It’s no secret that famed game creator Tomonobu Itagaki left Team Ninja after a rather nasty engagement featuring a filed lawsuit more than two years ago. What has been a secret however is how the studio viewed the loss and what effect it has had on them internally.
Speaking to Famitsu magazine, studio head Yosuke Hayashi demystified some of the secrecy surrounding the situation. Hit the break to learn more
When Itagaki first left, it was unarguably a big deal, especially to those who had been there for a long time. According to Yosuke:
“I’ve been with Team Ninja ever since I graduated from college, so everything I know about the game business I learned from Team Ninja, Seeing the people who taught me the ropes leave was something I never imagined happening, and to be honest, I felt like I had no idea where to go next. But later I realized that just because they had their reasons and beliefs that led them to leave, I didn’t have to follow them along. It was a chance for not just myself, but for all of us at Team Ninja to rethink our approach to game development. That’s what led us to have the team we have now, the people that stayed on as Team Ninja members.”
It is as though you can actually hear the sadness in his voice surrounding this very touchy situation. He then spoke about the studio immediately following Itagaki’s departure:
“We’re in the business of game development, so we just tried our best to concentrate ourselves on that process, Fans were nervous, as they had a right to be, but as long we can release games we’re satisfied with, we’ll be able to build our confidence and players will feed off of that. Koei have been a great support to us, as have a lot of other companies in the industry, directly or indirectly. I really appreciated that they went beyond the competitive forces that drive them to come out and cheer us on — it made me feel like the industry treats all of us on the team as important.”
Considering the dog eat dog nature of the gaming industry, it’s refreshing to hear that outside companies encouraged the very shaken developers. The studio could only lament for so long though; they had to keep working. Yosuke also talks about this:
“After my superior left, I actually expressed to the company that I didn’t want people going around calling us the ‘new’ Team Ninja, I’ve been with the team both before and after the moves, and while some people left, that doesn’t really change what Team Ninja is doing. Calling us the ‘new’ Team Ninja would be turning our backs on that history, and I really didn’t want to do that. That’s why we changed nothing, not even the logo.”
Moving forward, he acknowledges that the games they’ve been creating since the departure are different, though whether this is a good thing or a bad thing isn’t overtly clear:
” The old Team Ninja had a certain braintrust, a group of a few people, and game development tended to always revolve around them, That meant we couldn’t really expand our development lines much, but with Team Ninja today, each developer can think for themselves on what they can do to make better games. There aren’t many studios that can think organically like that. I really feel like we’re working together and combining our forces to create the best games we can, and in that way, I feel confident in saying that Team Ninja right now is absolutely the most powerful team in history. I’ve realized this as we work, but the games we’ve made after they left feel just a little different from Team Ninja games of the past, It’s the personalities of the people behind them coming to the surface. I’m sure there are fans who’d prefer the ‘old’ style, and I think that’s just fine. As a fan myself, I’m looking forward to what my superior do next, but as for us, we’re going to keep working as Team Ninja. That’s how I’ve felt about it over the past two years. We’re all game developers here, and we can act as cool as we want in interviews, but it doesn’t mean anything if the games aren’t good. We want to answer the questions with our games, in the end.”
Team Ninja is currently developing a Dead or Alive iteration for the Nintendo 3DS as well as Ninja Gaiden 3 for HD consoles, and their recent work includes Metroid: Other M. Check out our review of the long awaited Wii exclusive.