Every once and a while you see a story that stops you dead in your tracks — this is one of those cases. According to NintendoLife, in the newly published exposé about the untold history of Japan’s gaming industry author John Szczepaniak delves into an interview regaling how a developer’s sister was kidnapped to prevent him working with Nintendo. The developer, operating under a pseudonym (Hideo Nanashi), discussed the event alongside discussion of cancelled titles and politics of companies.
My younger sister was kidnapped. [REDACTED] hired some gangsters to do it. They did it to make me stop cooperating with Nintendo.
What does the Yakuza have to do with the Japanese arcade industry? Nanashi explains this and the culture behind it:
In Japan, you have these evil companies that always crop up, and unlike the West, in Japan there’s a perception that “play” is bad, the opposite of hard work. So amusement-oriented industries inevitably become infested with evil companies and ties to the underworld. Take arcades, for example. In legal terms, they’re covered under laws regarding the entertainment and amusement trades. So they’re managed under the same laws that regulate the adult, or “pink”, industry. Because of that, the underworld gets involved. The only companies that have been able to do business while staying clean are probably Nintendo and Namco.
Nanashi, while describing the story, mentioned how he managed to deal with the Yakuza to show he was serious:
It was one of their game machines. I dropped it in front of their offices, smashed it. And I told them that one of their employees would be next. To show them that I was serious. That way they would feel ashamed of their actions, you know? It was easy for me to get a [REDACTED] arcade cabinet cheaply, so I bought one from a distributor. I thought about robbing a [REDACTED] arcade, too, but that’s much more difficult, and that would make me a criminal. With what I ended up doing, I could have been charged with something like unlawful dumping of garbage, but that’s a minor offence. Whereas if I had robbed a [REDACTED] arcade, I would have been arrested. [REDACTED] was well-versed in using the underworld to get what they want, so if you’re going up against them, you have to be smart. They’re a big company, so if you try to fight them with ordinary methods, they’ll work with the police and get the legal system to come after you. They might even pay off a politician, like a member of the National Diet. Who knows what they’re capable of?
I just smashed it in front of their main office in the middle of the night. It was easy. The [REDACTED] headquarters are in [REDACTED] now, but back then they were near [REDACTED] Airport. Their office building was right in front of a major street, in a commercial district without any residential homes.
…I didn’t dump it myself. I had someone else do it, because I don’t have a driver’s license. I had him just drop the machine and dump it, so I don’t know how damaged it was, but I assume it smashed apart. And then I sent [REDACTED] a letter.
Here is the crazy thing — this isn’t the first time the unnamed company has been under fire for this:
I don’t know how much you know about [REDACTED], but are you aware of the “quarantine room” [隔離部屋, literal translation: “Isolation room”] problem from around the year 2000? They would put employees alone in a room and give them absolutely nothing to do, in order to make them resign. [REDACTED] did that, and former [REDACTED] employees sued them and won. That’s the kind of thing [REDACTED] did back then. They didn’t just put people behind a partition or something, they sent them away to a completely different floor of the building. [REDACTED] didn’t just lose a lawsuit over this, they completely tarnished their image. Nobody wanted to buy games from a company like that. It became a major social issue. Like this article, about [REDACTED] being sued for the quarantine room and issuing a public apology.
Of course, these are all interviews that have been included in Szczepaniak book and hasn’t been verified by us or Nintendo Life. However, it is a harrowing tale of the industry’s past.