Sega scored a big coup by signing up Takuya Kimura, one of Japan’s biggest celebrities, to star in its Judgment games. With Kimura comes bonafide star credentials, and of course talent agency power. That last point, according to one report, could be the budding franchise’s downfall.
According to weekly publication Nikkan Taishu, a Japanese entertainment insider is quoted as saying that the upcoming Lost Judgment will be the last entry in the series. “Because,” the insider explains, “those on the side of the game developer and those on the side of [Kimura’s talent agency] Johnny’s are said to have been unable to reach an agreement regarding the platforms to sell the game.”
Kotaku reached out to Sega for comment but did not hear back prior to publication.
Judgment was originally released on the PlayStation 4, but a remastered version came out on PlayStation 5, Stadia, and Xbox Series X/S. Lost Judgment will be released this fall on PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.
However, this past spring, when the game was announced, the Japanese website listed Windows 10 and Steam. Yakuza fan site Tojo Dojo points out that even after the listings were removed, the website code still showed a Steam logo—something Twitter’s Wario64 also noticed.
“The game is being announced for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One,” a Sega spokesperson later told PC Gamer. “Sega has no plans to bring Lost Judgment to PC at this time.”
According to Nikkan Taishu, Kimura’s talent agency will not okay the release of the game on PC, which might seem odd because the previous game was released on Stadia (but, to be honest, it’s unclear if the agency fully understood the platform). The issue appears to be a proper PC release and how that would impact the talent agency’s management of Kimura’s likeness and a general dislike of a PC-based platform.
The point of contention, as explained on Nikkan Taishu, is that Sega apparently sees the PC as vital from a business point of view. For Johnny’s, which still hasn’t quite fully embraced the internet like others in the music business, releasing a game directly online through a PC platform could be problematic for their business model. Because of this apparent disagreement, Nikkan Taishu reports that Lost Judgment is said to be the last in the series. (If so, I do wonder if the franchise will continue with another big star attached to a more amiable talent agency.)
Some background: Johnny’s is responsible for Japan’s biggest boy bands and has traditionally been internet shy. As Music Times explains, “Johnny & Associates had, in the past, refused to allow photos of its talents from press conferences to be published online and has since kept all of its artists from using social media.” Johnny’s didn’t open a YouTube channel until 2018!
The control that Johnny’s has over the likenesses of its artists has meant power. By allowing Takuya Kimura, one of the agency’s most famous stars, to appear in a game released on an open platform like PC, the agency might think it’s giving that up. Thus, this could explain why Johnny’s is rumored to be against a possible PC version.
Kimura was previously in a boy band called Smap, which imploded after three of the group’s members left Johnny’s in 2017. Another former member, Masahiro Nakai, left Johnny’s last year, and Kimura is now the only ex-Smap member still belonging to the powerful boy band agency.
The source tells Nikkan Taishu that Kimura, who is said to be quite the gamer, really got into the role of Judgment’s Takayuki Yagami and very much wants the series to continue. Because Kimura is such a huge star in Japan, he has operated under slightly different rules from other talent in the agency, including, most famously, his marriage and kids were not a secret.
If the talent agency is, in fact, preventing this all from happening, hopefully Kimura can help bring about a compromise that ensures more future Judgment games.