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Kirby creator Sakurai founds new indie studio

Former HAL Labs star designer Masahiro Sakurai, whose credits include the creation of the Kirby and Smash Brothers series as well as, more recently, directing Nintendo DS title Meteos for Q Entertainment, has announced the formation of his own studio.

The independent venture, called Sora (which translates as "sky"), is already hard at work on two projects - although at present it hasn't been revealed what type of games the firm is developing, or even which platforms they're for.

Sakurai has traditionally worked with Nintendo hardware, though, with HAL Labs being closely tied to the Kyoto-based platform holder - to the extent that one of Sakurai's contemporaries there, Satoru Iwata, is now president of Nintendo. Iwata also worked on the Kirby and Smash Brothers titles.

The designer's decision to strike out with a new studio of his own is representative of a rapid move away from in-house publishing studios in the Japanese market, with many of the region's most successful creators leaving the publishers they've worked for for many years to create their own independent studios.

Sakurai joins an exodus which already includes the likes of Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, Street Fighter and Resident Evil producer Yoshiki Okamoto and Sega Rally and Rez director Tetsuya Mizuguchi - all of whom were promptly snapped up to work on Xbox 360 projects by Microsoft.

Most of them cite a stifling environment and the difficulty of innovating within a publisher studio as their key reason for leaving - with Okamoto-san explaining to in Tokyo last week that at Capcom, because of the success of his previous projects, he was no longer allowed to work on new IP or innovative new titles and instead was assigned to continue working on successful franchises.

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Rob Fahey avatar
Rob Fahey: Rob Fahey is a former editor of who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.