Yuji Naka, the co-creator of Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog, which is one of the most successful video game franchises ever, is facing a prison sentence of up to two years and six months for insider trading.
This news, originally published by the Japanese publication Abema Times, was first reported in English by VGC.
According to the report, government prosecutors requested a prison sentence of two and a half years for the iconic video game director during a hearing at the Tokyo District Court on Thursday. They further requested he pay a fine of ¥2.5 million, or $17,800, and a penalty of ¥170 million, or $1.21 million for his offense.
The prosecutors reportedly requested such a harsh penalty because Naka "showed no signs of remorse" for his actions. Naturally, Naka’s defense team does not agree with the prosecutor’s requests. In fact, they made two requests of their own, which is for the fine to be reduced and for the prison sentence to be suspended.
Naka’s problems with the law began last November when he was arrested and charged with insider trading during his stint at Square Enix.
According to the prosecutors, Naka discovered that Japanese video game studio Aiming was developing a Dragon Quest mobile game before it was officially announced. Subsequently, he bought 10,000 shares of the company worth ¥2.8 million, or $20,000, with a plan to offload them once the game was announced and the company’s stock value increased.
One month later, in December, Naka was arrested for a second offense. This time, the prosecutors alleged he had used confidential information about the Square Enix mobile game Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier for yet another insider trading scheme.
According to them, the video game director bought 130,000 shares of the company after he learned of the planned video game releases and eventually sold them for a profit of ¥20 million, or $146,000.
At the moment, there is no telling whose side the presiding judge will take. However, Naka – and the rest of the global video game industry – will know his fate on July 7 which is when a final decision will be made on the case.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a highly successful video game franchise. Since its release in 1991, it has sold over 140 million units (as of 2016) and grossed over $5 billion (as of 2014). More than that, it spawned a media franchise that includes live-action films, comics, animations, and a new iteration of LEGO sets that will arrive in stores this summer.
While the video games have been less successful in recent times, the franchise’s movie adaptations have been making great strides. Last August, after the success of the second installment, Paramount Pictures announced that the third installment, Sonic the Hedgehog, will arrive in theaters on December 20, 2024.
Also, a spinoff television series titled Knuckles started production in April. Idris Elba, Tika Sumpter, and Adam Pally will all reprise their roles from the second film. It is slated for release sometime this year.