Yuji Naka, the Sonic Team co-founder and Balan Wonderworld director, may face up to two years of jail time due to insider trading stocks regarding Dragon Quest Tact and Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier. For context, that second game is a mobile battle royale spin-off that was released and shut down in less time than Naka could potentially be incarcerated as a whole.
The prosecutors in the case are asking that Naka face two years and six months in prison, as well as a fine of $1.2 million USD. It’s still unclear if that will be the extent of Naka’s sentence, but a final decision will be made on July 7. Naka admitted to these charges back in March, which claimed he illegally traded $1 million USD in stocks while working at Square-Enix ahead of the release of Dragon Quest Tact and Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier. Naka was first arrested regarding the Dragon Quest case in November, then again in December for Final Fantasy.
The entire saga has been wild to watch unfold, but it’s even wilder when you consider the game Naka is getting arrested over was available for a shorter length of time than his potential sentence. The First Soldier launched on mobile devices on November 17, 2021, and its servers were shut down on January 11, 2023. It didn’t even last two years before Square turned it off. The company said it wasn’t able to “deliver the experience that [it was] hoping to.”
Naka is best known for his work at Sega, specifically as one of the co-creators of the Sonic the Hedgehog series in the early ‘90s and for leading development on Nights into Dreams. The last Sonic project he worked on was Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) before spending a few years working on projects like Rodea the Sky Soldier.
He then joined Square Enix back in 2018 to lead Balan Company, which was meant to be a subsidiary that worked with external developers. This included Arzest, which developed 2021's Balan Wonderworld, a platformer that had a lot of Sonic and Nights in its DNA, but was widely derided and considered a low point of that year. Naka resigned from Square Enix shortly after, then sued the company in April, claiming he was removed from his director role six months before Balan Wonderworld’s launch and that the Final Fantasy company doesn’t “value” games. Then the insider trading case started, so Naka and Square Enix have been caught up in legal disputes for the majority of the time since he left the company.