He’s one of the biggest names in Japanese game development and he’s betting it all on the Wii U.
The visionary mind behind Devil’s Third, acclaimed Japanese game developer, Tomonobu Itagaki, walks into the small cubicle-like room tucked away in a quiet corner of Nintendo’s large E3 2014 booth.
He glances up from his smartphone briefly, nods hello, removes his sunglasses and then moves towards a couch on the right side of the room, sprawling out comfortably across it, followed by his personal assistant and a translator from Nintendo.
Itagaki is small in stature, wears a silver studded belt, tight acid washed jeans covered in a strange pattern and has long, wispy hair – all distinctive features that combine to make him look more like an aging Japanese rockstar than a well-known video game developer.
“I’m not concerned. Looking through my Facebook already I’ve seen a lot of comments that say, ‘I’m going to buy a Wii U just for this.’ I feel that ultimately gamers are the ones who make the future. I remember back when I took Dead Or Alive to the Xbox instead of the PlayStation – there was a certain Newsweek reporter who said, ‘Sony got steak and Xbox got hambuger.’ But what ended up happening is fans of my game came to the platform and it succeeded in the end. I wonder if looking back that reporter would still say the same thing now and if he’d be embarrassed about having written that article,” Itagaki said via a translator.
After 16 years with Team Ninja, Itagaki left the studio he helped build after filing a lawsuit against it for withholding bonus pay amid rumours he was unhappy with the studio’s direction and lack of focus on creating quality video games.
He then went on to help found Valhalla Games with a group of other former Team Ninja developers. Devil’s Third was supposed to be published under THQ back when it was announced at E3 2010 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. But, when the publisher imploded, Itagaki and his team were forced to explore other options, eventually ending up with Nintendo being the game’s publisher.
Interestingly despite being one of Nintendo’s only notable third-party games for the Wii U, the company opted to reveal Devil’s Third as an exclusive Wii U title during IGN’s live show, free of any official fanfare or press releases: A new media-circumventing tactic Nintendo used frequently during E3 2014, eschewing holding a big press conference. The title stands in stark contrast to Nintendo’s upcoming line up of brightly coloured, family-friendly games like Splatoon, Yoshi’s Woolly World and Mario Maker.