Veteran developer Toshihiro Nagoshi, of Monkey Ball and Yakuza fame, is in the final stages of negotiating a contract to leave Sega and join Chinese company NetEase, according to a report on Bloomberg.
Nagoshi joined Sega in 1989, and has worked on everything from Daytona to Virtua Fighter to F-Zero GX. But it’s his most recent blockbuster series, the Yakuza games that now span eight main entries and a number of spin-offs, that have perhaps made him most famous in the West. Especially given his public prominence as the head of their development studio, Ryu Ga Gotoku.
Bloomberg says that while he “hasn’t signed a final contract and his duties have yet to be finalized,” he is going to be “expected to set up his own team and create new games.” It’s speculated that this is a move by NetEase to hit back at rivals Tencent, who have spent big on several developers across the world in recent years, from League of Legends creators Riot to, more recently, PlatinumGames and Sumo Group.
Nagoshi’s departure will likely not have a direct impact on any of the series he has worked on recently, since they all belong to Sega and are made by huge teams of developers. But it would still be a blow for fans—and Sega themselves—to see a man responsible for so many of the company’s biggest hits of the last 30 years leave for a rival organisation.
His leaving isn’t a total surprise, however; earlier this year he stepped down from Sega’s board of directors and his role as Chief Creative Officer of the company, with speculation at the time suggesting it was down to comments he made in 2020 about esports players:
There is speculation online in Japan that Nagoshi was pushed out in the wake of a controversial comment he made last year, appearing to mock Puyo Puyo esports players. The producer said that they seemed like they eat beef bowls with cheese. The term chiizu gyuudon gao (チーズ牛丼顔) or “cheese beef bowl face” has been circulating online. Shortened to chiigyu (チー牛) or “cheese beef,” this slang term is used to refer to people who live in rural areas, look very young, wear glasses, and don’t have much ambition. It’s a negative, mocking term to deride people who might not be considered “cool.”