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Sonic Team


Sonic Team is arguably one of Sega's most well-known and prolific development teams. The core team of Yuji Naka, Naoto Ohshima, and Hirokazu Yasuhara originally gathered at Sega's consumer division in 1990 when the company was trying to create a character to rival Nintendo's Mario. They chose the simple name Sonic Team, which has stuck ever since.

Though technically still operating under Sega's consumer division, after the completion of Sonic the Hedgehog, the entire team moved from Tokyo to San Francisco, sharing office space with Sega Technical Institute, who contributed to the development of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

In 1995, Sonic Team was officially established as a division within Sega, known internally as Sega CS3 R&D Division. The studio was headed up by Yuji Naka, with Naoto Ohshima and Takashi Iizuka directly below. The studio was renamed to Sega AM8 R&D Division in 1998 after the AM/CS distinction was abandoned, and in 2000, AM5 was spun off as an independent studio, at last being officially known as Sonic Team.

In 1999, following the US release of Sonic Adventure, Sonic Team USA was established in San Francisco as Sonic Team's US satellite studio. Another Sega studio, United Game Artists, was merged into Sonic Team in October 2003, and Sonic Team itself was merged back into Sega in July 2004, though it has continued to operate, responsible for the Sonic the Hedgehog and Phantasy Star franchises. Today, Sonic Team is headed by Takashi Iizuka.

Few of the original Sonic Team staff remain with Sega today. Programmer and director Yuji Naka left in 2006 to establish the independent studio PROPE. Game designer Hirokazu Yasuhara left in 2002 to join Naughty Dog. Character designer and artist Naoto Ohshima left in 1999 with Yōji Ishii to establish the independent studio Artoon.

Also Known As

  • SONICTEAM, Ltd. (from Apr, 2000 to Jul, 2004)
  • Sonic Team (from 1991 to Apr, 2000)
  • Sega AM8 R&D Division (from 1990 to 1991)


Producer guru Naka Yuji, the reknown programming genius behind Sonic, had a really cool tatami floored office on the top floor of the Sega Corp. building where he oversaw his dedicated team of developers. He was known to reward competency in his staff and free-lance support. In spite of his gruff, rockstar exterior, he was surprisingly approachable during game show parties and often spoke of the challenge of personal creative growth.

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