In surprise news, a representative close to controversial Ninja Gaiden developer Tomonobu Itagaki has told Gamasutra he has left Japanese publisher and developer Tecmo and the Team Ninja studio which he headed. Renowned also for the Dead Or Alive series as well as his forthright opinions on rival games, Itagaki’s departure appears acrimonious.
The representative confirmed to Gamasutra in a release that Itagaki has resigned and filed a complaint in the Tokyo District Court against Tecmo for unpaid completion bonuses and against the Tecmo president Yoshimi Yasuda for “such unlawful acts as unreasonable and disingenuous statements made towards me, claiming damages in total of 148 million yen” ($1.42m).
"Before the start of development on Dead or Alive 4, Tecmo Co., Ltd. had agreed to pay a completion bonus to me for this Xbox 360 title, which I produced. However, when the time came for the actual payment, Tecmo Co., Ltd. went against its previous agreement and refused payment”, said Itagaki in the statement.
“President Yoshimi Yasuda chose not only to violate this agreement, but also turned defiant," he continued, "telling me 'if you are dissatisfied with the decision not to pay the bonuses, either quit the company or sue it.' In addition, he made demeaning remarks about me to my subordinates and colleagues, causing me significant emotional distress and worsening my personal relationships and work environment."
In recent press interviews for the just released Xbox 360 exclusive Ninja Gaiden II, Itagaki had repeatedly stated that it would be the last game in the series he would work on, while also disparaging Ninja Gaiden Sigma on the PlayStation 3 – with which he was not directly involved.
At the same time he began to make reference to work beginning on a new action title unrelated to Ninja Gaiden. It now seems likely that these comments were made with the knowledge that the title would not be created at Tecmo, although Itagaki has given no indication of what his future plans might entail.