Sonic Team

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Sonic Team
Founded: 1996
Merged with: United Game Artists (2003), Sega Sports Design R&D Dept. (2008)

Sonic Team (ソニックチーム) is a long-standing Sega brand name typically associated with the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise.

The original "Sonic Team", formed by programmer Yuji Naka and artist Naoto Oshima, came into being when developing the first Sonic the Hedgehog game and was a colloquial term for describing the people involved with said games' development. After Naka moved to the United States to produce Sonic the Hedgehog 2 at Sega Technical Institute, the term was relegated exclusively to Japanese game packaging, but returned to screens in 1996 when it became a trading name for the newly established Sega CS3 and its first product, NiGHTS into Dreams.

While the Sonic Team name has since stuck, the team members and corporate structure has changed radically in the intervening years, with the Sonic Team name being used for products developed on both sides of the Pacific. The brand has been used to describe Sega CS3, Sega Software R&D Dept. 8, a separate Sonic Team company, Global Entertainment R&D Dept. 1 and the 2008 Sega CS2. There was also briefly a Sonic Team USA.

All of these companies have fulfilled the same basic role; to manage the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, be it directly developing new games, or overseeing external Sonic development. Naka and Oshima's desire to make other types of games in the 1990s and early 2000s also means Sonic Team is the face of other Sega properties, including NiGHTS, Burning Rangers, ChuChu Rocket, Samba de Amigo, Phantasy Star Online, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg and following the demise of Compile, Puyo Puyo.

Current members

Former members


Sega Consumer R&D/Sonic Team presents era

In the late eighties, there was an atmosphere at Sega that they needed to create a striking game that can compete against games like Super Mario Bros.. Senior game designer and Alex Kidd creator Kotaro Hayashida discussed this among executives, and eventually set up the project for Sonic the Hedgehog.[1]

Naoto Ohshima who had six designer credits, and Yuji Naka, who had eleven programmer credits, presented proposals to Sega. The two set off to create the concept that would evolve into the original Sonic the Hedgehog. With Ohshima creating the title character and Naka working on the engine, level designer Hirokazu Yasuhara was brought in round out the project. Through the many twists and turns of development, the game was finally set to be released.

With the title becoming an international success, Naka joined the American based Sega Technical Institute, headed by Mark Cerny. Coming to America along with Yasuhara (who had been scheduled to become a part of STI before Sonic the Hedgehog had begun development), the pair would go on to continue the main line of Sonic titles. Though no longer in the game's credits, the Sonic Team moniker would live on the Japanese packaging for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles, and the Ohshima-led Sonic CD developed in Japan. By this time Sonic Team was not an official division, however.

Sega Consumer R&D3 era

After the completion of Sonic & Knuckles, Yasuhara chose to remain in America, while Naka returned to Sega of Japan, heading up his own new division, Sega CS3. Once there, he teamed back up with Ohshima, the two resurrecting the Sonic Team moniker to work on two new projects, NiGHTS Into Dreams and Burning Rangers. Naka planned to deliver a Sonic game for the Sega Saturn, however development of NiGHTS took longer than expected. To compensate he and much of his team travelled to the UK, to assist Travellers Tales on Flickies' Island and Sonic R.[2] Though Yasuhara would remain with the company until 2002, working on different projects, Sonic R would be the last Sonic Team-related production Yasuhara had any direct involvement with, eventually departing to work for game studio Naughty Dog.

The first fully 3D Sonic the Hedgehog title, Sonic Adventure would become one of the flagship video games for the new Sega Dreamcast. It was also the last title Ohshima had any involvement with, leaving the company to co-found the studio Artoon. Sonic Adventure signalized a new era for Sonic Team, with Yuji Naka no longer leading the programming and having neither Oshima or Yasuhara directing. Takashi Iizuka, who worked on Sonic 3 & Knuckles succeeded Yasuhara in directing and leading the design. Kazuyuki Hoshino, visual designer of Sonic CD and Knuckles Chaotix, succeeded Oshima in determining the look of the franchise. On the programming side, 1992 hire Tetsu Katano was brought in as the lead engineer from then on.

