Tomonobu Itagaki is a guy who speaks his mind. The former head of Tecmo’s Team Ninja and creator of the Dead or Alive series has a reputation for making his opinion known, and his outspoken attitude has caused him to get into some very heated public arguments with other members of the Japanese game development community. The sunglasses-clad Itagaki has been out of the headlines lately, as he and his new team at Valhalla Game Studios prepare the upcoming third person shooter Devil’s Third for release, but today he stopped by the game developer focused DICE Summit in Las Vegas and spoke about his experiences as a game director.
Itagaki and his former employer Tecmo split up less than amicably; Itagaki claimed the heads of the company withheld promised pay bonuses from him and promptly resigned and sued the company shortly after the release of Ninja Gaiden 2 for the Xbox 360.
Today, Itagaki used to his talk at DICE to further air out any remaining grievances he had with Tecmo management. Most interestingly, he claimed that Tecmo shipped out the PS2 version of Dead or Alive 2 (which infamously looked and ran worse than the original Dreamcast version,) in an incomplete state without Itagaki or the DoA team’s approval: Itagaki claims that him and his team only had two and a half months to work on the port of DoA2 before a member of Tecmo management asked to “borrow” a copy of an incomplete build of the game for testing. According to Itagaki, the management then proceeded to mass produce and ultimately sell that same, still-incomplete build of the game as a finished retail product without Team Ninja’s approval. While this may be another case of Itagaki simply trying to make his former employer look bad, it certainly does explain why the PS2 version of Dead or Alive 2 ran so poorly.
Itagaki went on to state that this shady move by management caused a fair amount of demoralization and consternation at Team Ninja, and that Itagaki himself considered quitting the game industry because of it. He states that he spent the next several days at home, drinking non-stop and repeatedly watching Michael Bay’s “Armageddon,” and he even admits he cried whenever he heard Aerosmith’s theme song for the movie, “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”. Itagaki went on to conclude his speech by saying “No matter what anyone says, Aerosmith and Armageddon were the ones who saved my life, my company, my friends and my family.”
While I thank Itagaki for sharing some interesting tidbits regarding the bizarre office politics of the Japanese game industry, someone should probably let him know that admitting to crying during a D-grade action movie about an asteroid is probably not the kind of thing you should do publicly.