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Yuji Naka REALLY wanted to work at Nintendo

Oct 25, 2017
390
#1
I know this is old news, but I resurrect this topic because good old Shmuplations has released a very interesting interview with Yuji Naka and I'm surprised by his insistence at the time.

Just look at these quotes:

—This may open an old wound for you, but… (laughs) You quit Sega right after you made Sonic, correct?
Naka: Yeah.

—And I heard that you actually approached Nintendo after you quit…?
Naka: When I was driving back to my home in Osaka from Tokyo, I decided to stop by Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto. I actually wanted to see how long it would take for me to commute from Osaka to Nintendo’s offices. (laughs) However, when I stopped my car in their parking lot, a security guard came out and started eyeing me suspiciously. I got scared and decided to just go home. (laughs) If that security guard hadn’t been there, who knows how different my future might have been…! (laughs)
Naka: While I was reading those books, I got a call from a third-party developer asking if I would come work for them. But the truth is, I was holding out for a call from Nintendo.

—Oh, really?! (laughs)
Naka: The reason I thought that is, a few months before I quit Sega, I heard a story about another programmer from a big gaming company who had quit his job, and was then called by Nintendo. I was like, “Wow, that could happen to me too!” (laughs) So when I quit Sega I had this faint hope that I’d be getting a call… but it never came. (laughs) It was sad.
This is kinda heartbreaking for most hardcore Sega fanboys lol.

I cannot deny I have a profound curiosity in this "what if Yuji Naka made games at Nintendo" timeline.

(PD - before your rant: this is not a company wars thread. Don't get me wrong, I love Sega).
 
Oct 26, 2017
4,087
#3
Why didn't he just get on the phone with Miyamoto or even Iwata? He's been known to be good friends with Miyamoto IIRC so I have little doubt he could've easily gotten in if he made some calls. Kind of odd how Arzest became uber close to Nintendo rather than Prope outside of a few Mii Plaza games.
 
Oct 27, 2017
6,413
#4
This is really funny from a 90s console war perspective. THE guy wanted to jump ship! lol. Kinda crazy though, no doubt that even after Sonic, Sega wouldn't have been the same without him, really. But at the end of the day, I still don't think he would be a fit at Nintendo, back then, anyways.
 
Oct 25, 2017
5,028
#5
I have to imagine most Japanese game developers at some point wanted to work at Nintendo. The IPs are so iconic that taking a whack at them gives you a real chance to shape gaming history in a way few other developers can offer.

I'm curious how Naka would have fit in. He has a reputation for being headstrong and not always agreeing with management, but his level design is great.
 

meppi64

Self-Requested Ban
Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,479
#6
This is kinda heartbreaking for most hardcore Sega fanboys lol.
Not at all. The only thing that's heartbreaking is that it should have happened after the Dreamcast died.

I wouldn't want to trade NiGHTS, Burning Rangers and Chu Chu Rocket for anything in the world, but after the Dreamcast years, he should have gotten a call from Nintendo and continue to make his dream games.
 
Nov 8, 2017
892
#7
Hard to feel bad for the guy if he was just sitting around hoping Nintendo would call and ask him to work there.
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,509
#9
Top developer wants to work in a gameplay first, quality proof videogame company. Who knows!

Seriously though, probably Naka's temperament is well know in the industry. The guy is a genious but it seems is not easy to work with him
 
Oct 29, 2017
713
Los Angeles
#10
You can't just sit around wishing for it to be a better day, speak up be heard if you don't say word everything will stay the same way.

What is Naka up to these days? I remember Rodea the Sky Soldier? Is that right? I did hear about an attitude problem he may have had that could have kept him off of Nintendo's radar.

Still had he been working at Nintendo all this time I bet you an amazing Sonic title would have been made by now. Not that he would have had full control but he probably would have had started the initial talks of a non-olympics collaborative effort and the Nintendo employees would have given the game all the time it needed to succeed.
 
Oct 27, 2017
547
#13
I don't know what Nintendo's application process was back then but I wonder why he just didn't send them one if he wanted to work for them.

Or try to officially contact them in some manner.
 
Oct 27, 2017
899
#14
Can't say I blame him. From what I understand Sega as a company was a complete mess throughout the 90's, despite making excellent games.
 
