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Japanese Gaming's Incredible Comeback Story

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With Puyo Puyo’s release in 1991, Masamitsu Itani became one of the most successful game company presidents in Japan. Then everything went bust. But just as Itani lost everything, he didn’t lose his will to keep making games.

According to AOL News Japan, Itani said he wanted to make a game that sold. While Kazunari Yonemitsu, an employee at Itani’s company Compile, reportedly created Puyo Puyo, the game made him and his company very wealthy. Compile swelled to over 400 employees. It cranked out other games, but its only big hits were new Puyo Puyo games.


Thanks to its fun game play and cute character, Puyo Puyo was so big that Itani was planning on opening a Disney-style Puyo Puyo Land theme park in Chiba, Japan.


In 1998, IGN ran a story titled “Compile In Dire Straits: The Japanese PuyoPuyo creator faces financial difficulties, denies rumors.” Compile’s business was miserable, and the company couldn’t afford to employ the 120 college recruits it had intended to hire. That year, the company sold its Puyo Puyo rights to Sega. Compile was bankrupt by 2003. Itani found himself working as a security guard.

In a With News interview earlier spring, Itani, now 67, was asked if he ever thought he wanted to die. “Nope,” he replied. “Because, well, I originally thought that Puyo Puyo was an unexpected hit. For example, if there is a steak right in front of you and after you eat it all, you’ve never thought that was a waste or regrettable, right? That’s exactly how I felt when my company went under.”

But it wasn’t only Itani’s company that was in trouble. He took out loans in his own name, with his debts surpassed 7 billion yen ($62.4 million), he declared personal bankruptcy. “But I didn’t give up,” he says. “I kept working on a game by myself bit by bit.” After six years of development, Itani was able to release his new puzzle game Nyoki Nyoki on the Nintendo 3DS in 2016. It didn’t get anywhere near the heights of Puyo Puyo, but it showed Itani’s strong desire to keep making games.

Itani isn’t done yet, either. Earlier this year, he launched a crowdfunding campaign to port the game to game to the Nintendo Switch and raised 4.48 million yen ($44,885). “I want to make a great game that surpasses Puyo Puyo,” Itani said, optimistic as ever. “The way I live is by thinking what comes next.”


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