He’s one of the biggest names in Japanese game development and he’s betting it all on the Wii U.
The visionary mind behind Devil’s Third, acclaimed Japanese game developer, Tomonobu Itagaki, walks into the small cubicle-like room tucked away in a quiet corner of Nintendo’s large E3 2014 booth.
He glances up from his smartphone briefly, nods hello, removes his sunglasses and then moves towards a couch on the right side of the room, sprawling out comfortably across it, followed by his personal assistant and a translator from Nintendo.
Itagaki is small in stature, wears a silver studded belt, tight acid washed jeans covered in a strange pattern and has long, wispy hair – all distinctive features that combine to make him look more like an aging Japanese rockstar than a well-known video game developer.
“I’m not concerned. Looking through my Facebook already I’ve seen a lot of comments that say, ‘I’m going to buy a Wii U just for this.’ I feel that ultimately gamers are the ones who make the future. I remember back when I took Dead Or Alive to the Xbox instead of the PlayStation – there was a certain Newsweek reporter who said, ‘Sony got steak and Xbox got hambuger.’ But what ended up happening is fans of my game came to the platform and it succeeded in the end. I wonder if looking back that reporter would still say the same thing now and if he’d be embarrassed about having written that article,” Itagaki said via a translator.
After 16 years with Team Ninja, Itagaki left the studio he helped build after filing a lawsuit against it for withholding bonus pay amid rumours he was unhappy with the studio’s direction and lack of focus on creating quality video games.
He then went on to help found Valhalla Games with a group of other former Team Ninja developers. Devil’s Third was supposed to be published under THQ back when it was announced at E3 2010 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. But, when the publisher imploded, Itagaki and his team were forced to explore other options, eventually ending up with Nintendo being the game’s publisher.
Despite jumping to the Wii U, Itagaki says the game hasn’t been altered and it will remain 90 per cent the same as his original vision with all violence still intact. He also discussed why Devil’s Third will consist of a mix of third-person perspective gameplay, a viewpoint he’s comfortable working in given his experience with the Ninja Gaiden franchise, and first-person, a new frontier for Itagaki.
“Because we wanted to bring in fans of modern shooters we wanted to make sure that there was a compatible play experience – that they felt there was an easy point of entry for them to become interested in this game and play it comfortably. So, for them, we had to make sure that first-person view point is available because that’s something they understand,” said Itagaki.
Creating a video game in a genre where you have very little experience, sounds like an almost impossible task, even for a developer as experienced as Itagaki. Rather than hinder Devil’s Third though, Itagaki feels this gave his development team a distinct advantage.