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Japanese social games funded by Yakuza, says expert

12:15 PM on 07.12.2012 // Allistair Pinsof

Yakuza, Japan's mafia, has a long history with games: card games, Pachinko machines, and now social gaming. Some of Japan's current social games, including one about Yakuza, are funded by Japan's mafia, according to Tokyo Vice author and ex-Yomiuri Shinbun reporter Jake Adelstein.

I’m not going to say the name of the companies but there are several gaming companies - social gaming companies - that were funded by organized crime, because organized crime is Japan’s biggest private equity. One of the firms actually makes a Yakuza role-playing game in which you can buy, like, a Mercedes Benz and weapons. You would think no-one would be that stupid but actually it’s like the Purloined Letter trick. The perfect front. Because you would think no gaming company funded by the Yakuza would actually create a Yakuza roleplaying game where you can have minor league enforcer avatars and host clubs.

I'm assuming these games aren't from major players in the social games scene that will easily turn up through a Google search. Adelstein makes a keen observation, pointing out that even Nintendo once had ties to Yakuza in the '60s, back when they owned a love hotel and distributed card games.

You'd be surprised by what the mafia throws money at. I met a guy once that told me CrimeCraft was funded partially by the Russian mafia, and even heard from professors that Russian mafia give considerable donations to universities' Russian programs. So, you never know with these things. I just hope no one is getting their ear lobbed off because my mom is playing Bubble Safari on Facebook.

Jake Adelstein: My Favourite Game [Edge]

Allistair Pinsof,
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