It emerged overnight that Naka has updated both his public Facebook and LinkedIn pages to show his employment at the Final Fantasy publisher as having ended on April 30.
Naka had formed a new studio within Square, Balan Company, for the creation of Wonderworld, which was comprised of a collection of veteran developers including Naoto Ohshima, the artist who created the original designs for Sonic the Hedgehog.
Yuji Naka has confirmed his departure from publisher Square Enix and said he might even retire from game development.
ORIGINAL STORY CONTINUES: It’s not clear what Naka’s potential departure means for Balan Company, but VGC has asked Square Enix for comment on this story.
Balan Wonderworld released in March to overwhelmingly negative reviews, with the game’s Metacritic score currently ranging from 36 to 51. VGC’s Balan Wonderworld review called it, “a wholly unremarkable, by-the-numbers example of a bygone era of platforming.”
Commercially, the title appears to have been just as disappointing. In the UK, the game didn’t even manage to break to Top 40 boxed games in its debut week. In Japan, it had a similarly poor debut, selling fewer than 2,100 copies in its first week.
Yuji Naka had previously claimed that Balan Wonderworld was his “one chance” to create a new platform game since leaving Sega in 2006.
Speaking to IGN last September, Naka explained how he managed to convince the RPG giant to greenlight a platform game – his first in many years.
“I think Square Enix has an RPG image, but I don’t think I’d be good at making RPGs,” Naka said. The designer has previously created Sega classic Phantasy Star and Phantasy Star Online, however he said he feels most skilled in the platformer genre.
Naka said he, therefore, received permission from Square Enix’s president to make a full-scale platform game with the condition that it was his “one chance”.
The director said at the time that he had called his new studio Balan Company because he was confident it would turn out OK. “Such is my enthusiasm for continuing to make action games.”