Sonic Team began as one of Sega
's in-house development teams, but during Sega
's change from video game hardware
manufacturer to software
developing giant in 2000 (to rival Electronic Arts
, no doubt), many of these teams were made into their own seperate companies. Headed by Yuji Naka
, Sonic Team has an extensive back catalogue of some of the greatest Sega
titles ever released. They are currently developing games for the Nintendo GameCube
, Windows PC
and Game Boy Advance
. They have two main offices, one in Japan
, and the other in the USA
, called Sonic Team USA, repectively. The company is made up of more than 70 designers, programmers. musicians and artists.
Sonic Team began life as a team of fifteen staff members on Sega Consumer Department #3 (aka AM#8). Headed by Shinobu Toyoda (with Yuji Naka acting as lead programmer and Naoto Ohshima as director) the team turned out their first collaborative effort: a little Sega Genesis game called Sonic the Hedgehog. The team renamed themselves Sonic Team, drawing from their first big hit, and continued their work on new projects.
Unfortunately, Yuji Naka became frustrated with the chain of command at Sega and left the company. The next big game, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was handed to a group of programmers known as Sega Technical Institute. When Naka heard that Sonic Team was being denied the chance to work on the sequel to their big hit, he returned and Sonic Team took the reins on the project. However, he again grew frustrated at corporate policies and left Sega again. He returned once more in time for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and was promoted to the leader of the team, a position he still holds today.
The American arm of the team, Sonic Team USA, came to be when twelve Sonic Team staffers came to America at Sega's behest to work on cleaning up Sonic Adventure. After spending several months refining the game and adding all sorts of goodies and enhancements, Sonic Adventure International was released worldwide and the staffers were about to return home to Japan when instead they decided to remain and become Sonic Team USA. This new addition to the team would work with the original Sonic Team on new projects and act as a second arm of the organization. Their first project was Sonic Adventure 2, and undoubedtly many more are on the way.
In July 2003 Sega announced that Sonic Team and another development group, United Game Artists, (makers of Space Channel 5 and Rez) would merge and form a company whose aim is games for casual users. By 2004, however, Sega had merged with Japanese Pachinko company Sammy and the combined company disassembled all of Sega's development teams. Sonic Team is no more, although the people who were a part of it will remain at Sega in other departments and divisions.
Sonic Team Projects
Nintendo Game Boy Advance
Sony Playstation 2
Note that Sonic Team was not responsible for every Sonic the Hedgehog game or Phantasy Star game. Sega was fond of licensing its hottest properties out to other internal divisions and external companies (a practice that sometimes resulted in genius and other times resulted in junk).