Before 23 games and 21 million copies sold, the first Yakuza game was “flat out rejected” by Sega because it wouldn’t appeal to women and children

Yakuza’s series creator has revealed it took three tries to get Sega to approve the series since it was “flat-out rejected” at first.

Former Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio head and Yakuza series creator Toshihiro Nagoshi recently appeared on Weekly Ochiai, seen just below (and translated by Automaton Media). Reflecting on Yakuza’s conception, Nagoshi revealed the adult-themed series was “flat-out rejected” since children wouldn’t be able to play it, and he had to be “forceful” to get it approved at Sega.

Nagoshi explained that he pitched the Yakuza series during a time when Japanese game sales were no longer dominant around the world, and American and European games were growing more prominent. “This led to a mindset of making games that would appeal to the masses, games that could sell anywhere and to anyone. Many producers, including myself, thought this way,” Nagoshi explains.

Nagoshi further reveals this led to game pitches being “watered down,” as producers had to bend to the will of publishers like Sega. Watching this happen apparently made Nagoshi question himself, and it’s “where everything started” for the Yakuza series as a whole.

“Of course, it was flat-out rejected,” Nagoshi says of his initial Yakuza pitch to Sega. “After all, it was completely contrary to what I mentioned earlier about attracting the masses. Children wouldn’t be able to play it, and it wasn’t catered to women or overseas audiences. In this sense, there was no way for it to be approved without resistance.”

It took three total tries to get the Yakuza series approved at Sega for Nagoshi, who reveals he ended up being “quite forceful” to get it done. Nagoshi was also presented with a challenge of Yakuza’s violent nature, without making a game that affirms violence. “I wanted it to be a game that makes you want to do your best to live another day. I remember reminding people of this frequently,” Nagoshi adds.

Since its debut in 2005, the Yakuza series, now dubbed the ‘Like a Dragon’ franchise, has totaled 21.3 million units sold and 23 games launched. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, the series’ most recent release just earlier this year, sold one million copies in just one week, making it the fastest-selling Yakuza games to date, and also the best-reviewed Yakuza series game ever.

Check out our new games 2024 guide for a look ahead at how the rest of the year’s releases are going to shake out.

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