Meet the Development Divisions

1st Development Division


Senior Executive Manager Masayoshi Yokoyama

Joined in 1999.
1st Development Division, concurrently serves as Senior Executive Manager and Executive Officer. Joined as a Game Designer of CS R&D Department 1. Handled Scenario and Production on "Yakuza", and has served as Producer on all "Like a Dragon" games since 2010.
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio Director.

Manager Daisuke Fukagawa

Joined in 2011.
Manager of 1st Development Department #3 under the 1st Development Division. Has contributed to the "Like a Dragon" series team as an artist since first joining SEGA.
Cinematic Director of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio.

Manager Yutaka Ito

Joined in 1996. Manager of 1st Development Department #6 under the 1st Development Division.
Worked on the development of many arcade games as a programmer, and subsequently joined the "Like a Dragon" production team.
Served as the director of "”"Lost Judgment". Technical Director of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio.

Striving for the top of the world with "Like a Dragon":
an inside look at SEGA's 1st Development Division

Since the release of the first "Like a Dragon" game in 2005, the series has amassed many hardcore fans. These games, which faithfully recreate the streets of Japan, hold an immense amount of popularity overseas. There are even fans who learned about Japanese culture through these games and then decided to visit the country for themselves.

SEGA's 1st Development Division is where this incredible series is developed. Over the past 18 years, a total of 20 Like a Dragon games have been released.

Today, we'll be interviewing Senior Executive Manager Masayoshi Yokoyama alongside Art Section Manager Daisuke Fukagawa and Program Section Manager Yutaka Ito. We had the chance to hear about their dedication to making games and about the 1st Development Division's vision.

"Like a Dragon" fans and anyone aiming for the top of the gaming industry are encouraged to give this interview a read.

Receiving worldwide acclaim for the realistic Japanese cityscapes in the "Like a Dragon" series

First, could you all please tell us about your background?


As for me, I joined SEGA in 1999 as a fresh graduate. For the 20 years I've spent as a game designer, I've been in charge of console games. I've contributed to the "Like a Dragon" series since the very first game, and have been involved in almost all of its titles.


I joined SEGA in 2011 as an experienced hire, and started as an artist. I was put on the "Like a Dragon" production team and have contributed to the series' development ever since.


I joined in 1996 as a fresh graduate. Back then, I was in the department developing "Virtua Fighter" and other arcade games. However, when the company began restructuring internally, I moved to the department making console games. I joined the company as a programmer and have since worked on developing game engines as well.

Could you tell us about the 1st Development Division?


The 1st Development Division develops console games, mainly for the "Like a Dragon" series. What's distinct about us is that we're always pursuing cutting-edge tech. Among all of SEGA's games, "Like a Dragon" is the most high-end. As such, we have a lot of members who are interested in that kind of technology.

Our mission as the 1st Development Division is to foster the "Like a Dragon" IP. To that end, our duties don't end at just development. We handle things like the branding and promotion in-house, and we're particularly hard at work on raising our global profile.

Another trait of our team is that there are few barriers between each job type. For example, there are many times when the members involved with planning consult with the programming section manager about the contents of a proposal. As members of various professions give their opinions, we collectively work toward putting each title together.

What have you done to help the series sell overseas?


With regards to that, we haven't changed anything like the series' concept. However, there are some points that we take into consideration. We wish to offer accurate translations that don't ruin the game's setting, and we do not want to offend any country's culture or religion.

Also, we initially subtitled the Japanese voice actors' dialogue into each local language, but we now hold overseas auditions and have foreign voice actors provide dubs. When doing so, we've adjusted the characters' facial movements so that they would match the spoken dialogue of each local language. The hope is that this will improve the series' reception overseas.

It seems overseas fans also find Like a Dragon's recreations of Kabukicho and Dotonbori to be interesting.


Our overseas audiences receive such depictions of the streets of Japan surprisingly well. We originally didn't plan on selling these games overseas, but because the response there exceeded our expectations, we've been expanding the brand overseas since about eight years ago. These days, overseas sales account for 70% of our total sales.

As you can tell from the abundance of inbound tourists at any of Japan's many sightseeing spots, there are quite a number of people overseas who want to enjoy the cities of Japan. It seems overseas audiences appreciate the series more than we had imagined, as there are even people who come to Japan after learning about the culture through these games.

The details that go into continuously making games that exceed audience expectations

Could you tell me about the details that go into consideration when Like a Dragon games are developed?


We don't consider anything besides the fact that we want to make fun games. Normally, a series' genre won't change. However, "Like a Dragon" has changed its genre— we've done things like RPGs and action games, and we've even changed the time period it takes place in. Everything from zombies to a Shinsengumi-themed story. It's truly all over the place.

We just have to make games that people will want. So even if we are continuing a series, there's no point in simply making more of the same. As such, our division has people who are motivated by the thought of "I just want to make something fun" without being restricted by a genre, rather than people who think "I want to make a game in this genre."

Do you have any particulars or preferences as a game designer?


I ask that the designers for the "Like a Dragon" series prioritize being able to convey why our game is fun. It is a game designer's job to make the design specifications and have the programmers create the game, but our design specifications somewhat defy the standards in the industry.

Usually, a game's design specifications need to relay the details, down to the concrete figures, to the programmers. However, we don't really fuss over the specific numbers. That's because our programmers think independently and rectify the numbers to be more appropriate.

We believe that the specifications need to thoroughly communicate what we want to accomplish and why that would be fun. This is a higher priority than the numbers. For this reason, we do not need designers to have specialized skills or knowledge. Instead, we'd rather have designers who make the effort to think about how to make a game fun and then share those ideas with the team.