Oct 30, 2017
2,705
#16
Well, who doesn't?

But guy got scared of a security guard "look" and waited for a call instead of going after them. "Really want" is anything but this. Guy sound more sad because Nintendo didn't give his ego a massage.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,779
#20
I could be wrong, but I believe in those days to get a job at a big corporation in Japan, you basically had to be recruited (they often recruited straight from college), or you had to have contacts within the company that could arrange a meeting with someone in charge. There was no official application process at most Japanese corporations. So it’s not as easy as “Why didn’t he call them” or “Why didn’t he just apply?”

And Nintendo was picky - Nasir, one of the most important early Squaresoft employees who programmed games like Rad Racer and the early Final Fantasy games (and then Secret of Mana), first approached Nintendo (he had a contact who introduced him), and Nintendo thought he had potential but didn’t want him, so introduced him to Squaresoft.
 
Oct 25, 2017
6,024
#21
Wasn't Naka known as a bit of a troublemaker at the time? I seem to remember stories about him going off on one when another dev team within sega used his engine or something.
 
Oct 25, 2017
5,441
#23
Wasn't Naka known as a bit of a troublemaker at the time? I seem to remember stories about him going off on one when another dev team within sega used his engine or something.
He didn't want Sega Technical Institute (Sega's US team he founded with Mark Cerny) to use the Nights' engine for Sonic X-treme.
 
Dec 2, 2017
1,295
#25
I could be wrong, but I believe in those days to get a job at a big corporation in Japan, you basically had to be recruited (they often recruited straight from college), or you had to have contacts within the company that could arrange a meeting with someone in charge. There was no official application process at most Japanese corporations. So it’s not as easy as “Why didn’t he call them” or “Why didn’t he just apply?”

And Nintendo was picky - Nasir, one of the most important early Squaresoft employees who programmed games like Rad Racer and the early Final Fantasy games (and then Secret of Mana), first approached Nintendo (he had a contact who introduced him), and Nintendo thought he had potential but didn’t want him, so introduced him to Squaresoft.
The main reason most early Japanese games have everybody putting cute nicknames in the credits is because companies wouldn’t let them put their names out there for fear of staff getting poached. So it definitely happened.
 
Oct 25, 2017
5,441
#30
His resume was rejected
I mean, Miyamoto does like Nights quite a bit, but then again...

'This is ridiculous. You have made them say this. Sega is the great brand, nobody would ever say this, you have falsified!' He just gets in my face. So I said to the translator, 'Tell him to fuck off.' And the poor guy looks at me and says, 'There's no expression in Japanese.' I said, 'I know there is.' And that was it. That was the last time I ever set foot in there," Moore explains.
He also got into a fight with Peter Moore, who then told him to fuck off lol
Yeah lmao.
 
Last edited:
Oct 25, 2017
4,824
#32
Honestly given that Naka was known to be difficult to work with he also hasn't really produced high quality games while at Sega, I mean for god stake he thought making a Sonic shooter was a good idea, and after leaving Sega.

Don't also forget that the man left and abandoned his team while they were developing Sonic 06 while taking a few team members with him, not really a sign of someone you would call reliable or a team player.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,409
#33
Shameful, Nintendo showed more honor by not asking to join them.

Also, Nintendo knew even then Sonic is Sega's worst franchise.
 
Oct 26, 2017
1,963
#34
Yuji Naka always had a sense of inferiority for Nintendo (with the meaning that he always aspired to create games with the same polish and innovation of Nintendo games).


Naka: Hmm, well, this is true even now, but I feel like Miyamoto is someone I’m always trying to catch up to.


Miyamoto: Well, I am older. (laughs)

Naka: Since the beginning, Sega has been saying “we need to beat Nintendo!” But my intention wasn’t really to “beat” Nintendo, but to make games that could stand shoulder to shoulder with theirs. If you try to make the exact same thing you’ll never win; you’ve got to pursue a different path. That was our thinking when we made Sonic… but of course, when Miyamoto showed me new games like Mario 64, I realized we were lagging behind again! Just when I thought we were on par, he goes and puts out an amazing game like that.

Miyamoto: Well, whether you’re leading or trying to play catch up, I think that’s ultimately something that the players decide. We’re not exactly sitting cross-legged in some zen pose either; we’re diligently trying to stay ahead! (laughs) You overtook us in a big way in America, after all.

