After more than 12 years, founder and CEO Shinji Mikami is set to leave Tango Gameworks.
Shinji Mikami leaves Tango Gameworks in a few months. With the surprise success of Hi-Fi Rush, you'd think that Tango Gameworks is now gearing up for yet another big project. But today, Bethesda senior vice president of development Todd Vaughn informed all employees of ZeniMax (of which Tango Gameworks is a subsidiary of) that Shinji Mikami is leaving Tango Gameworks in the near future.
The email was verified by the gaming website TrueAchievements and was quoted as the following:
“I am writing today to let you know that studio head Shinji Mikami has decided to leave Tango Gameworks in the coming months,” Vaughn said. “Mikami-san has been a creative leader and supportive mentor to young developers at Tango for 12 years through his work on the Evil Within franchise, Ghostwire: Tokyo, and of course, Hi-Fi Rush.”
After confirming the legitimacy of the email, Bethesda also added to TrueAchievements reiterating, “We wish Mikami-san well in the future and are excited by what lies ahead for the talented developers at Tango.”
While this might come as a surprise to some but back in 2020, Mikami told Variety:
“My thinking is that if I had a chance to make a game from the beginning to end that’s completely my vision, then definitely, that would be my big last project as a director,” he said. “It would probably be more fitting as that ‘last game I direct’ kind of thing.”
The last time Mikami served as a director on a title was The Evil Within in 2014 which saw him take on the horror genre he had pioneered. Since then he has served as an executive producer on other Tango Gameworks projects like The Evil Within 2, Ghostwire: Tokyo, and most recently on Hi-Fi Rush.
And after all, Tango Gameworks was never intended to be Shinji Mikami's studio. We can see today that it was a place in which talent like John Johanas (The Evil Within 2, Hi-Fi Rush) could make games with the guidance of someone with 30+ years in the industry, which is a running theme of Shinji Mikami's career.
So it's safe to say that Shinji Mikami is leaving Tango Gameworks to his younger colleagues. Talent that he has handpicked and mentored for over 12 years now.
But to figure out what's next for Mikami, we should take a small look at his career so far.
Industry Icon and Mentor
Shinji Mikami's name is closely associated with many big names in gaming. Probably most importantly, with Resident Evil, Capcom, and Platinum Games before we even get to the start of Tango Gameworks.
For how big of a name Mikami would eventually become, you'd be surprised to hear that he ended up in the industry by sheer happenstance. In an interview, he gave with now-defunct website 1UP.com he told them:
“A friend of mine had found a flyer advertising some kind of job fair-slash-buffet party Capcom was holding at the Hilton and he gave it to me because he knew I liked games. I went mainly because I wanted to eat at the Hilton for free, but once I started talking to Capcom people, really getting in-depth about the work they do, I thought it sounded pretty neat.
So I applied to both Capcom and Nintendo, and it turned out the second round of interviews for both companies were held on the same day, and I chose Capcom. It's likely for the better because I probably never had a chance with Nintendo.”
So in the early 90s, he found himself at the helm of many smaller projects including licensed titles based on Disney IPs including the Super NES Aladdin game.
His first big break and the project that would shoot him to superstardom was the development of the original Resident Evil. Important here was that Mikami had complete creative control over the project, back then, at least at Capcom, developers were used to making games together and everyone's voice was considered equally.
Mikami changed that, by insisting on the many design quirks like the limited ammunition and ink ribbon supply and clunky controls. Mikami had a distinct vision for Resident Evil, the original wasn't even supposed to have a story but that would eventually lead to the franchise being as long-lived as it is today.
After, Mikami handed the reigns to Hidetaki Kamiya (Devil May Cry, Okami, Bayonetta) while he served as the producer of the game. While development was troubled and had to be restarted at some point, it ended up launching Kamiya's career as also one of the gaming's most iconic directors. Mikami also casually directed Dino Crisis at that time and the world was better for it.
After helping with the development of other Resident Evil titles, especially Devil May Cry, which was initially conceived as Resident Evil 4. Shinji Mikami would find himself again in the director's chair or another Resident Evil that would change the gaming sphere forever.
While we have a Resident Evil 4 Remake on the horizon, the fact that it still looks and will play very similar to the original just shows how well-designed the original Resident Evil 4 is.
And after that, Mikami would form Clover Studio in 2004 under the Capcom Umbrella with fellow Capcom all-stars Kamiya and Inaba to develop action titles such as God Hand and Okami. Clover Studio then closed its doors in 2007 and many of its alumni formed PlantiumGames.
In that timespan, Mikami would continue a creative relationship with certified mad-lad Goichi Suda (No More Heroes, Killer7) and Grasshopper Manufacture on Shadow of the Damned after having already helped with the development of Killer7 in 2005.
During his time at PlatinumGames, he and his team would develop Vanquish. A fast-paced third-person sci-fi shooter that you should definitely give a try. Especially now that it is available on modern platforms in 4K and 60FPS.
Until Mikami would leave PlatinumGames behind in 2010 to form Tango Gameworks with some of his long-term creative partners under the ZeniMax and Bethesda umbrella.
So What's Next?
So what's next for Shinji Mikami? Going by the pattern established in the last section, he'll probably take a bunch of people he likes to work with and go make something else. Why would someone leave their own company that you build over 12 years just to start a new one?
There have been some voices, saying that he'd return to Capcom or will join Sony on some endeavor to ride out into the sunset with one last banger. But maybe the answer lies somewhere else.
It's not like Shinji Mikami has, or seems to feel the need to develop one more game. If anything he always tried to elevate the talents of others. But there is one thing people might be able to get excited about.
Grasshopper Manufacture is currently cooking up their “super secret” collaboration project Hotel Barcelona which involved Goichi Suda and his fellow madman Hidetaka Suehiro (Deadly Premonition, The Good Life). When they revealed the project in 2019, they also casually messaged and presumedly bullied Keeichiro Toyama (Silent Hill, Siren, Gravity Rush) to join the project.
So who knows, while Hotel Barcelona is still missing in action, we know that Grasshopper Manufacture is working on something and a trademark has been registered back in November of last year. And we can imagine that they have at least asked Mikami to be part of this project.
We'll, of course, keep you updated should there be any more information on the subject right here on ESTNN