Tetsuya Mizuguchi

From Sega Retro

Photos mizuguchi.jpg
Tetsuya Mizuguchi
Place of birth: Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
Date of birth: 1965-05-22[1][2] (age 58)
Employment history:
Role(s): Producer, Executive
Education: Nihon University

Tetsuya Mizuguchi (水口 哲也) is a Japanese businessman and former Sega of Japan designer, producer, and executive. One of the most well-known developers to have passed through Sega's ranks, he has been primarily responsible for several of the company's biggest arcade and console successes, including Sega Rally Championship, Manx TT Super Bike, Space Channel 5, and Rez.

Since leaving Sega in 2003, Mizuguchi has continued to lead a successful career, co-founding Q Entertainment with other former colleagues and later Enhance Inc. by himself.


Early years

Mizuguchi testing a Game Gear AR prototype

Tetsuya Mizuguchi was born in Sapporo, Hokkaido in 1965.[5] Studying aesthetics at Nihon University's Faculty of Arts during the 1980s out of his aim to create forward-looking media, Mizuguchi originally endeavoured to become a music video director; however, as the decade came to a close, he started to perceive the then-nascent video games as the best form for this goal, having already been formatively fascinated by Pong as an 11-year old, Xevious in college, and Xenon 2: Megablast at university.[6][7]

Inspired by an encounter with the company's advanced R360 simulator during 1990, the future developer's prime choice for work in this field was Sega.[6][8][9][10] In spite of his lack of experience with the industry and a turbulent job interview with Hisashi Suzuki (in which he is said to have mistakenly cited his fondness for Namco's slogan, "We Create Play", as a reason for his application), Mizuguchi was ultimately hired off the back of his 40-page treatment he had prepared, forecasting trends in technology, art, and entertainment.[11]

After his December 1990 interview, Mizuguchi began working full-time for Sega the following year. In keeping with his previous studies, he was first given an aesthetic research role, often working as an assistant to Suzuki.[12][13] Taking advantage of this position, Mizuguchi often attended overseas business trips with him, including a virtual reality conference in Austin, Texas - the conference fuelled his desire to develop for the burgeoning technology, already sparked by previous interest in NASA's use of it.[14]

Initially involved in the creation of an internal augmented reality Game Gear prototype that was ultimately never commercialized,[9] as well as early talks with Virtuality,[6] Mizuguchi was additionally assigned to working with the amusement equipment-focused AM5 team in the wake of its split off from AM4. In early 1992, he helped conceptualize its first interactive large attractions for Sega's planned Amusement Theme Parks alongside Shingo Dote.[15] Among these was the VR-1, which went on to be designed by other developers (including Virtuality) and became the company's most successful attempt at virtual reality.

Arcade success

Mizuguchi, pictured in 1994 interview about Megalopolis for French documentary film Otaku[16]

Having also witnessed AM5's continued development of the AS-1 motion simulator, Mizuguchi was enthusiastic about creating a pre-rendered 3D CGI project for the mid-size attraction. After controversially gaining permission to lead a new team and receive highly expensive CG hardware and software, he and the "Emotion Design Lab" would create Megalopolis: Tokyo City Battle.[17] Co-produced with American film-maker Michael Arias, it was seen as a chance to train developers on the new 3D CGI technology, gaining expertise for some of Sega's first works in the area whilst Yu Suzuki and AM2 made similar advancements in real-time 3D.[12] The team ultimately became the first within Sega to produce pre-rendered CGI material.[18]

Though completed after the AS-1 had already sold poorly in a limited release to other operators, this did not cancel Megalopolis' release altogether, with it installed in several flagship amusement theme park locations. The film also received western exposure through its trailers' inclusion in SIGGRAPH 93, as well as subsequent re-usage in other media. Internally, it had given Mizuguchi his first experience in leading a team, one which he would initially continue to direct - after a successful job interview, he instructed company newcomer Mie Kumagai to make her first two projects, an entrance film for the opening of Yokohama Joypolis,[19] and ride film for the Kome Kome-Music Ride showcased at Live UFO '94.[1]

