After the reveal of the newest mainline Yakuza installment, longtime fans of the series quickly took note of its name: Like a Dragon 8. In Japan, the series has always used the title Ryu Ga Gotoku, which translates to Like a Dragon. However, the series has been called Yakuza in the West. The status quo changed slightly when Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio used the Like a Dragon title for the overseas release of the series’ seventh main entry.
And with the announcement of Like a Dragon 8 in addition to two other games adopting the Like a Dragon title, it appeared that the developers finally chose to abandon the Yakuza name for good. However, in an interview with Automaton, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio representative Masayoshi Yokoyama stated that while the series will indeed transition to the Like a Dragon name as Sega announced earlier, the developer has not yet decided on the final name of Like a Dragon 8.
Yokoyama said overseas fans may become confused if the developer used the Like a Dragon 8 title, a strong possibility considering general Western audiences still primarily know the series by its Yakuza name. The developers will see how Western audiences react to the current title before finalizing it, as “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.” It could ultimately end up being called Like a Dragon 2 or become Yakuza once more.
What’s the story behind the name change?
Additionally, Yokoyama went into more detail as to why the series’ name change occurred at this time. The first game came out in a radically different gaming market compared to how it is now, and the developers’ knowledge of that market was limited. This combined with the game’s perceived niche status led to the developers adopting the Yakuza name for the overseas release. Although they considered changing the name a few times over the years, they decided otherwise due to audiences’ familiarity with the Yakuza title.
Fast forward to 2017, and the series would receive a massive boost in popularity in the West thanks to the overwhelming success of Yakuza 0. Combined with the series’ declining focus on stories about the yakuza, this inspired the developers to begin transitioning away from the Yakuza name with 2020’s Yakuza: Like a Dragon. The name change was especially appropriate given the upcoming international release of the Like a Dragon: Ishin! spinoff game. Since it takes place in samurai-era Japan, the Yakuza title would have made even less sense — there were no yakuza during this period.
A major shift
Yokoyama also confirmed that future installments will continue to prioritize the Like a Dragon name even if they contain stories that place a larger emphasis on the yakuza conflict. Some may feel thrown off by the name change, but Like a Dragon serves as a more memorable and striking title compared to Yakuza anyway, so the series will ultimately benefit from a creative standpoint. Changing the series’ branding certainly presents a bit of a risk from a marketing standpoint. But if there was ever a time for Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio to take a risk in the name of more accurately representing the spirit of the series, it would be now.