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E3: Itagaki - Japanese Publishers 'Sort Of Pretend They Know What They're Doing'
E3: Itagaki - Japanese Publishers 'Sort Of Pretend They Know What They're Doing'
June 8, 2011 | By Christian Nutt

June 8, 2011 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

Outspoken developer Tomonobu Itagaki, currently developing Devil's Third for THQ, tells Gamasutra that while Japanese publisher management doesn't understand games, crucially, U.S. execs do.

"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," Itagaki told Gamasutra in an interview conducted at the E3 show, currently ongoing in Los Angeles.

"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."

In Itagaki's view, having a background in game development is crucial to making the right decisions: "Those guys know how to make games -- so they know it takes money to make good games. Those two aspects are on a direct one-to-one relationship. So I think it's very practical to be that way."

However, that's not as often the case in Japan, he says. "In Japan, management people 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... It's the opposite of practical. It's not practical."

Itagaki did tell Gamasutra, in the answer to a later question, that he couldn't say for sure exactly what the situation is at all Japanese companies. He famously resigned from and sued former publisher Tecmo over unpaid bonuses. He settled with the company, which was later acquired by Koei, last year.

For his part, Bilson said last year at the IGDA Leadership Forum that he doesn't see the need to tell developers how to do their jobs. "It waters down a concept, and it costs a fortune," he said. "It costs a fortune for all that iteration!"

"That's what creative management is. It's enabling talent to get their vision through," he said.

The full interview with Itagaki, who's also well-known as creator of the Dead or Alive series, will be forthcoming on Gamasutra.

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Glenn Sturgeon
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I was sad that another M wasn't developed by team ninja while Itagaki and some of its other ex team ninja members where still there.

He took several of thier (tecmo) top tallent with him when he started his company.

I have a feeling M would have been a harder game but much better as well.?

I'm looking forward to that interview, Itagaki is always intresting and enjoyable.

Ujn Hunter
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Doubtful as Nintendo had a huge roll in making Other M the way it was... Nintendo (or rather Yoshio Sakamoto) was the decision maker... not Team Ninja... which is exactly what Itagaki is talking about in this article...

In other words... Other M would still be crap because Sakamoto wanted it his way or the highway. Shame really... as Metroid used to be one of my top favorite franchises.

Eli Friedberg
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Wouldn't this statement be contradicted by the management of, say, Square Enix, most of whom (e.g. Yoshinori Kitase) have been with the company for 15+ years? Or Konami, who just gave Hideo Kojima a huge promotion? Or Nintendo, whose CEO is a former code monkey? Then again, I suppose Itagaki has never been one to let fact or logic get in the way of a bold-sounding statement.

John Martins
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So the fact both FFXIII and XIV were hit with criticism from many angles says nothing? Square Enix is on a downward slope. I know they've got what it takes to create something amazing, but they just WON'T. Damn them.

MGS4 was also a step down for the franchise. Lying on your stomach in the middle of a wide open area in the blazing sun has nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with stealth. All logic flew out of the window with that one.

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It's THAT Guy...

Joshua Sterns
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This really seems like a pointless rant. Basically he likes his new boss, and thinks his old job sucked ass because of certain people. How many studios has he worked for in Japan?

Aaron Truehitt
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Yeah, Itagaki's comments are stupid most of the time. Wasn't Itagaki the one who got in trouble for sexually harassing a few female co-workers a few years ago?

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Like I said "THAT guy." I respect the man for his accomplishments, but his vagabond like attitude sometimes foreshadows them.

Sebastian Cardoso
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Pointless rant indeed. I couldn't care less if the head of publishing can write scripts, direct movies or tap dance. What I do care about is that he/she knows how to publish games effectively.

Also, while "THAT guy" may indeed be an absolutely amazing EVP, casting THQ under such a positive light after their very sketchy performance these past few years is just ludicrous.