Originally posted on 20 January 2016
Source: page 32-35

Destiny of a Dragon

Self-sacrificial persuasion, prepared to quit

After budgeting was calculated by Sega, the development budget was estimated to be extraordinarily high.

Naturally, some people within the company said: "If we make something like a yakuza game set in a red light district, what are we going to do about the foreign market?"

In 2004, and in the present day also, the gaming industry was troubled by a sharp rise in the cost of development. In order to make a profit, games that would cost a lot of money to make also had to contain elements that would allow them to sell overseas. Nagoshi himself had made several games with foreigners in mind since joining the industry. In a sense, it could be said that developing games with a foreign outlook in mind was the destiny of game creators. The world of the yakuza, existing only in Japan, and red light districts. There were no guarantees that a game themed around these things would be accepted by foreigners.

But Nagoshi wasn't going to fold now.

If he amended the proposal with foreigners in mind, he would have to take out the "Japanese" elements that would make it interesting for Japanese people. The bewitching charm of the twinkling signs unique to Japan's pleasure districts. The adult industry culture of cabaret clubs and massage parlours. The way of life of the yakuza, bearing their tattoos... All of these elements, overflowing with charm, would be gone. It would become nothing more than a dull game in which a generic member of the public walks around a town in a place like New York or Los Angeles. Nagoshi had made up his mind.

"Let's not make this with the foreign market's perspective in mind."

When making a game with little originality with foreigners in mind, at most it should sell 200,000 - 300,000 copies. Then they needed to try to make a game that would be able to sell 500,000 copies domestically alone, even if it didn't sell overseas. They needed to get a feel for what Japanese people felt and make it a big hit in their home country. That was what he wanted.

At first, no one accepted this assertion. They were working with pleasure districts and yakuza, themes previously unheard of. They had no definite proof that it would become a domestic hit. Due to the efforts of Nagoshi and Kikuchi people gradually began to see the charm of the proposal, but everyone feared failure and wouldn't give it complete endorsement.

At this time, the words of his mentor Yu Suzuki echoed in Nagoshi's head.

"When you do something new, people won't understand it. To think that they will is naive."

Yu Suzuki was Nagoshi's boss when he joined Sega. He was a creator of games that represented Japan, releasing things such as the world's first full-body experience game and 3D brawlers. Suzuki is a man who always sought to create something that would leave a novel impression. His works were original, time after time showing players a new way to enjoy games. The reason he was able to do this was that he was constantly opposing the way everyone around him thought.

It was only natural for people not to understand new things.

Each of the employees had their own homes. They each had things that were precious to them. In this tough age of a gaming slump, he was trying to begin work on a huge title that would require billions of yen. The company's very existence may ride on its success, such was the scale of the challenge. Of course people didn't think the way he did.

"If they don't understand, I have no choice but to show them my determination to win them over." Decisively, Nagoshi announced to the opposing employees:

"If this game doesn't become a hit, I'll take responsibility and resign."

His desperate resolution finally moved the employees. The determination Nagoshi felt from his conviction strengthened.

This is how work on "Project J" - Ryu ga Gotoku - finally began.

"The significance of expanding into the foreign market"
① In 2007, sales of Japanese video games totalled roughly 2.9 trillion yen (source: 2008 CESA Games White Paper). Domestic sales made up only 20% of this. Due to its low overall population, declining birth rate and continued loss of players, the Japanese gaming market was plateauing. These days, with a steep rise in development costs, it is the common opinion that the game industry cannot survive on domestic sales alone.

② Nagoshi's Daytona USA was a big hit primarily in the North American market. Monkey Ball and its consumer version Super Monkey Ball expanded into the European and North American markets, resulting in the series selling 4 million copies. It could have been said that Nagoshi's games would naturally go overseas.
"Yu Suzuki"
One of Japan's representative game creators. In 1986, he developed the world's first full-body experience game, Hang-On, which was played sitting atop a bike-style frame. He brought the brand new idea to the gaming world of a game that was controlled not just with the fingertips, but the entire body. He later created a series of hits including Space Harrier and After Burner, becoming one of the central figures in the golden age of the game centre.
"Project J"
The development codename used before the title Ryu ga Gotoku was decided upon. They are given in alphabetical order.
"Development announcement conference"
The announcement that Ryu ga Gotoku was in development was made at Club Heights, an established venue in Shinjuku.
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