Last month, Team Ninja head and Ninja Gaiden director Tomonobu Itagaki suggested in an interview that he would be done with the franchise after the upcoming release of Ninja Gaiden 2. On Monday night we received a clearer picture of just what he meant with the announcement that Itagaki is leaving Team Ninja and suing Tecmo.
1UP received the following confirmation of this news from Itagaki aide Andrew Szymanski:
"At approximately 2:30 PM Japan Standard Time today, June 3 2008, an official statement from Tomonobu Itagaki was sent by fax to major Japanese news outlets. In the interest of fair and expedient reporting of this story throughout the English-speaking world, I have been asked by Itagaki to convey this statement to you. Herein find attached Itagaki's official statement, in English, for the benefit of your readers.
"...You will likely have questions regarding the content of the statement, or about Itagaki's future plans. I am afraid that I will be unable to answer such questions for the time being; however, rest assured that more information will be forthcoming as soon as it is deemed appropriate to do so."
The full text of the letter from Itagaki follows:
"I, Tomonobu Itagaki, hereby announce that on the 14th of May 2008 I filed a complaint in the Tokyo District Court against Tecmo Co., Ltd. for unpaid completion bonuses,
and against the President of Tecmo, Yoshimi Yasuda, for such unlawful acts as unreasonable and disingenuous statements made towards me,
claiming damages in total of 148 million yen. I also announce that this complaint was delivered to the defendants on May 22nd of the same year. In addition, I hereby announce that I have today submitted a letter of resignation to Tecmo Co., Ltd. stating that I will resign as of the 1st of July, 2008.
"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
. President Yoshimi Yasuda chose not only to violate this agreement, but also turned defiant, 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.
Thus, I have no choice but to resign from Tecmo Co., Ltd.
"The conduct of Tecmo Co., Ltd. and its president Yoshimi Yasuda towards me has been unbefitting of a publicly-listed company. I have filed this lawsuit with a strong intent to question the social responsibility of Tecmo Co., Ltd. and its President Yoshimi Yasuda, as well as condemning them for their unjust acts. Today, in addition to announcing the reasons for this lawsuit, I make clear my reasons for resigning.
"To All Game Fans
"I truly feel sorry to all the fans of the games I have made. Ninja Gaiden 2, which will launch on the 3rd of June will be the last Ninja Gaiden I will create. I will also never be able to make Dead or Alive 5. I regret the circumstances that have forced me to leave Tecmo, where I had worked for so many years, and I regret the disappointment this will cause my fans. However, I can no longer continue to work with President Yoshimi Yasuda, a man who chooses not to honor promises even when he is able to do so. I truly hope that nothing like this happens again in the future."
In addition to the allegations made in the letter, we've heard rumblings that Itagaki believes that Yasuda has focused too much on making a profit without a regard for quality. While Itagaki's official announcement does not point to any specific releases, recent Tecmo ports such as Rygar for the Wii and Ninja Gaiden Sigma for the PS3 are possible targets of Itagaki's anger, which would also explain recent interviews where Itagaki has been especially negative toward Sigma and has said that a PS3 port of Ninja Gaiden 2 would not be good. We've even heard rumors that Yasuda wanted to port Ninja Gaiden Sigma (a PS3 port of a rerelease of an Xbox title) to the Xbox 360 before he was talked out of it by Itagaki and others at Tecmo.
In the same interview we linked to above, Itagaki mentions that he intends for his next game to be "a brand new action game" that will be violent like Ninja Gaiden. It's safe to assume that this game will not be with Tecmo and probably that Itagaki knew that already when he started discussing it. We cannot speculate further as to what Itagaki might be up to next, but considering the timing, there's clearly some very bad blood between Itagaki and Tecmo. The outspoken game maker waited until the evening before Ninja Gaiden 2's release to make this announcement, which is sure to leave a slightly bitter taste in the mouths of many fans picking up their next dose of blood-soaked action.
We'll update with further details on Itagaki's departure and lawsuit as they are uncovered.