Yuji Naka (中 裕司 Naka Yūji, born September 17, 1965), is a video game designer, programmer , the former head of Sonic Team, a group of Sega programmers/designers, and the head of PROPE.
After graduating High school, Yuji Naka decided to skip college and stay in his hometown of Osaka. During this time, Yuji worked long hours at various menial jobs. After quiting his last job, Yuji seen that Sega was looking for programming assistants. After a brief interview, Yuji was hired and began working on a game called Girl's Garden, which earned him critical praise and fan appreciation. He programmed the original Sonic the Hedgehog game, while Naoto Oshima designed the character and Hirokazu Yasuhara planned the stages. Naka has also produced several other titles like NiGHTS Into Dreams and Phantasy Star Online. In early games he was often credited as "YU2" (in reference to Yu Suzuki) and "Muuu Yuji". He is one of the few famous Japanese game creators to speak fluent English.
Naka also helped create a popular EyeToy game for the PlayStation 2 called Sega SuperStars.
Although Naka's previous achievements are recognized as monumental in gaming history, some of his decisions have prompted controversy with fans of Sonic Team. He had opted against producing a sequel to the popular Sega Saturn title NiGHTS into Dreams because of feelings a sequel would not match fans' expectations. A story told by developers of the cancelled Sonic game Sonic X-treme, also details how Naka told the American developers that they were not permitted to use an engine he had developed for use in NiGHTS into Dreams.
In news released on March 16, 2006, Naka announced that he intended to create his own game studio, independent of Sega and Sega Studio USA (a.k.a. Sonic Team). This decision bears resemblance to Naoto Oshima's departure of Sonic Team in 1999, when he founded Artoon.
In April, 2006 the Japanese game magazine Famitsu published a rumor saying that a game creator who recently went independent is creating a game featuring a flying clown, for the upcoming Wii system. Many people were led to believe that the developer was Naka and the game would be a NiGHTS sequel. However, according to IGN, the rumor story hinted that this had something to do with someone who created a famous bearded character, a description which didn't fit Naka.
Still, on May 8, 2006, Naka announced his departure from Sonic Team to form a new development team, PROPE (pronounced Pro-pe).
When Yuji Naka left his workers at Sonic Team and Sega behind, he did not announce if he would be continuing work on Sonic the Hedgehog and other games currently being produced. Those workers he left behind are reported to be worried about carrying on without his supervision. Sonic Team's studio is currently headed by Masahiro Kumono, while Shun Nakamura is currently leading the Sonic The Hedgehog project.