Sega's role in the Ryu ga Gotoku IP
―Ten years have passed since the first Ryu ga Gotoku game was released in December 2005; how does it feel to look back on the past decade?
Nagoshi: The feeling changes from day to day. Some days it feels short, and some days it feels long. That said, there aren't many times when it hits home just what a long road it's been, so I'm sure for me it was short.
―Perhaps it feels that way because you've basically released a game every year.
Nagoshi: I think so. We weren't aiming for a game a year from the beginning - looking back on it now, that's just how it happened.
―Throughout the ten years, what kinds of things have made you feel, "We did a good job here"?
Nagoshi: I actually feel that way every time. We have this pressure with the numbered titles where we have to exceed 500,000 units, and when we actually make it I feel like we "did it". When combined with the Asian version, Ryu ga Gotoku Kiwami, released in January, has shipped around 380,000 copies currently, and I feel like we "did it" there, too. Each time we have a figure that we're shooting for, and in the sense that we've always achieved a result close to it, we always have that reaction. In addition to this, I also feel a sense of accomplishment with regards to the way that, through Ryu ga Gotoku's support of the gaming industry, we have also helped to grow Sega's other IPs (intellectual properties). This is fulfilment by extension, however.
―Ryu ga Gotoku is like one of Sega's flagship consumer titles these days.
Nagoshi: A little over ten years ago, I think there was a period where the IPs were drying up and Sega were in danger of losing their brand. Ryu ga Gotoku endured this tough setting, creating a foundation on which to grow Phantasy Star, smartphone games and more. Seeing profits recovering bit by bit makes me feel as though Ryu ga Gotoku has fulfilled a role for Sega.
Aiming for a more global audience without changing the core content
―How has the playerbase of the Ryu ga Gotoku series changed over the past ten years?
Nagoshi: We originally had mostly players in their thirties, but we had an increase in new players in their twenties with Ryu ga Gotoku Ishin (released in 2014). It's kind of interesting that the players are getting younger. I'm really glad that people who started playing the games recently are experiencing Ryu ga Gotoku 0 and Kiwami. The same goes for the increase in Asian players.
―I get the impression that the Ryu ga Gotoku series has been picking up momentum in Asia in recent years.
Nagoshi: I feel Asia's enthusiasm strongly. Kiwami has been doing well, and after Kiwami came out 0 sold about 10,000 copies. That was a surprise, too.
―I also get the feeling that fans of the Yakuza (the English title of Ryu ga Gotoku) series have been increasing in number in North America and Europe. There were cheers when 0's localisation was announced at the PlayStation Experience event that was held last December.
Nagoshi: I do feel as if the number of fans is increasing bit by bit in the West, but it's too early to say that things are going well now. I think we need to make some small modifications to appeal to them.
―Will you be putting efforts into reaching a more global audience in the future?
Nagoshi: Ryu ga Gotoku was always a game that was made for adult Japanese men, and the Western and Asian markets were proactively abandoned. But seeing these kinds of results come out of Asia makes me think that maybe, depending on our approach, it might sell on a more global level. But still, however fun the game may be, the players won't buy it if they don't have a reason to. I think that Asian players probably buy Ryu ga Gotoku for different reasons to Japanese ones. If we take a good look at these motives, I can see the potential for it to succeed in the foreign market, too.
―This will be a fresh challenge for Ryu ga Gotoku as it welcomes its tenth year.
Nagoshi: When I had just joined the company I was taught that games won't sell overseas without a ubiquitous theme, but this is a challenge towards that, also. I think that whether something unique manages to sell globally is determined on a case by case basis. Perhaps our final goal is to come up with a strategy to overcome even the obstacle of taking it worldwide. Maybe an indicator of this would be to sell 1,000,000 copies globally.
―I'm excited to see where it goes from here.
Nagoshi: That said, the condition is that it has to be properly loved in Japan. I want us to avoid being so overly conscious of foreigners that Japanese players say, "This isn't the RGG we loved anymore." We will still make them for adult Japanese men. On the other hand, if it's fun then anything is possible - I want to preserve that freedom in a good way.
―Have you considered expanding Ryu ga Gotoku out onto smartphones?
Nagoshi: If we can come up with an idea for something that will make for good content I would want to do it, but I have no intention of forcing it. My own supposition is that rather than wanting to spend every day tapping away at their smartphones, Ryu ga Gotoku fans are the type who wait for that excitement that comes once a year. However, if a young creator would propose some kind of smartphone game to me, I would definitely like to hear them out. That's my position.
―How about expansions into film or TV dramas?
Nagoshi: Of course I'd like to, and I'm waiting for the chance. If we can't find a partner who wants to do it with us or our aims don't match up, we can't make it happen. I wouldn't want players to watch it and be disappointed, so I'd have to think carefully about it.
―Finally, please tell us about Ryu ga Gotoku 6 (temporary name) and about your outlook on the future.
Nagoshi: About 70% of the graphics for Ryu ga Gotoku 6 are done, and around 60-70% of the game system and motions. It's going to keep improving. We're still redoing the motions while we can still make it in time. Making technological investments now will affect sequels and new IPs. I myself am looking forward to seeing what we can do next, and I have high hopes for the ideas of the new generation. I hope we find creators who join Sega because they love RGG and want to make a new one.
Topic 1: An all-out exhibition at Taipei Game Show
Taipei Game Show is held in Taiwan each year in late January. This year, Sega Games participated solo for the first time, showing off their new titles, beginning with Ryu ga Gotoku Kiwami, to the Asian market. Mr. Nagoshi visited the venue, appearing on a special stage to commemorate Ryu ga Gotoku's tenth anniversary. Many fans participated in the autograph session that was held afterwards.
Topic 2: Developments with the English version, "Yakuza"
In the West, the Ryu ga Gotoku series is released under the name "Yakuza". The games are released later than they are in Japan, with Yakuza 5 only just having been released in December 2015. Yakuza 0 is also scheduled to be released in the West in 2017. Full-scale promotions for Yakuza 0 have yet to begin, and it will attract attention in the future.