Influenced by an evening watching rally racing, Mizuguchi's next project as producer, Sega Rally Championship, took advantage of the new Model 2 hardware's real-time 3D capabilities and moved himself into video game development. Its year-long production period necessitated him leading a larger team of twelve developers, alongside director (and fellow former AS-1 ride film creator) Kenji Sasaki plus new programmer Sohei Yamamoto.[20][21][22] The eventual 1994 arcade release and subsequent 1995 Saturn port of Sega Rally, both highly popular, propelled Mizuguchi's career to new heights, leading to involvement with Megalopolis co-director Jun Uriu again on the similar and equally successful Manx TT Super Bike after a trip to the Isle of Man.[23] With two hit arcade games now under his belt, he gained permission in 1996 to leave AM3 and head an independent new team, AM Annex, with numerous close colleagues who had previously collaborated with him including Sasaki and Yamamoto.[13] Further arcade racers came with follow-ups Sega Touring Car Championship and Sega Rally 2.[24] Mizuguchi also collaborated with AM5 again for the Sega Rally Special Stage and Sega Touring Car Championship Special attractions.[10][25]

Shift to consoles

Mizuguchi presenting Space Channel 5 on its first public appearance at Tokyo Game Show '99 Autumn

Whilst taking an organizational role on Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, Mizuguchi was primed by Shoichiro Irimajiri to move to become a key part of Sega's strategy in providing the Dreamcast console with innovative new concepts that could still appeal towards more casual audiences.[26][27][28] Heading the new Sega Software R&D Dept. 9 whilst Sasaki stepped up to lead R&D Dept. 5 and Yamamoto to Mechatro, he had a renewed interest in how music, sounds, and colours could play a part in video games after his participation in several European festivals and raves.[29] Space Channel 5 was Mizuguchi's first work borne out of this, itself a significant title in the first wave of rhythm games and highly popular among critics.[30][31]

Though Space Channel 5 sold below expectations on release in Japan during December 1999, his department was given further prominence as a company and renamed United Game Artists in the April 2000 restructure of Sega - as the Chief Creative Officer and president, Mizuguchi then worked towards developing his most ambitious title yet, Rez, another by-product of his continued interest in creating total sensory experiences. Selling even poorer amidst Sega's termination of Dreamcast support and a simultaneous PlayStation 2 release, the game was nonetheless met with widespread critical acclaim, securing numerous awards in the subsequent months and becoming regarded as a 'cult classic' across the world.[32][33][34]

Although highly consequential to their support of what was once a vital area within the company, the collapse of Sega's console business in 2001 did not deter Mizuguchi and UGA's efforts in continuing to produce innovative, forward-looking works. In addition to spin-offs on multiple consoles and handhelds, including direct continuation Space Channel 5: Part 2, the Space Channel franchise notably received considerable recognition in Japan through UGA's extensive adoption of early mobile gaming technology;[5] for a time, main series character Ulala was effectively the mascot of Java applet-enabled J-Phone handsets.[35] Under the the tie-up's Ulala no Channel J content portal, all sets came pre-packaged with Tsuwa Shichouritsu, one of the most graphically advanced pieces of mobile phone software up to that point in time and starring a real-time 3D model of Ulala.[36] An estimated 8 million phones were sold with it installed.[37]

Departure from Sega

Tetris Effect, Mizuguchi's most recent work

Despite the critical success of numerous titles, some of which headed by Mizuguchi, Sega was still in financial turmoil even after extensive restructuring and the loss of the Dreamcast. Directionless merger discussions with the likes of Namco and Sammy had eventually resulted in the latter obtaining the 22% of shares formerly held by CSK in the company,[38] ultimately becoming its largest shareholder in August 2003. Company-wide reorganization of staff and subsidiary companies had been planned, and one of several teams to be closed by this was United Game Artists. All of its developers were subsequently transferred to Sonic Team.[39]

