Founded as early as 2001 in Liberty City, Zaibatsu hide behind the guise of a pharmaceutical corporation that manufactures a wide array of products and distributes them in both Liberty and Anywhere City as of 2013. They also have a website, which describes them as "the world's last major privately owned corporation".
In reality, they are a powerful conglomerate in the criminal underworld of the United States that runs both legitimate and illegal businesses, and are more than willing to eliminate anyone that obstructs their goals. By 2013, they have gone so far as to employ countless armed thugs to fight a massive, bloody turf war with the other gangs of Anywhere City in all three of its main districts.
Members of the Zaibatsu Corporation, or "Z-Men", are known to wear black or dark grey suits (in the Game Boy Color port of GTA 2, they also appear to sport white headwear, possibly hats or helmets) and drive customized Z-Type cars with a black color scheme and the organization's golden (white in the GBC port) "Z" symbol painted on the roof.
The Zaibatsu Corporation is one of three criminal organizations from the 2D Universe to be carried over to the 3D Universe, the other two being the Yakuza and the Russian Mafia. However, they are also the only one of the three whose members have never made a physical appearance in-game nor display any real evidence of conducting criminal activities.
It is interesting to note how prominent the Zaibatsu Corporation is in GTA 2, yet are only briefly mentioned in GTA III.
Grand Theft Auto III
While members of the Zaibatsu Corporation never physically appear in-game nor are any buildings explicitly identified as being their property, they are mentioned in radio commercials advertising their latest medical product, which is distributed from Zaibatsu Pharmaceuticals, their pharmaceutical branch.
Screenshots of the alpha version of GTA III show that posters and crates with Zaibatsu's symbol were to appear in the Chinatown district of Portland Island. It is possible that the Zaibatsu Corporation was intended to play a larger role in the early stages of the game.
Grand Theft Auto 2
They appear frequently throughout the Grand Theft Auto 2, as their presence can be seen and felt in all three districts of Anywhere City. They became embroiled into a violent struggle over control of business interests and gang territories with all other gangs in Anywhere City during the period of which Grand Theft Auto 2 is set in.
The following gangs that contests the control by the Zaibatsu Corporation are: Yakuza, the Rednecks, the Scientists, the Loonies, the Hare Krishna, and the Russian Mafia. They were presumed to be the most powerful criminal organization of all in Anywhere City during the time of Grand Theft Auto 2. The top-ranking leaders of the Zaibatsu Corporation frequently refer to Claude Speed by the nickname they gave him, "Gecko".
GTA 2: The Movie
In the film/movie rendition of Grand Theft Auto 2, Claude is shot dead by a Zaibatsu assassin sent to avenge for his theft of Zaibatsu merchandise.
Products of Zaibatsu
- Zoom Zoom - Energy stimulant.
- Silky Milky - Breast implants that "feel and taste like the real thing".
- Doesn't Need Anything (DNA) - Baby food.
- Hush - Self-reliant sedative.
- Equanox - Alertness pills (advertised in GTA III).
From their in-game car crushing / manufacturing plant:
- Zaibatsu owns the electrical power stations in Anywhere City.
- "Zaibatsu" or "財閥" in Japanese, was a kind of Japanese conglomerate considered to hold significant financial and political influence in society. This fits with the 1970s and 1980s dystopian sci-fi theme of GTA 2, of which massive, corrupt private interests are a mainstay.
- The Zaibatsu could be based on Koch Industries, which is America's largest privately held conglomerate, and has been embroiled in numerous controversies.
- Their favourite radio station is Futuro FM, however, after the Futuro FM building is destroyed in Radio Za-Za!, they will instead listen to Lithium FM.
- Ironically, Lithium FM is the favourite radio station of their rivals, the Loonies, who are also responsible for Futuro FM's demise.
- Once the player reaches the Industrial District, the tutorial NPC erroneously mentions them as the "Zaibatatsu".