Sega's development department suffered a major blow today when legendary designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi announced he will be leaving the company. Mizuguchi has been working under the Sega banner for more than 10 years and is known for being the producer on a number of best-selling titles such as Sega Rally, Rez, and Space Channel 5.
After retiring on October 10, Mizuguchi will continue to do freelance work in the gaming industry under an as-yet-unnamed independent company that he will be establishing.
News of Mizuguchi's departure was made public during Tokyo Game Lounge, a webcast radio program produced in Tokyo. This most recent webcast took place on October 7. Mizuguchi spoke with Hirabayashi Hisakazu on the program.
Mizuguchi's comments come directly from yesterday's show:
"As United Game Artists broke up at the end of September, this is good timing for me to become independent.
"I will go freelance beginning October 10, when I quit Sega.
"I like Sega as a company. I've worked there for 14 years. I thank for them [for that experience], but on a personal level, this is good timing. I feel good about it.
"When I look at the current game industry and think about my future as an artist, in terms of growing and being challenged, this is the right time for me to break out from [the corporate structure] and become a freelance producer and creator in different media.
"After starting at Sega, I thought I would leave the game industry sooner, but the more I became involved in the game industry, [the] more I started to enjoy making games I enjoy creating games, and I want to keep that positive feeling about making games. I want to stay being excited about producing games.
"I never felt confident enough to be independent, until now. But I had the time and opportunity to think about [it] and I felt, yes, this is time.
"Games are a very unique medium. They exist beyond language, beyond culture, and people are fascinated by games. I don't know how long I will live, but I want to learn more about games--and there is more to learn about creating better games.
"I feel that I should let myself face more challenges. I'm fell very confident right now. I feel more confident than ever, and [I feel] more excited than ever.
"I want to do many things, but games are still my home ground. I will continue producing game. I want to make games that are international, innovative, and sensational
"When I leave Sega, I think more about [the] future of the game industry as a whole."
Additional reports from Japan cite the designer's dissatisfaction with Sega's recent reorganization as being the prime factor behind his departure.
The reorganization saw Mizuguchi's semi-autonomous United Game Artists disband and its members folded into Sonic Team, both Sega subsidiaries. The movement was a part of a major corporate restructuring that took place in the Sega group at the end of September; employees were not laid off during the changes.
While not a total surprise--Mizuguchi told TGL he had a "major announcement" forthcoming in late September--the news comes as Sega is at a crossroads. Although the company posted a strong profit in the most recent quarter, its stock price remains below $3, making this holiday season's sales numbers all the more important.