Chinese developer and publisher NetEase is reportedly in “final negotiations” with Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi to hire him from Sega, where he has been since 1989.
According to a report from Bloomberg, NetEase would expect Nagoshi to build a new team and develop completely new games for the company, even though the final contract and details of the job role have not yet been set in stone.
NetEase is already a gaming powerhouse in China thanks to mobile games such as the Westward Journey series, Cyber Hunter, Identity V and Knives Out (no relation to the film), as well as the partnership with Activision-Blizzard to run World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Starcraft 2 in the country.
However, it still wants to expand its global notoriety and get more hits outside of China, especially in the midst of an increasing decline in playing time for minors in China that became even stricter today.
As Tokyo-based analyst Serkan Toto of Kantan Games put it to Bloomberg, companies such as NetEase and Tencent are particularly interested in acquiring Japanese talent to achieve these goals. “Tencent and NetEase have spoken to just about every listed studio here and are also active after some privately owned developers. They both feel pressure to make progress in Japan, especially as domestic gaming regulations are becoming increasingly restrictive,”
Nagoshi has been with Sega since the very first days of arcade titles, with his first credit with the company as a designer at Virtua Racing. He continued as producer and director of the Monkey Ball series, before joining Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and leading the creation of the Yakuza series.
The latest Yakuza game, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, was especially known for taking the series from an action-beat-em-up to a turn-based RPG, whose bold steps we applauded despite the struggles to maintain balance. A sequel to the Yakuza spin-off Judgment, titled Lost Judgment, is scheduled for next month.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @andvalentine.