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Smash director Sakurai says he is "semi-retired" from game development

Sakurai's time at Nintendo and game development may be winding down.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

December 29, 2022

3 Min Read
Photo of Nintendo game director Masahiro Sakurai.

According to a recent interview from Denfaminico Gamer (and translated by Twitter user PushDustin), Masahiro Sakurai is "semi-retired" from being a longtime game director at Nintendo. 

"[Sakurai] is 52," reads the translated tweet. "He felt that if he is just continuously making games full time, his life will be over before he realizes it."

In 2021, Sakurai published a column in Famitsu that briefly touched on the idea of retiring from game development. While he hasn't left Nintendo (at least, at time of writing), saying that he's "semi-retired" means that there's some sort of end in sight.

Since 1992, Sakurai has worked at Nintendo, first at HAL Laboratory and creating the character of Kirby for 1992's Kirby's Dream Land (which he also directed). But he's more commonly known for being the director of the Super Smash Bros. franchise, including 2008's Super Smash Bros. Brawl and 2018's Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Earlier in the year, Sakurai launched a YouTube channel to educate viewers on game development. According to those translated tweets, his videos have received a large amount of likes on YouTube, and he is reportedly glad to see responses are "generally positive." 

The interview and PushDustin's Twitter thread also provide some interesting insight into his onscreen appearances doing promo videos for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Since there was no real budget for promotion, the team opted to have Sakurai appear in them, and his appearances had the added benefit of allowing him to convey information the way he wanted it. 

Further, Sakurai stated that there may come a point where his YouTube channel just suddenly ends. The primary focus for the channel, he said, is to make it an archive of his lessons for future game developers to learn from. 

What does Sakurai's eventual retirement mean for Super Smash Bros?

Sakurai has served as a key creative force in every Smash Bros. game to date, and it's part of how he became popular in the first place. If and when he retires, it leaves that particular franchise, and Nintendo, in a strange position. 

In November 2021, Sakurai stated that he wasn't fully sure whether or not he would make another installment in the series, and he's previously expressed doubts that the series could get any bigger than Smash Bros. Ultimate. "I'm not thinking about a sequel, but I can't say that this is definitely the last Smash Bros," he said at the time. 

He further stated that he wasn't even sure that the series should continue on without him. Though he's said he would like to hand the reigns over to another director, he admitted that doing so hasn't worked out. 

"If we’re going to continue with the series, Nintendo and I need to discuss and seriously consider how to make it a success.”

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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