or Alive 5. I regret the circumstances that have forced me to leave Tecmo, where I had worked for so many years, and I regret the disappointment this will cause my fans. However, I can no longer continue to work with President Yoshimi Yasuda, a man who chooses not to honor promises even when he is able to do so. I truly hope that nothing like this happens again in the future.
For some time, Itagaki has said that Ninja Gaiden 2 would be his last Ninja Gaiden game and that his next venture would be a completely different, but equally violent, title. While speculation erupted about such possiblities, few had any idea that announcement signaled a “scorched earth” policy when it came to Tecmo.
His departure and the lawsuit, however, open a whole new series of questions: Which developer will pick up Itagaki-san and his new game, and who will helm the development Dead or Alive 5 (because, let’s face it, Itagaki’s departure won’t change that eventuality).