Yuji Naka Is No Longer Working At Square Enix

Unfortunately, Balan Wonderworld didn’t have the success that Square Enix hoped for. And unfortunately for Yuji Naka, the game’s director and the former head of Sonic Team, the result has been that he is no longer working at Square Enix.

The news isn’t all that surprising. In fact, Yuji Naka himself said last year that Balan Wonderworld was his “one chance” to make a 3D platformer with the company. And it really seemed that keeping his job there as going to depend on the game doing well.

But, sadly, the game not only failed to get good reviews, but the game also did poorly with sales. And, sadly, less than 3 months after the game released, Yuji Naka confirmed the news on his Facebook page by updating his work info:

In fact, according to his Facebook page, it seems his time at the company ended on April 30th, just a little over a month after the game’s release, and over 3 years after he had been originally hired.

So, what is next for him? Well, that is hard to say. His own studio, Prope, had been reduced to a one-man company a couple of years ago, and it hasn’t released a game in half a decade. Time ill tell what Yuji Naka does next, but all of us at Sonic Stadium wish him the best!

Via Yuji Naka’s Facebook

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SSF1991

SSF1991 has been in the Sonic community since 2008 with an unhealthy obsession with pinball, especially Spinball. Despite requests to shut up, he continues to write things anyway and tweets at https://twitter.com/SSF1991

20 Comments

  1. Poor guy. He’s made a lot of mediocre to bad games after Sonic, but from what I’ve heard most of the big releases have been screwed over by the companies he was working with. Rodea never got the Wii release he wanted and Balan seems to have been farmed out to some shovelware dev for the actual gameplay to cut costs. I wish him well, but honestly if I were in his shoes I would pack it up and do something else after all this.

    1. If he does, then maybe he can make a new NiGHTS title about a new pair of Visitors, like a boy who wants to perform on stage, and a girl who wants to excel at sports, to change things up. Maybe either a two-game collection with NIGHTS Into Dreams and NIGHTS: Journey of Dreams or a collection of Sonic Team’s classics like Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, and the elusive Burning Rangers.

  2. Please come back to Sega Yuji Naka and bring Naoto Ushima too. We miss your work in Sonic games! 🙁

  3. Ah, I hate to hear this. As someone who finished Balan Wonderworld, I really would have loved to see a sequel. The setting, characters, FMVs, music, and overall production/presentation are all fantastic. My only complaint was that the gameplay was a little weak in places. I don’t know if this weakness was due to COVID or due to outsourcing, but the gameplay quality was not what I would have expected from Square Enix in general. To be honest, the production was so good that I believe that Balan would have actually done far better as a movie franchise instead of squandering all of the characters, world-building, and eye candy on an obscure video game.

    I don’t really blame Yuji Naka for this lackluster performance though. All of the things that I disliked were technical things that I blame on the devs. Unfortunately, I also feel like the game became sort of a meme, and people just hated on it because that was the “cool” thing to do. I’m sure that the AAA price tag didn’t help sales either, but the marketing materials did a horrendous job of describing how much content is in the game – it’s probably 3-4 times longer than I was expecting.

    So my question at this point is whether Yuji Naka somehow managed to retain control of the Balan IP so he can still develop it on his own. I’d say that chance of that is slim though. Such a shame – it’s a very promising concept for a series.

  4. I can’t criticize him for Balan being a failure, it takes more than just one person for a high-budget game like this to come out the way it did. What’s unfortunate is that people will always bring this game up every time despite him being the programmer who brought Sonic to life and that should be enough.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a one-hit wonder, but I don’t think Naka is one.

    I’ve seen some people praise the game, who knows maybe in some years it’ll gain a following like ’06 has.

  5. I feel he will return to Sonic at some point. Everyone goes full circle in their careers usually.

    He seemed super excited about Sonic mania when he saw the trailer at summer of sonic 2016. That might spark an interest to come back even if it’s for 1 game.

  6. I always wondered if deep down he would ever want to “get the band back together” and do a Sonic game just one more time. As for Balan, if that’s true he was screwed over by Square Enix then that sucks because Sega did the same thing to him during Sonic ’06. Doesn’t seem like the big publishers are ever willing to give him the proper staff, time and resources.

  7. I certainly support all the people empathetic towards a man leaving a job, and hands down, that man had been involved in some amazing games when he led Sonic Team. That said, it’s hard for me to look at his output since 2002 and find the game that screams “This is a man who can get Sonic Team back on track.” I like Billy Hatcher more than most, and Let’s Tap sure was an interesting experiment, but nothing he’s done suggests “vision for a modern era.” Balan, regardless of how you feel about its quality, is not a game with lofty game design ambitions. Scope ambitions, absolutely. But just not design ambitions.
    I wish the man the best, truly and sincerely, but he’s just not the man who can deliver us a Sonic Adventure 3 or a Nights into Dreams 3 or whatever people want. Not by 2021 standards.

    1. Sally doesn’t have anything to do with this, and no, she will not become canon.

  8. Can’t blame Naka for considering retirement after Balan’s results but he and the team should have known the game was outdated in several areas. Of course the blame can’t be all on them, I doubt S-E was any helpful at all (especially if the rumored fights between them and Naka during Balan’s development are true).

    Looking back, most of my personal favorite non-Sonic related Sega games that Naka was involved in haven’t aged that well sadly (Nights, Burning Rangers etc.), and all the post-Sega games he has done or been involved with, while cult status-worthy at best, have not really been that remarkable imo. If I had to choose one I really liked then it would probably be Let’s Tap. I also find Rodea the Sky Soldier (original Wii version, not the crappy 3DS/Wii U ports) alright for the most part.

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