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Yuji Naka no longer working at Square Enix

Update: Naka confirms his resignation via Twitter

Industry veteran and co-creator of Sonic The Hedgehog Yuji Naka looks to have left Square Enix following the release of Balan Wonderworld.

According to updates on his personal LinkedIn and Facebook pages, Naka wrapped up his tenure as a senior manager at the company on April 30.

Naka led development on the adventure title Balan Wonderworld, which launched back in March. The game was received poorly by the press, amassing a Metacritic score of just 36%.

Naka is best known as the former head of Sonic Team, where he also worked as the lead programmer of the original Sonic The Hedgehog. He later led development on other Sega titles such as Nights into Dreams, Burning Rangers and Phantasy Star Online.

Speaking to IGN back in September last year, Naka discussed how Balan Wonderworld was his "one chance" to make a full-scale platform game.

GamesIndustry.biz has reached out to Square Enix for further clarification.

Update: A Square Enix representative said via email: "We can confirm that Yuji Naka is no longer an employee of Square Enix. We have no other information."

Update: Naka confirmed his resignation from Square Enix on June 5th via Twitter.

"Because of inquiries from the media and users, I can confirm I resigned from Square Enix at the end of April 2021," Naka wrote.

"I can't tell you why right now, but I hope to be able to tell you when the time comes. As for my future activities, I'm already 55 years old, so I might retire."

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Latest comments (3)

Taylor Cartoonist A month ago
*Sigh*

Time to cause a ruckus.

Balan Wonderworld was a blast for me, and that's final. A game about finding the silver lining, finding the light within the darkness, happiness, and letting go of the past? I refuse to pass that up for anything in the world.

The gaming community can dress its bulbous tumor of negativity and entitlement in whatever veneer it wants. These guys have just now bullied a legend out of the industry, and that is unforgiveable. I don't know what prompted Naka to leave Sega in the first place even though I assume it was because of deep internal conflict, and there's a part of me that doesn't care. He's on par with George Lucas, both in fame and the fact that there own fandoms sabotaged their careers.

"Why would I make more when everyone yells at you and says what an awful person you are?"

For about twenty years now, the gaming community has enforced the nastiest defamation campaign against Sonic the Hedgehog. This is all coming from a 100% professionally diagnosed autistic person; this needs to friggin' end. The worst thing I can say about the gaming community now is that this is logical conclusion when you do not reasonably monitor these toxic elements.

Sonic the Hedgehog is completely underappreciated. Everything about him, as far as the gaming community is concerned, is so profoundly incorrect that it's cursed. From the fact that he is an anthropomorphic creature with an unnatural fur color to however he wishes to play, he's synonymous with sin itself. Don't even get me started on the idea that all Sonic fans are autistic or that all autistics are Sonic fans. We're not going to talk about furries, either.

I have Freedom Planet and Spark the Electric Jester 1 & 2 on Steam, and these three games have honestly almost perfected the Sonic formula 2D or 3D. The gaming community can defame Sonic and Sega all they want, I guess, but it won't matter because someone else is going to come along and carry the torch for them. I could say the same for Mighty No. 9, a game I also enjoyed unironically; I have Mighty Gunvolt Burst on Steam as well.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer A month ago
The Metascore for Balan Wonderworld is 51% right now, so I guess some critics didn't review it until too late.
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Alfonso Sexto Pereyra Quality Assurance Manager, DACS Laboratories GmbHA month ago
@Taylor:

Taylor.

Liking a game is one thing, and it's great that you liked this one. But from a design perspective, the game became over-ambitious and lost it's way due to trying to aim for children as their main target audience while adult fans of Knights into dreams and Sonic the Hedgehog were the audience originally interested on it, just like any project with Naka's work on it.

Naka got a lot of resources and time from Square Enix and he didn't deliver. It's unfortunate but that is how the industry is; if you don't deliver what the higher ups want you get cast aside/let go/not given more chances. This even happened to creators like Kojima; he made great games, but sometimes "great" doesn't mean "what your company wants/expects" and you have a lot of examples out there.

This has nothing to do with the gaming community that you seem to enjoy to blame for everything negative while you talk about the games you played or have in your Steam account. The game failed because the execution was poor and because it alienated it's target audiences, that is how it is. The game may have been a blast for you and you can make it that as "final" as you want. but your opinion and personal tastes are of no relevance with the business part of the games industry, which is what is at play here.

And regarding your "The gaming community can dress its bulbous tumor of negativity and entitlement in whatever veneer it wants", it is unbelievably ironic that you say that in a post like the one you just wrote. As a "100% professional" you should start with respecting that community; which are the people the will enjoy your work, or at the very least, respect the community of professional writing in this website by keeping that kind of unprofessional language to yourself.
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