Tecmo affirms Itagaki departure

Japanese publisher acknowledges celebrity gamemaker's departure, says new Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden games "already underway" at Team Ninja.

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Yesterday was supposed to be a celebratory day for Tecmo and Team Ninja, what with the launch of the anticipated Ninja Gaiden II on the Xbox 360. However, that seemingly joyous occasion took a sudden and severe turn for the worse when the controversial chief of Tecmo's internal development studio Tomonobu Itagaki announced he would be departing Tecmo on less than amicable terms, and had filed suit against the company for an unpaid incentive bonus.

While Tecmo was initially mum over the situation, the Japanese publisher today dispersed to the media a written statement in English, acknowledging Itagaki's departure. "On June 3, 2008, Tomonobu Itagaki, executive producer of Tecmo-owned development studio Team Ninja, submitted his resignation," reads the statement. "Due to the fact that he had recently filed a legal complaint against Tecmo, there was no choice but to accept his resignation."

Tecmo's statement also addressed Itagaki's lawsuit. "The legal complaint is in regards to a claim to an incentive bonus linked to a past project," said Tecmo. "The parties could not reach an amicable resolution to this matter and Itagaki chose to seek a legal remedy. Tecmo will let the court decide the outcome of this case and will seek a true, fair, and quick resolution."

As related by Itagaki yesterday, the celebrity producer is seeking ¥148 million ($1.4 million) in compensation stemming from a completion bonus for Dead or Alive 4. According to Itagaki, when he pursued payment from Tecmo president Yoshimi Yasuda, the executive denied his request, saying, "'if you are dissatisfied with the decision not to pay the bonuses, either quit the company or sue it.'"

In a somewhat penitent moment, Itagaki also expressed remorse to his fans yesterday for not being able to continue the two franchises he is most well-known for--Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive. However, Tecmo has said that it not only has no plans to dissolve Team Ninja, but the studio is already at work on a number of new games in both franchises as well.

"Most importantly, Tecmo would like to assure its loyal fans that Team Ninja, known for its top selling and critically acclaimed Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive franchises, is intact and, as a matter of fact, have several new projects already underway," said Tecmo. "Team Ninja is, more than ever, committed to producing compelling and cutting edge games in order to maintain its reputation as a high quality developer and to continue to receive the support of its loyal fans."

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