How Contracts and Corporate Drama Led Yakuza Like a Dragon to Xbox Exclusivity

Yakuza game image

The gaming world has always been rife with surprises, and in the realm of console exclusivity, things can get quite bewildering. One such baffling event occurred when the Xbox Series X and S launched with the hit Yakuza game, leaving the PS5 in the shadows. 

For years, the Yakuza franchise had been closely associated with PlayStation, but for a brief period, the latest installment took an unexpected detour to the Xbox. This seemingly peculiar twist in the gaming universe can be attributed to a web of intricate contracts and some rather quirky circumstances. 

Let’s explore the amusing and bewildering story behind Yakuza Like a Dragon’s temporary Xbox exclusivity.

The Exclusive Oddity

The year was 2020, and both the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 had made their grand debuts in the gaming world.

Each console boasted a handful of exclusives, but a significant portion of their lineups consisted of ports from previous generations. Among these exclusive titles, one stood out as a peculiar anomaly: Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

It was available at launch on PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S, but not on the PS5. Gamers were left scratching their heads as to how a series so closely tied to PlayStation had momentarily found refuge on Xbox. The truth behind this oddity only recently emerged, and it’s as intricate as it is comical.

The Puzzle of Contracts

As the gaming world pondered the Yakuza Like a Dragon exclusivity riddle, speculations were rife.

Some believed that Microsoft had brokered a deal with Sega to keep the game off the PS5, while others thought that technical issues had caused the delay. However, the real reason turned out to be a convoluted web of contracts and corporate decisions.

On September 19’s massive Xbox leak, which unveiled a treasure trove of emails and confidential documents from within Microsoft, it was revealed that even Xbox’s top honcho, Phil Spencer, was taken aback by the absence of a PS5 port for Like a Dragon. 

In leaked emails dating back to June 2020, Spencer is seen sharing an IGN tweet, inquiring whether the game was a “next-gen exclusive.” To his surprise, an executive clarified that it wasn’t, stating that it would be available on PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Spencer couldn’t help but find it “funny” that Sega didn’t even list the PS5 on its website.

Damon Baker, then responsible for global gaming partnerships and development, stepped in to elucidate why Microsoft had secured an exclusive next-gen port of Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

Baker disclosed that Sony had a 12-month exclusivity deal with Sega for the PlayStation release of the game in Japan and Asia. This meant that Microsoft couldn’t release an Xbox version of the game in Japan until that deal concluded.  However, in a curious twist, Microsoft also held a contract with Sega that included a parity clause.

This clause prevented Sony from releasing a next-gen version of Like a Dragon in Japan until Xbox did the same.

So, as long as Xbox couldn’t release any version of the game in Japan, Sony was unable to release a PS5 port in the region. To complicate matters further, Baker revealed that Sega had no plans to launch a PS5 version in the United States, effectively creating a timed exclusivity deal for the next-gen consoles.

Marketing Opportunities

At this point, Spencer and the team recognized the marketing opportunities at hand.

They explored the idea of advertising the next Yakuza game as a next-gen exclusive on Series X/S, considering it a “big deal” and even suggesting that it “might even be worth some money from us” if they could push that news in future marketing. And push they did, with Microsoft posting blogs hyping up the game’s utilization of the “next-gen” power of the Series X/S and enthusiastically promoting its release on their consoles. 

Finally, in February 2021, about three months later, the Sony exclusivity deal in Japan expired. Yakuza: Like a Dragon was at last released on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S in Japan.

The next month, it found its way to the PS5 in Japan and everywhere else, bringing an end to one of the weirdest corporate contractual twists the gaming world had witnessed in a long, long time.

Gaming Twists for Yakuza

The tale of Yakuza Like a Dragon’s Xbox exclusivity is a saga that embodies the unexpected and often bewildering world of gaming contracts and corporate intricacies.

In a whirlwind of deals, clauses, and amusing surprises, the game took an unusual path to Xbox exclusivity, only to return to PlayStation with the passing of time. This quirky narrative reminds us that the gaming industry is a realm of perpetual surprises, where even the most seasoned gamers can find themselves immersed in a peculiar and humorous journey through the gaming landscape.

Stay tuned to GameZone for all the industry news and updates.