The move meant that Mizuguchi was demoted from his head position, with Sammy dictating a shift in focus from development of loss-making global console titles to Sega's then-profitable arcade games in Japan. One month on from this, Mizuguchi announced his retirement from Sega whilst guesting on the October 7 edition of the Tokyo Game Lounge webcast radio programme, effective from October 10.[40] He has since cited negative changes in the company's corporate culture following Sammy's buyout as a direct influence on this departure,[41] as well as wider atmosphere shifts in the maturing 2000s gaming industry.[42]

With a number of other former United Game Artists personnel following him, Mizuguchi decided to move forward by pursuing a largely independent career in the industry, allowing him a greater degree of freedom. Alongside these former colleagues, he co-founded Q Entertainment in 2004, running the company, developing numerous other music games, and experimenting with other offshoot projects. After previous hints of a collaboration with Sega and spiritual successors to the title, Mizuguchi has returned to his final large-scale product for the company by remaking Rez, first through Q Entertainment in 2008, again in 2016 under new self-founded start-up Enhance Inc, and once more the following year for PC, each in a higher definition than before. Its most recent incarnation has added virtual reality functionality; alongside his work on Tetris Effect, these have enabled Mizuguchi to finally achieve his initial VR aims formed at Sega.


Tetsuya Mizuguchi is widely regarded as one of the most talented visionaries in video games. Mizuguchi's works, particularly the examples made at Sega, are often cited as a significant influence on numerous developers in the gaming industry, and additionally helped numerous close collaborators including Kenji Sasaki and Mie Kumagai to gain further prominence in their company. Former Codemasters producers have claimed that Sega Rally Championship was a key inspiration in the creation of the first Colin McRae Rally game;[43] similarly, Alex Rigopulos, co-founder of Harmonix Music Systems, has credited his contributions to the music game genre as one of the driving forces behind Harmonix's output.[44] Of these, Rez in particular has endured as a highly respected work among critics in spite of initial low sales; since release, it has received numerous accolades, and continues to inspire developers and designers alike.[45] In the wake of this success, Mizuguchi has revisited the title for spiritual successors (Child of Eden) and remasters (Rez Infinite). He has been invited to reflect on his career at Sega for conferences and documentaries by the likes of Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, and CNA.[42]


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.

Tetsuya Mizuguchi on his departure from Sega of Japan

Production history




Magazine articles

Main article: Tetsuya Mizuguchi/Magazine articles.


