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Nintendo teams with Masahiro Sakurai for new project

Company forms new Tokyo development studio for title.


Nintendo announced today the formation of Project Sora, a subsidiary that will develop a new title to be directed by Smash Bros. Brawl director Masahiro Sakurai.

Located in Tokyo's Idabashi area, the new studio, officially formed on January 22, has capital of 200 million yen, provided 72% by Nintendo, with Sakurai's studio Sora and other parties providing the rest. Sakurai will serve as the company's president. The studio has, or will have, a staff of 30.

The two companies opened up today a website through which they'll be soliciting employees for the mysterious project. According to the employment page at the site, Project Sora seeks programmers, 3D character and map production staff, sound effect staff, and game planners to begin work in early May. The period of employ will last, at the longest, through the project's completion, listed at the site as being planned for two years from now.

The new Project Sora site.

This site describes the title as "The thoughts of game designer Masahiro Sakurai and Nintendo have become one, and a new project has started. In order to expand what can be offered to the world through games, we will have Nintendo's full cooperation and make something that Nintendo could not do on its own."

Also at the site, interested parties will find a dialogue between Nintendo president Satoru Iwata and Sakurai offering a few Japanese language hints at what the new project may be.

Sakurai (left) and Iwata (right) speak about the new project.

In the discussion, Iwata refers to the game as "A new experiment, both for Mr. Sakurai and for Nintendo." While admitting that he cannot disclose the content of the game, Sakurai adds "We've started a special project. We're not sure how it will sell or if it will be accepted. Our goal is not just to make a single game. We can promise that you'll be able to experience something different."

The new project, Iwata explains, came about as he told Sakurai that Nintendo was looking to making something new and asked if he would be interested. Sakurai explains that he took the offer because, as a freelance developer, the conditions were perfect -- he'd be given a team, a company, and an office and left with the task of making a special project.

Iwata has apparently been privy to a glimpse at the game's design document. "I'm scared to ask, but how is the content of the new plan?" asks Sakurai. Iwata's response is: "From our perspective, it's not something that overlaps oddly with something that would come from Nintendo or those close to Nintendo. He later describes the project as, "It's something that can be made because Nintendo is backing you up, but is also something that Nintendo could not make."

The new game may have leanings towards core players. "If one were simply considering effective use of funding," explains Sakurai, "we'd have went with a plan similar to Touch Generations. But that's not I wanted." He later adds, "We want to make something that will be wanted even by the more hardcore game players, and something that offers new ideas."

Discussing some of the background of the studio's facilities, Sakurai notes that he looked in a variety of areas in Tokyo, including Shinjuku and Akihabara, but decided in the end on Idabashi, a business area in the heart of the city. The focus, he says, was on finding a location that would be easily accessible to a variety of people and would offer plenty of outside eating facilities. He points out that the building in which the studio will be located is new and that it does not have any columns running through it, allowing the development members to see one another.

Also speaking about the facilities, Iwata notes that with Smash Bros., the development studio got extremely crowded during peak development times. This time, they've learned from the experience and have invested in a large office even though initially there will be too much space.

The site does not specify a platform for the game, nor does it get into specifics on content. The site also does not mention release details, although the employment listing suggests a release in 2011.

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