Originally posted on 20 January 2016
Source: page 80-84

Destiny of a Dragon

Publicity holds the key. Desperate door-to-door advertising

Through Kitagawa's exhaustive efforts, they were able to remove only the problematic areas, leaving the main story intact. Even the scene of Kiryu and Haruka's meeting, which Nagoshi had not budged an inch on, successfully passed the review without being cut. Meanwhile, in CERO's review the game was categorised as a D, meaning that it was aimed at 17 years and up.

The last remaining problem was promotion. How should they convey the amusement of this brand new game to people? Nagoshi pleaded with the management at a meeting.

"Please give us a promotional budget higher than that of our previous big titles."

Initially, when it was in the proposal stage, no one had understood the interest of the game. He knew that conventional advertising alone would not be enough to show it to average people. They would have to make it more widely known by conducting a mass door-to-door campaign, using all kinds of media to tell people of the novel, fun game.

"If this game is a success, it will change the common perception of home gaming. It will create a new market aimed at adults."

The cause of the prolonged gaming slump was that there were fewer children around. Companies that had developed games aimed only at children were reaching their limit. If they could get a hold on the new target market of adults, perhaps Sega would be able to escape from the long crisis. The management's desire to entrust their hopes to Nagoshi's games increased.

But would this game, with a yakuza as a protagonist, really be the killer title that would help them escape from their troubles? The management was dubious, but were swayed by Nagoshi's passion and gave him the go-ahead.

TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, promotional events... In order to show the game to as many people as possible, they began promoting it through any kind of media they could. They distributed free demo versions at retail stores across the country, somehow giving out more than 100,000 copies, believing that in order to see how fun it was one had to experience the actual game.

A large booth promoting the game was specially set up at Tokyo Game Show 2005, Japan's largest trade fair. In order for it not to be seen by children under the age of 18, a huge, conspicuous white wall was set up around it, attracting the attention of visitors. Inside the booth the demo space was illuminated by pink lights, setting the mood of a red light district. The visitors were able to experience the game for themselves in an adult atmosphere.

By hiring actors Tetsuya Watari and Junko Mihara as voice actors and having Seishu Hase supervise the scenario, even publications with weak ties to gaming, such as sports newspapers and magazines, wrote favourably about it. Watari was well-known for his excellent performance in serious dramas such as Seibu Keisatsu. Hase was endorsed by fans of his tough novels. Even people who normally had no interest in games began talking about the "game showing the world of a tough man" they had read about in articles.

A public demo was also held at an exclusive club in Roppongi. A monitor was set up on one side of the bar, allowing customers to play it freely. Those who commonly interacted with hostesses and cabaret girls could have a good time in the cabaret clubs in the fictional world of the game for the first time. They could enjoy taking the controller and talking with the cabaret girls in the game. People commented that, "It does a pretty good job of realistically replicating the atmosphere of a cabaret club", and, "Using tactics with the girls like giving them presents they like and ordering expensive alcohol is fun."

Finally, the topic of a brand new game spread not just amongst fans of games, but also the general public.

"I heard a game where you can walk about a town that looks just like a real red light district is coming out."
"It sounds like a story aimed at adults with a yakuza as the main character."
"They say you can have fun with cabaret girls in the game."

These rumours began to spread via word of mouth.

On the other hand, some conservative game fans reacted derisively.

"They're spending a load of money on it, but it will probably just end up backfiring hugely on them."
"Sega just don't learn, do they?"

Would this game, which Nagoshi and his team had built up with all of their strength, finally gain widespread recognition? The release date approached.

An abbreviation of "Computer Entertainment Rating Organisation". It is a non-profit organisation that specialises in reviewing depictions in game software for the home market. They are like the video game equivalent of Eirin. They categorise each game into an age rating based on its content.
All ages: A
12+: B
15+: C
17+: D
18+: Z
Z-rated games are prohibited from sale to those under the age of 18.
"Why did this game succeed?"
"Afterwards, I was asked by someone from SCE: 'Why do you think it was a success, Mr. Nagoshi?' I responded, 'I think it was because of the advertising budget,' and he said, 'Correct. Sega don't approve that kind of advertising budget often.' [laughs]" (Nagoshi)
"Hiring famous talents"
"At first, people from the talent agencies wouldn't even meet with me. When I phoned up to schedule an appointment they would say, 'We don't do games.' I started off by saying, 'Please just meet with me!' and making visits to them. I did it directly, rather than going through an agency. It was a never before heard of project, so without the person who planned it to explain they just wouldn't get it." (Nagoshi)
"Sega just don't learn, do they?"
They have a bitter history of failing in the home gaming console market, then withdrawing from hardware development. Due to this, whenever they start a large-scale project, people would say with a sneer, "Sega never learn." However, turning their adversity into strength gave them the power to give life to new plans, which later proved itself when Ryu ga Gotoku became a hit.
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