From Ninja To Viking: Tomonobu Itagaki Speaks
July 25, 2011 Page 1 of 3
Last year, veteran Tecmo game developer and creator of the Dead or Alive and the relaunched Ninja Gaiden franchises, finally announced his new company, Valhalla Game Studios, after resigning from longtime employer Tecmo in 2008. In 2010, the studio announced that it had signed a contract with THQ to release its first game, a third person action-shooter hybrid called Devil's Third.
Itagaki has long been an outspoken critic of both the works of other developers and the industry at large. Fair enough, because he also seems content to follow his own path rather than worrying about what other developers do. He didn't even seem too interested in worrying about the legacy of the Ninja Gaiden franchise on the NES when he relaunched the series, preferring to go his own route with the IP -- and still meeting with success.
So confident was he that he didn't show his game at E3, and instead simply handed THQ a bizarre video that starred notorious Japanese comedian Hard Gay -- on a visit to the Valhalla Game Studios offices.
Gamasutra got a chance to speak to Itagaki at the show, and queried him about his move to work with a Western publisher, his thoughts on the high profile talent defections from other Japanese publishers, and discussed what his goal is for his game.
A lot has changed since our last interview.
TI: Yeah, it's the best. It's the best.
What makes it the best?
TI: Freedom and responsibility. Whatever I say or do, it's all me.
You're representing only yourself?
TI: Yeah. It can't get any more comfortable than this.
Well, you talked about responsibility. There's a lot of responsibility to deliver.
TI: Yes, I did have responsibilities before, too. It's just that now there's no politics to deal with.
You made a name for yourself before, but now everything comes back to you directly, right?
TI: That's right. There are people who love me, there are people who hate me. There are lots of different people. But I'm aware of that, so I think it's okay, interacting with people directly like that, so.
Could you talk about how you got together with THQ?
TI: The head, the guy I'm involved with, is [THQ's EVP of core games] Danny Bilson. As you know, he can make movies, he can write novels, scripts, he can do TV, and he can do games as well, and also he's a businessman as well. He's that kind of guy, so it's really fun to do business with that kind of guy.
And I'll explain why. I think it's rare to have a guy like that. But then again, in the U.S., more so in the U.S. than in Japan, I think there are a lot of top management people who actually know how to make games. I think there are more people here like that, than in Japan. I think it's a good thing.
You to have talk about money, when you're doing business. That's the business aspect of it. But at the same time, those guys know how to make games, so they also know that it costs money to make good games -- especially good games. So those two aspects are on a direct one-to-one relationship. So I think it's very practical to be that way.
In Japan, management people, they sort of pretend they know what they're doing. Those management people, they say, "I love games," but they don't know how to make them. So the kind of instructions that they would give to the employees would be, "Okay, you've got to make it by when, and it has to be within this budget, and you have to sell whatever many copies." It's the opposite of the practical. It's not practical.
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