Nagoshi Talks Yakuza 3

We sit down with Yakuza 3 producer Toshihiro Nagoshi to chat about Tokyo's crime underworld and the success of Japanese-developed games in the West.

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The Yakuza series was not intended for mass-market popularity. At the time of its conception, the objective behind the series was very narrow: a Sony-exclusive action-adventure with a strong Japanese focus aimed at Japanese adult males. But as it turns out, the inner workings of Japan’s crime underworld is of interest to a lot of people, both in Japan and outside. Since its debut in 2005, the Yakuza series has been critically acclaimed worldwide for its innovative gameplay and strong sense of visual style, increasing its popularity in Japan and creating a growing fan base around the world.

However, Yakuza fans outside Japan have had to be patient. Traditionally, Yakuza games have been slow to come to the Western market, released one or even two years after their Japanese debuts. Yakuza Kenzan, the Yakuza spin-off title set in Edo-period Kyoto, has still not been released in the West despite its March 2008 release date in Japan. Those holding their breath for the Western release of Yakuza 3 were set at ease last week following the announcement that the game will finally be making its way West, arriving in North America, Europe, and Australia in March 2010.

While in Japan this month, we sat down with Sega producer and designer Toshihiro Nagoshi, whose work includes producing the Yakuza games and the Super Monkey Ball series. Nagoshi believes Yakuza’s popularity stems from the fact that the concept of the series was new at the time of its release.

“By focusing on Japan, adults and males, I created a condensed attraction,” Nagoshi said. “This turned out to be popular to a lot of people, not just its target market. I realized how much people liked the games and it grew from there.”

Yakuza 3’s biggest improvement over its predecessors, according to Nagoshi, is in the way the game looks. The development team worked to utilize the full technical capabilities of the PlayStation 3, creating stylish cutscenes, in-depth side missions, and realistic weather effects.

“I wanted to focus on making the city look as realistic as possible,” Nagoshi said.

Nagoshi says more Japanese developers need to focus on breaking the Western market and creating games that appeal both to Japanese and Western gamers. However, the way to do this is not by copying Western formulas in game development, but by coming up with new and innovative concepts that work.

“Japanese gamers and Western gamers don’t like the same things,” Nagoshi said. “But we need to concentrate on working with Western developers to come up with games that appeal to both markets. This is what I would like to do one day.”

Nagoshi also believes that while Japanese-developed games often don’t make a lasting impression in the Western market, 10 years ago things were different.

“I predicted this would happen. Japanese games used to be very popular in the West, and we need to return to that stage. Even the Japanese market is suffering and game sales have been going down. The only thing to do is to keep making interesting games,” Nagoshi said.

Without speculating on whether Yakuza Kenzan will ever get a Western release, Nagoshi said he was interested in creating another game in the future that would give gamers new experiences in the Yakuza setting.

“The biggest objective with Yakuza Kenzan was to make big changes to the Yakuza setting and give people a new experience when what they were expecting was Yakuza 3. I want to keep doing this," Nagoshi said.

While Nagoshi could not answer questions regarding the timing and release of Yakuza games in the West, we spoke to the managing director of Sega Australia, Darren Macbeth, who said the publisher needs to be comfortable enough that there is a strong market in the West before giving the go-ahead to local Japanese releases like the Yakuza series.

"Feedback from our fans online has suggested that there are more than a few gamers out there that are looking forward to a local Yakuza 3 release," Macbeth said. "We are listening to this feedback. However, releasing Japanese titles in the West is a tricky beast. In a lot of cases we have a very strong vocal group of fans, who demand the opportunity to play these games in their local markets and are very outspoken in their support. However, when the time comes, they are reluctant to stay committed and actually make the purchase. For this reason, although taking consumer feedback into consideration is important, we really need to analyse the market and competitive landscape to determine for ourselves if localization of Japanese games is indeed warranted."

Macbeth is positive that Yakuza 3 will do better than its predecessors in the West, given that the market for the games has grown. However, he says there are no plans to release Yakuza Kenzan in the West.

"There is nothing in the plan at this stage for Yakuza Kenzan. Right now we are focusing on the release of Yakuza 3. The feedback we get from this release will help us in making future decisions," Macbeth said.

Discussion

44 comments
ElMeerkat
ElMeerkat

where's the review for this?

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

is not a Japanese "GTA." The fact that they both deal with the Mafia is about the only thing similar about those games. Everything else is completely different.

essereetico
essereetico

I tired the demo and i'm not so impressed. Fight is very confusing and the best way to win seem just mash the buttons like a kid. Dialogues are very dumb.

GodofGambler
GodofGambler

Nay. The game reminds me of "Shenmue" back in the days. lol, what do you know, it's by the same developer. No wonder =D! Ah, gotta enjoy the music, the story, and mini games in "Shenmue" of Dreamcast. Practically it has no limit on time on beating the game, well, maybe till April but you'd beat the game by then.

tyco_ex
tyco_ex

I have the same question as MattyBoii93. I've never played Yakuza before. It sounds like it's basically a Japanese version of GTA. Would that be an accurate description?

bigboss894
bigboss894

Yakuza was one of the best games i have ever played. I didn't quite finish Yakuza 2 because of the bug at chapter 10. I downloaded the game but now I can't find my memory card. Grrrrrrr....Can't wait for part 3

richard_lowenth
richard_lowenth

Yakuza is the best game ever! I did wait almost a year to find the game in western side. Please, never give up lauching these series!

animommi
animommi

I can not wait to get Yakuza on PS3. I love the 1st 2 games (I have a big crush on Kazuma). This game is great for those people like me who love rpg games also.

