Yuji Naka, the co-creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, has left Square Enix; after directing the reported flop Balan Wonderworld.
The news came via Naka’s own Facebook page, though others have reportedly claimed his LinkedIn profile had also updated. There, Naka shows he stopped working for Square Enix as of April 30th. He now works at PROPE Ltd, which Final Weapon reports was an indie studio he launched 2006 after leaving Sega.
However, the likely culprit behind Naka’s departure is is most recent work; Balan Wonderworld. The game’s demo was poorly received, so much so that producer Noriyoshi Fujimoto stated a day one patch would address some of the issues raised.
More bad press came, as the day one patch was further updated to include a fix for a potentially epileptic seizure risking bug. Soon after, the game had poor reviews from critics. Across all platforms on Metacritic, the game’s Metascore (the aggregate of reviewer scores out of 100) is almost entirely less that 50; with a cross platform average of around 43 [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6].
In spite of this however, Metacritic user reviews are above 6 out of 10, with some platforms having it reach the 8s. On the other hand, there has been suspicion over the positive reviews being falsified or generated by bots. This was based on them featuring strange usernames and broken English.
These factors likely lead to claims that the game flopped, reportedly failing to break top 30 and even top 40 charts on launch. Chart-toppers during or near Balan Wonderworld‘s launch included Outriders, FIFA 21, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, and reportedly being outsold by titles that have available for over 100 weeks. This information circulated at the start of April 2021.
Claims if a bomb may have become more apparent, once the game’s demo was taken down in Japan. Months before all of this, Naka had stated that Balan Wonderworld could be the last platformer he creates if the sales were below Square Enix’ expectations, and that it was his “one chance” to make a full-scale platform game.
UPDATE: Naka has confirmed he has left Square Enix via Twitter. He explains he is giving the statement due to media and user inquiry, but could not elaborate on the reason why. Naka also stated that due to being 55 years old, he may retire.
“I retired from SQUARE ENIX at the end of April 2021 because I would like to contact the media and users. I can’t talk about the reason now, but I hope I can talk about it when the time comes. As for future activities, I’m 55 years old, so I may retire.”
Translation: Google Translate
It is worth noting that other machine translation (such as DeepL), interprets the last line as “As for my future activities, I’m already 55 years old, so I might as well retire.”
We will keep you informed as we learn more.