Yuji Naka, the co-creator of Sonic the Hedgehog and director of Balan Wonderworld, has been found guilty of insider trading at Square Enix, with a court in Japan handing the famed developer two fines worth ¥172 million (USD $1.2 million), and a 2.5 year prison sentence, suspended for four years.
Naka will avoid jail time for this conviction, but his four-year suspended sentence will rely on good behaviour. Per analysis from SEGAbits, this suspended sentence was largely due to Naka showing ‘remorse’ for his actions. Despite this, ruling judge Madoka Hiruta reportedly criticised Naka for betraying his high profile status, and setting a poor example for game developers worldwide.
‘He was known as one of the world’s most famous game developers, and had the authority to access joint development information,’ Hiruto said in the court ruling, per IGN Japan. ‘It has damaged the fairness and soundness of the stock market and the trust of investors.’
Naka’s career has spanned several decades and multiple accolades, with his most famous success being the co-creation of Sega mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. While the release of the buggy and strange Balan Wonderworld somewhat tarnished the creator’s reputation, his name was still revered in the world of video games.
In November 2022, Naka was arrested on suspicion of insider trading, alongside other employees of Square Enix. At the time, it was alleged that he bought significant shares in game development company Aiming, with secret knowledge of their work on the Dragon Quest Tact mobile game.
Now, a court has officially sentenced Naka for this act. As long as the developer maintains good behaviour over the coming years, we’re unlikely to hear more about this case.