As acquisitions continue to change the face of the video game industry, one of the most polarizing stories from 2021 was the departure of Sega’s Toshihiro Nagoshi after 30 years with the company to work for Chinese tech company NetEase. This came only six months after Nagoshi was promoted to Sega’s creative director role, overseeing all the company’s major video game output after spending years creating titles within the Yakuza and Super Monkey Ball franchises. Now, new evidence suggests that the Yakuza creator has gone on to found his own studio within NetEase.
Nagoshi joined Sega in the late 80s and worked with legendary game designer Yu Suzuki on iconic titles such as Daytona USA and Shenmue before eventually creating his own series, Super Monkey Ball, in 2003, shortly after Sega became a third-party publisher. Following this, Nagoshi would work on F-Zero GX before creating the Yakuza series for the PlayStation 2 in an attempt to compete with bigger western games such as Grand Theft Auto. After the series became a big hit, Nagoshi founded Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio in 2011 and directed games such as Binary Domain, the Judgment series, and multiple entries in the Yakuza series until his departure from Sega in October 2021.
Many fans were shocked by the announcement of Nagoshi’s departure from Sega last year, especially given the newfound popularity of the Yakuza franchise in the west after years of attempts at finding an audience outside of Japan. Regardless, many outlets reported that the purpose of Nagoshi’s departure was to found a new studio within NetEase, a company that has invested heavily in developers such as Bungie and Quantic Dream, and just recently also acquired No More Heroes developer Grasshopper Manufacture. As VGC reports, a new trademark discovered on the EU IP office this month reveals that NetEase has created a subsidiary called “Nagoshi Studio.”
Upon his departure from Sega last year, Nagoshi was joined by several other veterans of the Yakuza franchise including Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio head Daisuke Sato. With this in mind, it would appear that Nagoshi is intent on creating a new team to develop a brand-new IP under NetEase, however it is unknown what form this new title will take.
NetEase has a history of developing and publishing mobile titles, but its acquisition of Grasshopper Manufacture and ex-Yakuza veterans indicates that the company is intent on breaking into the console market. With this in mind, it’s very likely that Nagoshi Studio could be developing a game intended to rival the Yakuza series or even higher, with the backing of NetEase possibly giving the company a budget high enough to rival bigger AAA productions. Only time will tell.