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Former Sega Producer Alleges Yuji Naka Helped Kill a Lost Dreamcast Exclusive

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Mark Subotnick, who was a producer at Sega of America during the Dreamcast era, claims that producer Yuji Naka was responsible for the cancellation of one of the console’s exclusives, Geist Force. On The Retro Hour Podcast, Subotnick shared his version of what really happened behind the scenes regarding the Star Fox-style game.

First reported by Nintendo Life, Geist Force was intended to be a launch title for the Dreamcast in North America but was canceled due to Sega’s reported lack of confidence in the title, as well as missed deadlines and internal disagreements. Subotnick says that even though the game was a Star Fox clone, he thought that Geist Force had a cool narrative and a diverse cast. He stated, “Looking back, we were actually ahead of our time.”

On one particular day, Subotnick says Naka came to visit and tour the studio. Naka and his team reportedly took a look at all of the studio’s engines and tools, including proprietary technology. “I would say still to this day, [we had] some stuff that I haven’t seen replicated quite at the level we had,” Subotnick explains.

However, Subotnick says Naka assumed that his team didn’t understand Japanese, which most of his team was fluent in, including his lead engineer. Naka reportedly started speaking Japanese and talked about which parts of the studio’s tech he would take to work on the Sonic franchise. Then, as soon as the studio shipped Geist Force, Subotnick says Naka suggested firing everyone except a single engineer and rolling them into the Sonic team.

Of course, Subotnick’s team didn’t take too kindly to Naka’s alleged comments. The only other studio in North America working on a console like the Dreamcast was Visual Concepts, which was known for NFL 2K and NBA 2K. As such, Subotnick’s team exited the company before the game shipped, leaving Subotnick in a predicament.

“I just lost my five lead engineers and I’ve got a proprietary engine; even if I hire, I’ve got healthy burn rate,” Subotnick explains. “It would have taken me two months to hire, another two months to ramp up… so I’ve got four months of burn rate where pretty much nothing’s happening.”

He made a last-ditch effort to approach Visual Concepts to see if they could help out. Due to being busy with their own projects for the Dreamcast, they reportedly declined. As a result, Geist Force ended up being canceled, along with other planned projects for the title, like a range of toys.

Yuji Naka has recently been known for being the creator of Balan Wonderworld, as well as having left Square Enix shortly after its release. Additionally, he is now an indie game developer.

George Yang is a freelance writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @yinyangfooey


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