Main article: Photos of Tetsuya Mizuguchi

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 File:PS2PressInformation 2001-09 Rez Profile of Head of UGA.pdf
  2. 2.0 2.1 http://sega.jp/studio/uga.html (Wayback Machine: 2001-11-02 19:34)
  3. Dreamcast Magazine, "2000-13 (2000-04-14)" (JP; 2000-03-31), page 28
  4. Sega Magazine, "1997-02 (1997-02)" (JP; 1997-01-13), page 17
  5. 5.0 5.1 http://www.sega.com/segascream/developers/post_amprofiles.jhtml?article=dev_am9_uga (Wayback Machine: 2002-07-05 17:50)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 http://www.kotaku.co.uk/2016/05/27/tetsuya-mizuguchis-memories-from-segas-golden-age (Wayback Machine: 2019-02-02 21:27)
  7. https://www.polygon.com/2016/3/17/11256396/rez-gdc-post-mortem-tetsuya-mizuguchi (Wayback Machine: 2016-03-21 06:27)
  8. https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/50eatm/i_am_video_game_designer_tetsuya_mizuguchi_ama/d73hb8i/ (Wayback Machine: 2021-11-28 01:12)
  9. 9.0 9.1 https://www.sohu.com/a/346574511_395737 (Wayback Machine: 2021-11-28 01:36)
  10. 10.0 10.1 https://www.gamedeveloper.com/pc/dice-mizuguchi-talks-artistry-and-commerce-in-concert (Wayback Machine: 2021-08-27 09:47)
  11. https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/The_Sega_Arcade_Revolution/7qZhDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PA160&printsec=frontcover
  12. 12.0 12.1 https://news.denfaminicogamer.jp/english/170612/2 (Wayback Machine: 2021-06-05 08:15)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Next Generation, "November 1996" (US; 1996-10-22), page 83
  14. https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/games/2017/07/how-tetsuya-mizuguchi-reinvented-video-games-his-love-synaesthesia (Wayback Machine: 2020-03-26 08:52)
  15. http://backup.segakore.fr/mechatro/mtv/pm/pm05.html
  16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sD8uoy8T_0
  17. Beep! MegaDrive, "November 1993" (JP; 1993-10-08), page 106
  18. Beep! MegaDrive, "October 1994" (JP; 1994-09-08), page 96
  19. https://www.redbull.com/jp-ja/game-producer-mie-kumagai (Wayback Machine: 2021-07-11 20:12)
  20. EGM², "February 1995" (US; 199x-xx-xx), page 94
  21. Next Generation, "April 1995" (US; 1995-03-21), page 72
  22. Sega Saturn Magazine, "November 1995" (JP; 1995-10-07), page 63
  23. https://www.engadget.com/2006-11-08-migs06-tetsuya-mizuguchis-keynote-liveblogged-sorta.html (Wayback Machine: 2021-11-07 18:56)
  24. Next Generation, "March 1998" (US; 1998-02-17), page 79
  25. Next Generation, "March 1998" (US; 1998-02-17), page 80
  26. http://archive.videogamesdaily.com/features/tetsuya_mizuguchi_iv_oct05_p1.asp (Wayback Machine: 2011-07-17 20:27)
  27. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/2310/e3_report_the_path_to_creating_.php (Wayback Machine: 2016-04-19 11:38)
  28. https://www.polygon.com/2016/11/22/13700394/rez-retrospective-tetsuya-mizuguchi-iam8bit-book-rez-infinite (Wayback Machine: 2016-11-23 12:07)
  29. https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-02-08-in-media-rez-the-return-of-tetsuya-mizuguchi (Wayback Machine: 2018-06-12 23:52)
  30. Computer & Video Games, "August 2000" (UK; 2000-07-12), page 114
  31. Famitsu, "1999-12-24" (JP; 1999-12-10), page 31
  32. http://sega.jp/corp/release/2002/1219/ (Wayback Machine: 2007-11-18 20:38)
  33. https://navgtr.org/2002-awards/ (Wayback Machine: 2020-04-20 14:53)
  34. http://www.interactive.org/games/video_game_details.asp?idAward=2003&idGame=446 (Wayback Machine: 2018-02-06 19:51)
  35. @yumikomiyabe on Twitter (Wayback Machine: 2021-11-29 01:38)
  36. http://www.u-ga.com/press/released/release_010514.htm (Wayback Machine: 2001-06-07 06:47)
  37. http://www.1up.com/features/tetsuya-mizuguchi-instincts (Wayback Machine: 2013-03-02 10:57)
  38. http://www.gamespot.com/news/2004/05/18/news_6098677.html (Wayback Machine: 2008-10-06 13:28)
  39. File:IR EN 2003-07-30.pdf, page 5
  40. https://www.gamespot.com/articles/tetsuya-mizuguchi-to-exit-sega/1100-6076535/ (Wayback Machine: 2018-04-01 00:35)
  41. http://games.kikizo.com/features/tetsuya_mizuguchi_iv_oct05_p1.asp (Wayback Machine: 2005-12-27 04:54)
  42. 42.0 42.1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwBoLPEhljQ (Ghostarchive)
  43. http://www.edge-online.com/features/making-colin-mcrae-rally/ (Wayback Machine: 2013-10-12 07:54)
  44. https://www.gamespot.com/videos/behind-the-games-alex-rigopulos/2300-6171974/ (Ghostarchive)
  45. https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2019-01-15-rez-and-the-power-of-owning-your-own-experience (Wayback Machine: 2019-01-15 17:48)
  46. File:Sonic Jam Saturn credits.pdf
  47. File:STCC CD JP Booklet.pdf, page 8
  48. File:SC5OST CD JP card5.pdf, page 2
  49. File:MFRTISBSC5 CD JP Box Back.jpg