Sega Software #8/Sonic Team Co., Ltd. era

Around the time Sega became a platform agnostic developer and publisher, Sega Chairman Isao Okawa, had a request to develop a fully online game for the Sega Dreamcast. Sonic Team was the only team to have free staff at the time. So they took on the project and made strides with action puzzler Chu Chu Rocket and then the entire Phantasy Star Online franchise. Samba De Amigo was also a successfull project for the arcade market, as it was always Yuji Naka's desire to develop an arcade game for Sega. Altough Sonic Team Japan had developed an action platformer in-house during that period, with Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. In October of 2003, Sega decided to consolidate their in-house development teams. Sonic Team Japan gained members who worked on the Space Channel 5 and Roommania #203 games. Those developers would go on to create several games. Such as the PlayStation 2 Astro Boy game, as well as the reboot of the Puyo Puyo series, Puyo Pop Fever. For handhelds, they developed the Feel the Magic XY/XX and The Rub Rabbits! games.

Sonic Team USA was established to further develop 3D Sonic games. Headed by Takashi Iizuka, it had only 11 members of the then 120 man strong Sonic Adventure development team.[3] Though their first official assignment was making sure Sonic Adventure was ready for a western release, the real reason they came into existence was the 2001's Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Team's first multiplatform title, Sonic Heroes.

It was also around this time that Sonic Team began their long-term partnership with Dimps, who worked to create Sonic Pocket Adventure, and become involved in nearly every handheld Sonic title that would follow. Long time Sega employee, Akinori Nishiyama would manage that relationship working as a director since Sonic Advance onwards.

Global Entertainment R&D1 era

In April of 2005, Sega decided to move their development studios back into the structure before July of 2000, with unbranded R&D studios. The core development Sonic Team group was stationed at Global Entertainment R&D1, headed by Akinori Nishiyama, while the Phantasy Star team spunned of off into Global Entertainment R&D Dept. 3 headed by Takao Miyoshi. Global Entertainment R&D Dept. 2 also existed, but was a continuation of Sega Wow, previously Overworks. Yuji Naka was asked to oversee all three of those departments, eventually becoming dissatisfied with the position of having almost no hands-on development. So he decided to leave Sega to form the company Prope in May of 2006. Prope had financial backing by Sega, which lead to Sega publishing the first two games of the studio, Let's Tap and Let's Catch.

The teams behind the Puyo Puyo and Rub Rabbits games continued to develop games mainly for the Japanese audience, with the many Puyo Puyo sequels, as well as three entries in the Sega edutainment series Naruhodo.

Sonic Team USA (eventually renamed Sega Studio USA in 2004), developed further games with Shadow the Hedgehog and NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams along with supervising Sonic Rivals and Sonic Rivals 2. Sonic Team in Japan returned to developing entries for the Sonic franchise. They developed the Sonic Riders games, Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic Unleashed and Sonic and the Black Knight.

The Sonic games received negative to middling reviews, particulary it was Sonic 06 that received a wide negative reception. Meanwhile Sonic Unleashed and Sonic and the Secret Rings were better received, providing templates for future Sonic games.

Akinori Nishiyama and Takashi Iizuka referred to tight deadlines, as well in Iizukas case, too little resources, on the less than stellar reception of these titles.

In 2006, Yuji Naka, the last original member of Sonic Team, left the company during the development of Sonic 06 to form his own development studio Prope.

Sega Consumer R&D2 era

In May 2008, Sega GE1 was renamed Consumer R&D2. Sega Studio USA moved back into Sonic Team Japan and Takashi Iizuka was made the head of the operation. Since, Sonic Team developed Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations, Sonic Lost World, and is currently developing Sonic Forces.

While previously Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games was co-developed with Sega Sports Design R&D Dept., following games were solely developed within CS2 or Sonic Team since the dissolvence of Sports Design after the first game.

Following the poor reception of the Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric game, Sonic Team once again established a office within Sega of America. However it does not have a development team like before, but mainly serves to better supervise western Sonic projects.


Mega Drive




PlayStation 2



Xbox 360

PlayStation 3


PlayStation 4

Xbox One

Wii U

Nintendo Switch

PlayStation 5

Game Boy Advance

Nintendo DS

PlayStation Portable

Nintendo 3DS

PlayStation Vita

PlayStation Now

Windows PC


i-mode 503i

i-mode 504i

i-mode 505i

i-mode 90x

i-mode 70x

J-Sky (50KB)

Vodafone Live! (256KB)

Vodafone Live! (3G)

EZweb (BREW 2.1)

EZweb (BREW 3.1)

Club Air-Edge


Get It Now



PlayStation Portable


Nintendo 3DS

PlayStation Vita

Canceled Titles



Main article: Photos of Sonic Team

External links


  1. [Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works - Kotaro Hayashida Interview Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works - Kotaro Hayashida Interview]

Timeline of Sega of Japan research and development divisions