Itagaki Ninja Gaiden

Dead or Alive creator, and Ninja Gaiden director (he revived the franchise on the OG Xbox), Tomonobu Itagaki, posted a recent interview that he had with Bloomberg on his FB page.

The interview provides great insight into Itagaki’s future plans, and his deep and storied relationship with Microsoft, and the Xbox brand.

When asked by Bloomberg about his first meeting with a Microsoft executive he had this to say, “We (Himself, and the Xbox’s Console design director, Seamus Blackley) talked about a lot of things, like, horsepower of the machine, other technical specifications, launch date, planned installment base at the launch. All verbal, no papers at all. We talked for an hour or so, and my mind was set. My team’s mission was to create the world’s best fighting game, and we needed the Xbox for that. Xbox was four times to six times more powerful than the PS2, and yes, we were on.”

Itagaki has never made it a secret that he has always liked to work on the most powerful hardware available, and in 2001, the Xbox, by far, was more powerful than both, Sony’s PlayStation 2, and Nintendo’s GameCube.

The game Itagaki had in mind during his talk with Blackley was none other than Dead or Alive 3, which he made with his team in just 13 months. Just in time for the Xbox’s launch on November 2001. Dead or Alive 3 went on to sale over one million units on the console.

Itagaki and Team Ninja were one of the first Japanese developers to take a keen interest on the Xbox. The Japanese were wary at first of Microsoft’s new console, as it was developed with existing components rather than with custom ones. When asked about this, Itagaki explained that, “Nintendo and Sony were both making hardware on their unique chips and unique architecture. Microsoft, on the other hand, didn’t spend time and budget but rather assembled existing components, but made the best possible one out of these components. That made some Japanese game companies an impression that Xbox was just a version of PC.”

This Japanese philosophy of developing custom hardware would eventually change, at least for Sony, “Nintendo is still pursuing its own way, and has made a big success on it, so you can’t really underestimate that. But as for Sony, they have changed the way and doing a thing like Microsoft was doing from the beginning. I hope Xbox and PlayStation continue to have a good competitive relationship and I wish both to be successful.”

Itagaki Dead or Alive
Dead or Alive 3 was instrumental in showcasing how much more powerful the Xbox was in contrast to its two main competitors.

Itagaki goes in depth on many different topics (mostly related to Xbox and Microsoft) during the interview. Finally, he was asked about what would be his reaction if Microsoft came knocking on his door to include his new company, Itagaki Games, under its Microsoft Studios’ banner.  Itagaki had this to say:

I would start again with questions that I made to Seamus two decades ago. Back then, I asked him, are you confident that you will beat PS2? He said yes. Xbox is called “Project Midway” and I’ll gain the supremacy with it. That’s why I trusted him and actually created Xbox-exclusive games for about 10 years. 20 years have passed since then, and I established my own company, Itagaki Games, which is not Tecmo, nor Valhalla. I know Microsoft is still aggressive. If they reach out to me, it will be an honor for me.- Tomonobu Itagaki
Clearly, Itagaki still has love for the company that assembled the powerful hardware necessary to turn some of his (now most revered) game projects into reality. Dead or Alive 3, and Ninja Gaiden were key in turning the original Xbox into a successful entry point in the console industry for Microsoft. Perhaps, if Microsoft wants him again, Itagaki can help the Xbox Series X and Game Pass to achieve even greater success with a few great titles.
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By Samuel Rivera

An avid video game player and book reader, Samuel has been playing video games for the last 31 years. He has played nearly every PS1 JRPG known to man, and loves Ocarina of Time more than any other game.