Why did Sega change Yakuza to Like a Dragon? We asked the devs and learned that the title “Like a Dragon 8” isn’t finalized yet

In September, Sega announced three new titles in its Yakuza series: Like a Dragon 8, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, and Like a Dragon: Ishin!, although Like a Dragon 8 isn’t a finalized title yet as we’ll explain later in this article.

What will be immediately obvious to fans of the series is that none of the games bear the “Yakuza” name, instead using the title “Like a Dragon.” The Japanese title, Ryu Ga Gotoku, remains the same for these new entries. The new English title now shares its meaning with the Japanese title, but why exactly did they decide to change it now? We spoke with Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio representative Masayoshi Yokoyama to find out.

According to Yokoyama, back when they first launched the Yakuza series, it was in a very different market position to where it is now. It was regarded as a very niche title, and since Yokoyama and the rest of the team did not have the knowledge of the global market that they have today, they decided to go with the title Yakuza. There have been times when they thought about changing the title, but the series had become widely known under the Yakuza name, so they chose to leave it the same until now.

However, around the period that Yakuza 0 was released, the series began to explode in popularity overseas. Also, due to recent titles in the series starting to move away from just telling stories about conflict between yakuza, they decided to give Ryu Ga Gotoku 7 the English title Yakuza: Like a Dragon. Furthermore, with these three newly announced games, the series is officially shifting to the Like a Dragon title.

That said, Yokoyama isn’t sure if the company will stick with the name Like a Dragon 8. As it’s a sequel to Yakuza: Like a Dragon, it’s possible that the western audience will find titles such as Yakuza: Like a Dragon 2 or Like a Dragon 2 to be more suitable. They intend to finalize the name after observing user reactions and seeing whether the current title causes confusion among western gamers. Although they want to form a shared brand name between domestic and overseas markets, they don’t want to go with a title that is difficult for users to understand.

In regard to Like a Dragon: Ishin!, the Japanese development team told Sega of America that they had complete freedom to come up with a new English title, and Sega of America decided that it was best to go with Like a Dragon: Ishin!, which is a direct translation of the Japanese title.

The game takes place in 19th century Japan and the term “Ishin” refers to Meiji Ishin, or the Meiji Restoration. The setting has no connection to the yakuza, and as such, giving the game the title “Yakuza: Ishin” would have been rather strange.

When we asked Yokoyama whether they had ever considered using the title “Yakuza Ishin” instead of Like a Dragon: Ishin!, he laughed as he rejected the notion, saying, “If we did that then it would become a confusing mess.” That said, it doesn’t seem like the series’ name change was employed just as a way to avoid using “Yakuza Ishin.”

Yokoyama said that even if they once again release games that focus on battles between yakuza in the future, they will likely not use titles such as “Yakuza” or “Like a Dragon: Yakuza.” Each time the Ryu Ga Gotoku team releases a new game, they go to great efforts to make sure that it is relevant to the current era, and that includes the game’s title.

The Yakuza series became Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and now will continue its journey as Like a Dragon. It was a clever bit of maneuvering, but one that required careful preparation.

Written by. Marco Farinaccia based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date:2022-10-13 22:00 JST)

Ayuo Kawase
Ayuo Kawase

Editor in chief of AUTOMATON

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