When Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden producer Tomonobu Itagaki hopped on Tecmo's team in 1992, he was a fairly happy man. Through the company, he was able to give us his breakthrough project Dead or Alive, worked on a version of Tecmo Bowl, and lead Team Ninja's offense. But, as we all know, things have change since then.
In the eve of NInja Gaiden II's launch, which was Itagaki's last project., the major Tecmo developer resigned from the company on June 3 with a vengeance - a lawsuit where Itagaki claims that Tecmo owes him bonuses for the completion of Dead or Alive 4. And we wondered why he never smiles.
How are things between the two sides since then? Through various reports and analyses, we'll tell you how. Check them out after the cut.
Before Itagaki's resignation, the man already had a history of charges within the company. In November 2006, while on the brink of the voluptuous release of Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball 2 (packed with a revolutionary "physics" engine), Itagaki was slapped with a sexual harassment from a former Tecmo employee. He faced a ten million yen (around $85,000) fine but Itagaki admitted that he did indeed have a relationship with the woman to nullify any further consequences. (via Joystiq)
But since Ninja Gaiden's release for the original Xbox in 2004, Itagaki was given a lot of credit for his work. The action title was praised by many critics and hardcore action fans were pleased for its challenging gameplay. But, as we have mentioned, Itagaki resigned and sued Tecmo just as the game's sequel was going to be released. He mentioned on his resignation statement that he filed a complaint to the Tokyo District Court about Tecmo president Yoshimi Yasuda's "disingenuous statements" towards him, stating that, "President Yoshimi Yasuda chose not only to violate this agreement, but also turned defiant, telling me 'if you are dissatisfied with the decision not to pay the bonuses, either quit the company or sue it."
In a shorter sense, Itagaki just told Tecmo to "(explicitly) off" and the company is full off (explicit stuff). He demanded 148 hundred million yen for damages (about $1.38 million).
After Itagaki apologized to his fans for his depature, Tecmo immediately responded to his resigning statement. The company said that Itagaki's public statement was "self-centered" and he is acting as if he was the sole creator of Team Ninja's various titles - hence, there is no Itagaki in Team, but there is one in NINJA!. To ensure that Itagaki keeps himself away from anymore public stunts, Tecmo filed a gag order (a legal term that suppresses anyone to disclose any further information to the public) to the Tokyo District Court on June 10. (via Kotaku)
But in the process of keeping Itagaki's public mouth shut, Tecmo ran into another manure storm on June 16 when two company employees slapped them with another lawsuit that demanded an 8.3 million yen fine (about $77,000). According to the filed suit, Tecmo illegaly placed workers (about 300 of them) on a "flexible hours" working scheme that eventually led to over 100 hours of unpaid overtime. It looks like Tecmo won't be smiling soon either (via Kotaku). However, in the company's favor (for pride), reports were saying that Itagaki didn't really leave Tecmo on his own, he was actually fired by the company.
But several Kotaku reports suggested that Tecmo and Itagaki shouldn't be looking at the brightside just yet. According to a report, Tecmo and Itagaki's claims did not contain the same information about the bonuses regarding with Dead or Alive 4's completion. The company submitted a similar looking contract, but didn't state Itagaki's entitled compensations. So, indeed, someone is definitely hiding the truth. Itagaki also raised his cash demands to 164 hundred million yen (about $1.53 million) after the claims were presented. The company naturally denies any compensations for Itagaki in court, allegedly calling Itagaki a "money grubber" by president Yasuda. It has become really, really nasty.
It is unfortunate that Itagaki's relations with his former company has gone sour. Who will be affected by all this mess? Why, it's no other than all of us, the gamers. As these two sides continue to plow arguments on each other's back, we will constantly wonder how Ninja Gaiden III would've been or any future projects from the talented developers at Team Ninja. As usual, we'll bring you more updates as soon as they arise.