Naka: But Mario has sold 100 million copies. We can’t compete with that!
http://shmuplations.com/miyamotoxnaka/
 
Oct 26, 2017
1,963
#35
Honestly given that Naka was known to be difficult to work with he also hasn't really produced high quality games while at Sega, I mean for god stake he thought making a Sonic shooter was a good idea, and after leaving Sega.

Don't also forget that the man left and abandoned his team while they were developing Sonic 06 while taking a few team members with him, not really a sign of someone you would call reliable or a team player.
Actually Naka stance on guns was way different when Sonic Team was a top development team in the '90s.

Naka: Because the TV screen is a flat, two-dimensional screen, we reasoned, you can’t really get the sense of depth and perspective in it that a 3D game would require. How would you be able to discern between objects that were close-up and those far away? We just didn’t think we’d be able to create interesting gameplay in a completely 3D environment.

I’d seen a lot of “3D” games before, but very few of them made me feel like I was really playing in three dimensions. And what were you usually doing in those games? Shooting. But the targetting cursor always had computer-assisted aiming, so basically you weren’t playing the game, the computer was. Even the good 3D games were like that. But one of our design principles at Sonic Team was that we didn’t want to include guns and shooting mechanics. If you do that it ultimately just turns into a STG game. On the other hand, making a difficult platformer without weapons, one where you just make difficult jumps and such—that also wouldn’t appeal to the average person.

http://shmuplations.com/nights/
 
Oct 25, 2017
7,712
#36
Yuji Naka always had a sense of inferiority for Nintendo (with the meaning that he always aspired to create games with the same polish and innovation of Nintendo games).


http://shmuplations.com/miyamotoxnaka/
It’s kind of amazing how annualized Sonic was (Sonic 1 in 1991, Sonic 2 in 1992, Sonic CD in 1993, Sonic 3 & Knuckles in 1994) and yet able to rival Mario in so many ways.

Too bad Naka was such a diva about Sonic Xtreme using NiGHTS’ engine, though it’s very possible that game still could have turned out to be garbage. Probably better that Adventure was the first true jump to 3D, even if it doesn’t hold up it was at least a respectable effort at the time.
 
Oct 26, 2017
3,174
#38
I appreciate Naka for his coding skills making Sonic, but his attitude and becoming director destroyed Sonic. He's a brilliant coder but he shouldn't have gotten full control of game development. That's not his wheelhouse. I wish Yasuhara had become the head of Sonic Team, but Naka drove him to quit Sega. If Naka went to Nintendo I doubt they would put him in that kind of role.
 
Oct 28, 2017
962
#42
I appreciate Naka for his coding skills making Sonic, but his attitude and becoming director destroyed Sonic. He's a brilliant coder but he shouldn't have gotten full control of game development. That's not his wheelhouse. I wish Yasuhara had become the head of Sonic Team, but Naka drove him to quit Sega. If Naka went to Nintendo I doubt they would put him in that kind of role.
Programmers back then often became producers, because they were involved in every aspect of the game. It is a natural fit and Nintendo has done it too

Either way, Naka would have never been able to flex his creative muscles at Nintendo like he did at Sega.
New IP and ideas come from very few senior people at the top at Nintendo that also have been groomed. Naka would have not been welcome in that structure.
 
Jan 10, 2018
2,508
#45
Programmers back then often became producers, because they were involved in every aspect of the game. It is a natural fit and Nintendo has done it too

Either way, Naka would have never been able to flex his creative muscles at Nintendo like he did at Sega.
New IP and ideas come from very few senior people at the top at Nintendo that also have been groomed. Naka would have not been welcome in that structure.
I wouldn't call Shintaro Sato a very few senior people at the top of Nintendo
 
Dec 25, 2017
928
#46
This is really funny from a 90s console war perspective. THE guy wanted to jump ship! lol. Kinda crazy though, no doubt that even after Sonic, Sega wouldn't have been the same without him, really. But at the end of the day, I still don't think he would be a fit at Nintendo, back then, anyways.
Yeah, imagine if this had been known back then.

It makes me wonder what would've happened if Nintendo had tried to get him before he quit SEGA.