Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
|Ryū ga Gotoku Sutajio|
|Founded||August 31, 2011|
|Products||Yakuza series (2012-present)|
Super Monkey Ball series (2019-present)
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio (Japanese: 龍が如くスタジオ, Hepburn: Ryū ga Gotoku Sutajio) is a video game developer housed within the Japanese video game company Sega as part of its Sega CS Research and Development No. 1 (セガ 第一CS研究開発部, Sega daiichi shīēsu kenkyū kaihatsubu) division. It is known for developing the Yakuza games since Yakuza 5.
Since Yakuza 3, they were referred to as Sega's CS1 team, all the way up to Yakuza: Dead Souls. It was spun off from Sega CS1 R&D after the development of Yakuza: Dead Souls was completed. The first game to use the studio's original logo was Binary Domain in Japan, released in February 2012.
Eventually, the RGG Studio's logo became used consistently and the way they brand themselves and give themselves an identity of their own.
According to Masayoshi Yokoyama, one of the leads of the studio, the studio is not a company organization but rather a "concept" or a "production team". Nevertheless, the studio's logo and name have become more recognizable internationally, and the logo has been used consistently.
Though the RGG Studio logo was only officially established in late August 2011, and first used to promote Binary Domain in Japan back in February 2012, the studio's origins can be traced back to the first 2 Super Monkey Ball titles on the GameCube.
In 2000, Toshihiro Nagoshi was the president of AV (Amusement Vision). AV's first title on home consoles was a remake of Nagoshi's Daytona USA, as Daytona USA 2001 on the Dreamcast. Nagoshi, who had previously worked under Sega AM2's Yu Suzuki and been credited as the creator of the arcade titles Daytona USA and Virtua Striker, devised the concept of rolling spheres through mazes based on his desire to create a game that was instantly possible to understand and play, as a contrast to increasingly complex games at Japanese arcades at the time. AV developed it initially as an arcade title, Monkey Ball. Monkey Ball was first released in Japanese arcades in June 2001, and then received an upgraded version — Super Monkey Ball — as a GameCube launch title in all regions.
After the success of the first Super Monkey Ball, it spawned a direct sequel on the GameCube. Following that, a collaboration with Nintendo happened. AV would develop F-Zero GX in a contracted development, while Nintendo would be responsible for the supervision, production and publishing of their IP. In the end, Nintendo was impressed with the product, considering it a step forward for the F-Zero franchise.
After the release of F-Zero GX, the non-sports staff of Smilebit (developers of games like Jet Set Radio Future and Panzer Dragoon Orta on Xbox) would be merged with Amusement Vision. Their last two projects (which still kept the AV moniker) were the arcade title Ollie King in March 2004 and Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon in June 2004 on the Game Boy Advance.
Development of Yakuza and building a franchise
By July 2004, Amusement Vision was dissolved as part of the New Entertainment R&D Dept., and the development of Yakuza started. The first Yakuza game had a difficult development cycle, as the first pitch was rejected by the higher-ups, due to expecting something different out of Nagoshi. At the time, Sega and Sammy merged to form Sega Sammy Holdings. The new owner and CEO of Sega Sammy, Hajime Satomi saw footage of Yakuza that was forcibly sneaked in a preview of upcoming Sega games, in spite of that it wasn't officially a project yet. Satomi took an interest in it, though the Sega executives were unhappy about this move. Through perseverance however, Nagoshi managed to get the project started.
The project was risky with a high budget and many people working on it, and there was no estimate on how the market would accept a game aimed at only adult Japanese males, based in the Japanese underworld. The highest estimate was only 70,000 copies in Japan. However, over time, the game sold over 1 million copies. Nagoshi said that it gave the team confidence to press on and continue to evolve it into a series. The staff from Amusement Vision and Smilebit worked on many different console and arcade games, and they had confidence in their genres and careers. However, Yakuza did not match any of their past experiences, which Nagoshi saw as them all playing on a level playing field. Every element of the game had to go through Nagoshi first, because only he had a concrete idea of how the game was supposed to end up.
When the game grew into a franchise, the staff gained more freedom and independence in regards to which elements to put into the game, due to established rules by Nagoshi. Therefore, the games become more varied as the series went on. The initial target audience was adult Japanese males but overtime, the series audience expanded into females and also overseas players.
