NetEase is reportedly in the final stages of hiring Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi away from Sega, according to a report in Bloomberg News.
The high-profile hire would be both a boon for NetEase, which is looking to build more and more financial presence outside of China, and an acknowledgement of how much Nagoshi and the Yakuza franchise have boosted Sega’s profile in the last few years.
In January, Nagoshi stepped down from the role of chief creative officer at Sega Sammy, moving into the role of creative director of the Yakuza series. He’s been one of the series’ key players since it debuted in 2005.
In the last few years, the Yakuza series has enjoyed an explosive growth in popularity outside of Japan, with series spinoff Judgment recently crossing over 1 million units sold. Though its branding might imply that the series is an open-world crime game similar to Grand Theft Auto, it’s won legions of fans for its memorable characters, eccentric minigames, and plots that go beyond the world of Japanese gangsters.
Bloomberg’s report ties Nagoshi’s hiring by NetEase as part of a move by Chinese video game conglomerates to expand their financial influence outside of their home country, which lately has been issuing more and more regulations on the video game industry.
Reporters Takashi Mochizuki and Zheping Huang also write that Japanese studios and developers are more receptive to Chinese investment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on funding. Sega Sammy, Nagoshi’s current workplace, recently restructured itself with salary cuts and voluntary employee retirements to adapt to the financial impact of the pandemic.