MattyBoii93
MattyBoii93

i never played any of the yakuza's, and my game store doesnt have any copies.. Is it like a japanese gta? it looks very interesting and a definite buy!

tevic
tevic

I don't think Japanese gamers want different games than western gamers... look the Ace Fighter series or the Resident Evil series: both have a huge success in Japan but the gameplay is not particularly "japanese", it's very much like western designed action games. Japanese gamers are mainly interested in games developed in Japan that's all. The decline of the japanese gaming industry is linked imo to the failure or difficulty of the japanese developers to adapt to the HD environment and the big budgets and third party middleware solutions that came with it, maybe because of Japan geographically and culturally peripheral position to the West. So the bulk of japan's new games are now created for system with "old" technology: DS, PSP, PS2, Wii... Anyway what Japan needs is more games like Yakuza 3 and Demon's Souls. I'm very happy Y3 will be exported to the West and actually I would be shocked if it wouldn't because with a bigger audience you amortize costs faster (sorry for stating the obvious).

marciomax44
marciomax44

increible, jugue en ps2 y no va a decepcionar en PS3 va a ser un juegazo!! ojala sea la version japonesa con sub español!

Yojimbo25
Yojimbo25

I cannot wait for this game! I loved the first game, and is trying desperately to track down number 2! March couldn't come any quicker! I'm glad that is coming, I was four months ago actually considering importing the Japanese version.

thegreatgarry
thegreatgarry

tremendous... I will be the first one to buy it if it comes to west in march 2010...

bloodomen9
bloodomen9

i just finished yakuza 2 yesterday ! game is wayyyyyy underated in the west ! i wish all the games in the west will have a stories as good as in yakuza's! the game was great like 1 so now it just made the wait for 3 harder! this game is the second most anticipated game after GOW3

joeschmitt
joeschmitt

loved both yakuza and yakuza 2. good thing they are importing number 3! i would freak out if they didnt

Jak_Napier
Jak_Napier

Familiar with the series, but havent played the games. However, with that being said, Yakuza 3 looks like a great revival of the series and will be a most definite update, as the series makes a jump to the PS3.

Big_Ted
Big_Ted

Dear all whom have made a comment or a bit shy to comment, We need to voice our opinions on the Sega blog and to Sega, so that the people can hear our calls or pleads for more Yakuza games. Everyone that would like this game or would like to play more in the future join the cause and let your voice be heard (or read). If you really are keen, let them know because feedback is the ulitimate key.

DaGhOsT187
DaGhOsT187

Like most here said if they would just make it with english subs we would just import it..........Reason ps2 was awesome was that there were tons of games from japan for it !!!

jamjiggy123
jamjiggy123

i will buy this game when it comes out

Simsyas
Simsyas

Because people don't know badass if it would punch them in the face.

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

Yes, yes, yes. THIS is the game I want most so far in 2010. Why wasn't it in the most anticipated list?

danteMdie
danteMdie

Well, i guess yakuza 3 will sell great... Let's just hope that yakuza 4 (coming next year) has english subs...

jadefury27
jadefury27

I still think they should complete shenmue using this engine. Hell redo parts 1 & 2. This series is kind of a nice change of pace from the standard "gta" style crime game.

_Ben99_
_Ben99_

what do I feel there is points and level-ups , the basics for many Japanese game which is GREAT and each game should follow suit

UnitedGamerz
UnitedGamerz

EVERYBODY GET THIS GAME AND THEN IF IT IS A LOT OF SALES MABY WE CAN GET YAKUZA KENZAN

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

@bloodomen9 - You speak the truth. The fans aren't demanding a total overhaul of the game for the West; slap some English subs on this beast and call it a day. I certainly don't want some English White voice actor coming in to deliver the dialogue. Keep it real; keep it Japanese. That's all we want.

Big_Ted
Big_Ted

Tremendous! Sega you never let us down (Apart from Sonic)! Yakuza has always been on the cards since day dot for myself and many other gamers. The whole living life of a champion gangster (Knight in shining armour) appeals to all those who like to spice it up with massage palours to hostess bars (this isn't a real life confession) and it throws in some particulary great skull crushing, head stomping and bike smashing combat. Where can you go wrong?? Thanks again Sega!!

Forbs1990
Forbs1990

I ply y 1 and 2 but i will play this on ps3...

bloodomen9
bloodomen9

theres no need to release those games in the us/eu! just make a asia version of the games with a option for english subs and menus and the fans will import it !

BetardxFoosier
BetardxFoosier

Guess I'll have to use my brother's PS3 for this title.

Vhial
Vhial

ArchiKiller I'ts been out in Japan since...2008 I think?. This is a day one buy for me. I already pre-ordered it and will be getting it at midnight at work ^^

ArchiKiller
ArchiKiller

i hope they release the Europe version soon after their Japanese release ^^

Arykuarius
Arykuarius

Sega im one of ur biggest fans, my first system was a sega genessis 3. i will buy it also

JuSs2Fr3Sh
JuSs2Fr3Sh

SEGA! WE NEED SHENMUE 3!!!! for PS3!!!

Abecale
Abecale

Dont worry sega, day one purchase for me. I know how hard it is to take big risks like that, with releasing japanese titles into western market, the money and jobs and time that is at stake. Hopefully the risk will pay off.