Sonic co-creator Yuji Naka has been arrested for insider training.
By Jason Collins
Yuji Naka, the co-creator of sonic the hedgehog and a former Sonic Team leader, who recently posted a new game, was arrested for insider trading in Tokyo. The case, as reported by Japanese media, also involves former Square-Enix employees and a game title in the dragon quest series of games.
According The edgeNaka and two other former Square Enix employees bought shares in developer Aiming in early 2020, based on inside information that the studios were developing a dragon quest titled mobile game Dragon Quest Tactics. However, at the time, the partnership between publisher and developer was not public and Naka was working on an ill-fated Balan Wonderland game.
It’s unclear if the other two employees also worked on the aforementioned game as Sonic co-creator, but they are being sued with the same charges as Yuji Naka. The Tokyo District Attorney’s Office Investigations Unit, which made the arrest, said Yuji Naka had previously purchased 10,000 shares of Aiming for about $20,000 (about 2.8 million yen) after to have learned of the existence of Dragon Quest Tactics in January 2020 before the development of the game was made public.
The investigation unit is currently pursuing sonic co-creator on the assumption that he intended to profit from an increase in the share price following the game’s announcement and subsequent release. Dragon Quest Tactics was released months after acquiring shares from Naka, and it is currently unclear whether he sold the shares for profit.
If the Sonic creator did, Yuji Naka would have a 258% return on his initial investment, which would equate to around seven million yen. His arrest follows those of two other former Square Enix employees a day earlier on the same charges. Taisuke Sazaki and Fumiaki Suzuki, the two former employees, invested more than $336,000 in Aiming stock between late 2019 and early 2020 after Suzuki leaked the existence of the aforementioned game in late November 2019.
However, Suzuki and Sazaki sold their share in Aiming after Dragon Quest Tactics was announced in February 2020 and had an approx. 100% return on their investment – in other words, they profited from tens of millions of yen. Japanese sources also claim that Sazaki was one of the people who actually worked on Dragon Quest Tactics and had received a special mention of thanks in Yuji Naka Balan’s Wonderland roll of credits. It seems like Bobby Kotick wasn’t the only one with profit in mind.
Yuji Naka was the lead programmer for the original sonic the hedgehog from 1991 and its sequels, and its programming is attributed to the game’s smooth and fast graphics. He worked at Sega until 2006, after which he spent some time as an independent developer before joining the ranks of Square Enix in 2018, where he joined another Sonic co-creator, artist Naoto Ohshima, to develop Balan Wonderland.
Unfortunately, the new joint effort to create another game ended in failure; the game was released in March 2021 to poor ratings and controversy over flashing sequences causing seizures. In April 2022, sonic Yuji Naka publicly apologized to Balan’s Wonderland‘s fandom on the unfinished state of the game, following its revelation that it was in fact removed from the project – for which he sued Square Enix.