It sounds like the artists and programmers follow the designers' intent to make the game.


It's the job of the programmers and artists to actually create these fun experiences that the designers think up. That's why people who only do what they're told aren't suited to be artists for "Like a Dragon" games. We are looking for those who have the ability to digest what the design specs say and then incorporate their personal spin on those designs.

Even a genius can't single-handedly pump out fun games continuously. I believe that the games we make have been able to exceed audience expectations because our team shares a unified perspective on how to make them interesting.

Everyone, regardless of their skill backgrounds, wants to make our games fun. For this reason, it's not rare for our team members' opinions to clash. I believe people who can engage in constant discussion to make more entertaining game experiences will enjoy working at the 1st Development Division.

As an artist, what are some points you take into consideration when making "Like a Dragon" games?


We'd like to draw out our series' originality, while also pursuing realism. For example, Like a Dragon's realistic cityscapes are one of its selling points, but it's not enough to just make something that's exactly like the real deal. We want to avoid losing the reality while also trying to curate original experiences you can only experience in a video game world. This balance is always something that gives us trouble.

Additionally, there are times where we recreate real-world celebrities by 3D scanning them. However, even when we do this, we try to bring out a sense of originality. For anyone who wants to pursue realism and originality equally in game design, there's no job quite like this.

As a programmer, is there anything you take into consideration?


We always endeavor to use the optimal technology and tools. Just as Daisuke said, in our work with the "Like a Dragon" series, we seek to create cityscapes that are realistic to an extent. In that regard, the latest tech is an absolute must.

We always look for new technology to try out. We have an internally developed game engine, but we're not entirely fixated on it. We test externally developed engines and look for the best fit. For this reason, we provide new employees with training on three engines. We have a system in place that allows them to develop games with the engine that they see fit, regardless of which title it is.

I encourage Like a Dragon series fans, regardless of their career experiences until now, to apply to us

What kind of people would you like to work with?


I'd like to work with people who adore "Like a Dragon". Creating games is by no means a job that's all about having fun. In fact, you'll only feel a sense of achievement once the game is released. During the game's development, you'll experience a string of difficulties.

We do the best we can to make games, but if we can't satisfy our audience, we'll start getting ruthless reviews on social media. It's not rare for my name to be dragged into criticism about a game, because I'm listed as the producer.

In spite of this, the reason I continue to make games is because I love "Like a Dragon" and my company. I'd like to work with people who are motivated to create even more fun games in spite of the difficulties that come with that.

The work is difficult, but I can work hard because I love the IP. That enthusiasm leads to results. I believe that your talent is something that others discover for you. That's why I want to meet fans of "Like a Dragon".

What kind of person would you like to work with, Mr. Fukagawa?


I'd like to work with someone who's always searching for change. I myself was working in a completely different industry, doing a completely different job from what I do now. The reason I left that job was because I couldn't find any change. I chose my current job because I felt unfulfilled just following the same routine every day to achieve quotas.

These days, I never take on the same task twice. Even if I'm making the same thing, I definitely need to make it better than it was before. I never get bored of my job. I can grow by taking on new challenges, and I can face new challenges because I grow.

That's why I want to work alongside self-motivated people who actively seek change.

How about you, Mr. Ito?


I'd like to work with people who always research the latest tech and people with a high learning capacity. They don't need to come from the gaming industry; it's fine as long as they have interest in new technology. This is a bit rare, given that the game industry tends to only recruit those who have industry experience.

You might wonder, "Why don't you look for people with industry experience?" It's because we're confident that if they're a skilled programmer, we can help them develop towards the industry benchmark. There's a steep cost to thoroughly train someone like that, so I'd like people who don't give up right away and will work with us for a long time.

Finally, could you share a message for anyone interested in the 1st Development Division?


Above all, we'd like fans of Like a Dragon to hear what we have to say. For example, on our Chinese localization team, we have a member from China who's been a fan of the "Like a Dragon" series since he was a student. His love for the series motivated him to study at a university in Japan. After graduating, he joined SEGA.

He's played "Like a Dragon" for years, and can make use of that knowledge in his work. When localizing dialogue into Chinese, just using a direct translation doesn't work. For example, the idea of gangsters using polite language to threaten someone is a situation that native Chinese speakers may find bizarre.

However, he translates the lines so that they match a gangster's speaking style in Chinese, which allows for greater authenticity. I definitely encourage fans to apply to us. Just like our Chinese translator, some of our fans have played our games for years, and will be able to put their knowledge and skills to good use in game creation.


I encourage anyone who wants to make the world's greatest game to apply to us. Making the world's number one game comes with its share of obstacles. However, all of us create games with the firm belief we'll reach the top. We warmly welcome applicants who don't have gaming industry experience. Anyone who's even slightly interested should definitely come and talk to us.


We welcome both those who are filled to the brim with confidence and those who are nervous about whether they'll be successful on the job. Please feel free to come and speak with us!


The fun part about the 1st Development Division's work is being able to directly connect with our audience. We regularly do livestreams, and we manage our own social media accounts as well, so we get many chances to interact with and hear from our fans.

Normally, the business end of game companies is done on a B2B basis with retailers and online platforms. However, at the 1st Development Division, we directly handle PR like a B2C company. We make use of real-world fan events, YouTube, social media, and more to share our information worldwide and connect with our fans.

We don't just make games; we also handle all planning to put the games in our fans' hands. If you find both of these aspects interesting, please apply to the 1st Development Division.

* This article contains content from an interview conducted in October 2023.