The creator of the long-running Yakuza series, Toshihiro Nagoshi, is reportedly in talks with Chinese publisher and developer NetEase to hire him away from Sega, where he's worked since 1989.
Bloomberg reports that NetEase wants Nagoshi to build a new team and develop new games for the rapidly growing publisher. Things are reportedly still in the discussions phase, so exact details probably won't be known for some time.
NetEase is one of the biggest video game companies in China (alongside Tencent), with a line of hugely successful mobile games and a partnership with Activision-Blizzard for Chinese versions of World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Starcraft 2.
“Tencent and NetEase have been speaking to just about all publicly traded studios here and are actively courting some privately held developers, too. They both feel pressure to make headway in Japan, especially since game regulations in their home market are becoming increasingly restrictive,” industry analyst Serkan Toto told Bloomberg.
The news comes as China imposes tighter limits on the amount of time underage players can play, up to a maximum of one hour from 8-9 pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Chinese publishers will inevitably be looking for talent that can make games for 18+ audiences or successfully work within the Chinese government's restrictions.
Nagoshi's first credit was a designer role on Sega's Virtua Racing series. He later produced and directed the Monkey Ball franchise before joining the Ryu Ga Gotoku studio to kick off the Yakuza series in 2005 on the PlayStation 2. In the past few years, Yakuza has grown in popularity in the West, recently receiving a prequel, remasters of all six core games, and last year's Yakuza 7, which transformed the game from an action brawler into a turn-based RPG.
Nagoshi has served as executive director on the Yakuza franchise since Yakuza 0, leaving general directorial duties to fellow employees Hiroyuki Sakamoto and Ryosuke Horii.