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Everybody loves Yakuza now, but its creator says Sega "flat out rejected" initial pitches for the series

"There was no way for it to be approved without resistance."

Yakuza/ Like a Dragon is everyone's favourite oddball action game/ RPG/ life-sim these days, but Sega apparently completely rejected the first time pitches for the first game.

It took a while, but I think at this point it's pretty safe to say that the Yakuza series, or the Like a Dragon series as it's now been rebranded to, is one of the most beloved game series in the industry. That's definitely in part thanks to some strong localisations with prequels like Yakuza 0, remakes like Yakuza Kiwami 1 and 2, and the shift to an RPG format with Yakuza: Like a Dragon. While it didn't hit the highs of titles like Granblue Fantasy: Relink, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth still did very well for itself on Steam at its launch, so the series is clearly here to stay. However, in an interview with Weekly Ochiai (as translated by Automaton), former Sega chief creative officer and Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi shared that Sega rejected his pitches for the series to start.

Nagoshi explained that when he first started thinking about pitching the Yakuza series in the early 2000s, Sega was finding it difficult to release globally successful games. "This led to a mindset of making games that would appeal to the masses, games that could sell anywhere and to anyone," Nagoshi said. "Many producers, including myself, thought this way.

"But this mindset wasn’t really leading to a solution, and I saw many game proposals gradually become watered down as producers bended over to change things the way management instructed them to… This is where everything started."

Nagoshi was asked about Sega's reaction for his first proposal for Yakuza, with the developer explaining, "Of course, it was flat out rejected. After all, it was completely contrary to what I mentioned earlier about attracting the masses. Children wouldn’t be able to play it, and it wasn’t catered to women nor overseas audiences. In this sense, there was no way for it to be approved without resistance."

Of course, it did eventually get approved, though apparently it took at least three tries to get to that point, and obviously the series' global popularity is a more recent development.

Nagoshi is no longer at Sega, the series now left in the hands of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, as he went on to form a new studio, but we're yet to see what he's working on. Though it's a safe bet that it'll be similarly wild to the beloved Yakuza series.

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