Yuji Naka, creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, has shared that Square Enix removed him as director of Balan Wonderworld six months before the game launched.
Naka shared the news on his own Twitter account, where he also detailed the fact he filed a lawsuit against Square Enix, and that he's able to share all of this as the lawsuit has now concluded (translations by Cheesemesiter3K). The renowned developer noted that he thinks "it's wrong of Square Enix not to value games and game fans."
Continuing the thread, Naka wrote that according to the court documents, he was removed for two reasons. "First, when a YouTuber's arranged piano performance of the game music was released in a promotion instead of the original game track, turning the composer into a ghostwriter, I insisted that the original track be released and this caused trouble," wrote Naka.
Following on from this, Naka explained that the second reason was because of comments he made about "wanting to improve the game in the face of Arzest submitting the game without fixing bugs."
Naka also noted that the decision to remove him was made by the producer, the head of marketing, head of sound, the managing director, and HR. As well as this, he apparently wasn't allowed to retweet or like posts to do with Balan Wonderworld, and apologised for not being able to.
"Myself, I'm truly sorry to the customers who bought Balan Wonderworld in an unfinished state," continued Naka. "From this point onward, I will be able to react to posts tagging me or directed only toward me on SNS and such."
“I was removed as the director of Balan Wonderworld about half a year before release, so I filed a lawsuit against Square Enix. Now that the proceedings are over and I’m no longer bound by company rules, I’d like to speak out.” #BalanWonderworld https://t.co/Ht0Zc9soBa— Cheesemeister →🧵／🟦☁️ (@Cheesemeister3k) April 28, 2022
Finishing the thread, Naka noted that he believes the reception to Balan Wonderworld, which was generally pretty poor, had a lot to do with the events he described. "I'm really disappointed that a product I worked on from the start turned out this way."
"I personally regret that Balan Wonderworld was released to the world in an unfinished state. I wanted to consider all kinds of things and release it as a proper action game. I don't think that Square Enix and Arzest value games and their fans."
Naka didn't cover the results of the lawsuit however, only that he was allowed to talk about the situation now that it has been resolved.
While coverage about how employees are treated at game development studios in the west has grown in recent years, the same can't be said of Japanese development studios, likely in large part because of the language barrier. This is a rare, direct insight into what working for a large Japanese studio is like, and it doesn't paint a particularly good picture, though isn't that surprising.