Nagoshi says that the development team of the Yakuza series always needs to have a sense of challenge. For Yakuza 2, they first thought about having a two-year development cycle, but after discussion, it was thought that releasing and developing the game just one year later would be better to keep audiences attention, though it meant more work for them. For the first spin-off Ryu Ga Gotoku Kenzan, the team initially made fun of their goal of making the game for the new PlayStation 3 while also moving to a different setting. However, they managed to make it in just a year and a bit, and the staff felt refreshed. While certain things have become routine, each game is still hard work for the team, but the fanbase keeps Nagoshi motivated. Nagoshi explains that the fast release schedule of one game per year with a massive amount of content is based on the team's desire to constantly keep delivering the fans with not just what they want, but also to surprise them.
One detour for the team was the game Binary Domain, which unlike the Yakuza series, was an attempt to make something for the worldwide audience. However, it was not very successful, and it made the team reflect on preferring to keep making authentic Japanese games rather than pretending to be something else. The new Dragon Engine developed for Yakuza 6 and used in subsequent games used technology from Binary Domain and was evolved further.
Yakuza 0 increased the fanbase internationally. Previous localized installments did not always meet expectations in terms of sales. Yakuza 0 being a prequel made it an easy jumping in point for new fans as well as the expertise of recently merged Atlus USA, where factors in it's success. This also led to the previous games getting remasters and remakes in the form of the two remakes Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza Kiwami 2 and remasters of Yakuza 3, Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5. Producer Daisuke Sato wants to continue to do titles that are well accepted globally, not only limited to Japan and niche consumers.
The main writer behind the stories and scenarios of most of the Yakuza series has been Masayoshi Yokoyama, who previously was a senior planner for Jet Set Radio. When developing the first game, the tagline was "The maddog Yakuza and the 10 billion yen girl" and various members of the team were able to pitch a story. Yokoyama's proposal stood out where instead of focusing on a big plot twist that concerned the girl and the 10 billion yen, he drew up a character correlation chart, and explained how the various characters were related to each other. As a whole, Yokoyama focuses on entertaining characters and scenes, and only decides the culprit at the very end in the writing process, with a focus on who would be the most interesting to fight as a final boss. Yokoyama himself doesn't read novels and has no training in script writing, and is mostly inspired by visual mediums like film and TV shows. For the first two Yakuza games, crime novelist Hase Seishu was an editor of Yokoyama's scripts. He heavily critiqued the first draft, suggesting that it lacks realism, so Yokoyama did further research and adjusted the script in his own way. For the second game, Yokoyama only needed one round of editing from Seishu. Nagoshi is very involved in the creation of the scripts, and advocated for the various elements found in Yakuza 3, such as the more heartwarming atmosphere with the kids at the orphanage, the return of Joji Kazama, as well as suggesting the keywords "base" and "defense" for the story. For Yakuza 2, the golden Osaka Castle, was also Nagoshi's idea.
|2012||Binary Domain||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows|
|Yakuza 5||PlayStation 3|
|2014||Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin!||PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4|
|2015||Yakuza 0||PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One|
|2016||Yakuza Kiwami||PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One|
|Yakuza 6: The Song of Life||PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One|
|2017||Yakuza Kiwami 2||PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One|
|2018||Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise||PlayStation 4|
|Yakuza 3 Remastered||PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One|
|Ryū ga Gotoku Online||Microsoft Windows, iOS, Android|
|2019||Yakuza 4 Remastered||PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One|
|Yakuza 5 Remastered||PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One|
|Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD||PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch|
|2020||Yakuza: Like a Dragon||PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5|
|2021||Judgment Remastered||PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox Series X/S|
|Lost Judgment||PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S|
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- Sato. "Yakuza Director Says 20% Of Their Players Are Female, But They'll Still Keep It A Manly Series". Siliconera.
- 『龍が如く』シリーズ10周年記念本 龍大全. Japan: Kadokawa. 21 January 2016. pp. 24–29. ISBN 978-4047331099.
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- 『龍が如く』シリーズ10周年記念本 龍大全. Japan: Kadokawa. 21 January 2016. pp. 201–207. ISBN 978-4047331099.
- "Yakuza Remastered interview: producer Daisuke Sato on bringing the complete Kiryu saga to PS4". VG247. 2019-08-20. Retrieved 2021-05-02.
- "Interview with: Daisuke Sato on the past and future of the Yakuza series • JPGAMES.DE". JPGAMES.DE (in German). 2021-02-23. Retrieved 2021-05-02.
- Aubrey, Dave (2019-09-30). "Yakuza's Daisuke Sato Interview: 'I'd Like to Challenge Myself to Make Games That Are Widely Accepted Globally'". Wccftech. Retrieved 2021-05-02.