Sega Employees Face Death Threats For A Ridiculous Reason

Not that there's ever a good reason, but still...

By Michileen Martin | Published

This article is more than 2 years old


If you’re someone who harbors aspirations of working for a video game developer, be warned — there could be more dire consequences to such a career choice than you realize. Last week, a man was arrested for sending death threats to Sega employees. While there’s never a good reason for death threats, the man in question allegedly threatened Sega employees with death and more over something particularly idiotic — he did poorly in an online Sega game.

The news comes from Yomiuri (via Kotaku), who says the 54-year-old man arrested in Toyokawa, Japan last week is named Akira Watanabe. Watanabe had allegedly been emailing death threats to Sega over the course of three months — from last December to this February. In total, Watanabe is accused of sending 12 emails to Sega employees. The alleged threats included promises to “kill employees,” “kill the family and children of employees,” and to “set the company on fire.” The suspect has reportedly confessed to sending the emails, and the reason given was that he was frustrated with losing “in an online game.” So far, the specific game title has not been released. At last report, Watanabe was charged with obstruction of a business.

This may seem silly or even like making mountains out of molehills, but the past few years have given both Sega and authorities in Japan plenty of reason to be genuinely concerned with these kinds of threats. As CBR recalls, in July 2019, 36 people were killed and 33 more injured in an arson attack on Kyoto Animation. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the horrific attack is thought to represent the deadliest mass killing in Japan since World War II. No official motive has reportedly been established, but in December 2020 Shinji Aoba was arrested and charged with murder related to the attack. There has been speculation that Aoba submitted a novel to the company, whose ideas he believed the company stole from him. Japan Today reports that Aoba has a history of mental illness, speculating that it could make the death penalty out of bounds if he is convicted. At last reports, the alleged arsonist was undergoing psychiatric tests to determine whether or not he could stand trial.

In another example of why Sega was correct to be concerned, a Japanese high school student was arrested in 2020 for allegedly threatening Konami. The teenager allegedly wrote in the review section of a mobile soccer game app, “I’m going to blow up Konami’s headquarters” and “I’m going to kill the people who work at Konami.” Just as Watanabe reportedly confessed in the more recent Sega case, in the 2020 incident the teenager allegedly was angry over a bug in an online Konami game that contributed to his losses.

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Working for gaming companies like Sega can sadly prove more dangerous than perhaps most imagine, and not always because of people outside the companies. Among the many issues being faced by Activision Blizzard, for example, is a lawsuit that was recently filed over the 2017 suicide of Kerri Moynihan. Moynihan was a finance manager for Activision Blizzard when she was found dead in her hotel room. The lawsuit brought by Moynihan’s family alleges sexual harassment, abuse, and intimidation by the company — accusations that have become synonymous with the company’s name over the past few years.