Update: Fuji News Network (opens in new tab) now reports that Yuji Naka, co-creator of Sonic the Hedgehog and director of Balan Wonderworld, has been arrested by the Tokyo District Prosecutor’s Office in connection with insider trading. Like the two previously arrested suspects, Naka is accused of buying shares in Aiming Co before it became known that the developer entered into a lucrative contract to create a Dragon Quest mobile game. In Naka’s case, he would have bought about 10,000 shares, worth about 2.8 million yen. Whether Naka or the other suspects sold their shares has not been disclosed.
Original Story: On November 17, Japanese outlet Vending machine (opens in new tab) reported that two Square Enix employees had been arrested by Tokyo police on suspicion of insider trading. The arrest relates to money they invested in a third-party developer, Aiming Co, ahead of the public reveal that it would be working on the Dragon Quest mobile spin-off, Dragon Quest Tactics (opens in new tab)released in 2020.
Automaton identifies the employees as Fujiki Suzuki (opens in new tab) and Taisuke Sasaki (opens in new tab) (alternately Sazaki). The two men have technical production credits and special thanks for a number of high-profile Square Enix games, including Dragon Quest 11, Final Fantasy 14, and NieR Automata.
Sasaki and Suzuki allegedly learned about Aming Co’s unannounced partnership with Square Enix through internal sources when they purchased 47 million yen (approximately $335,000) worth of Aming Co stock. Given the huge popularity of the Dragon Quest series, especially in Japan, that investment would presumably pay off lucratively, with Aiming Co’s value increasing once the high-profile project was announced.
On November 17, Square Enix released a public statement (opens in new tab) about the issue. The company said it will “fully cooperate with the investigation to clarify the facts”. Square Enix also stated that it is taking “disciplinary action against the former employees”, further claiming that it will strengthen its internal measures to detect and prevent insider trading by employees.
$335,000 is definitely a life-changing amount for an individual, but it seems like a paltry sum in the world of high finance and billions of dollars worth of video game studio acquisitions. I can almost imagine an Office Space-esque situation with two mid-range Square Enix employees coming up with a plan to make some extra money in the shadow of corporate profits. Be that as it may, this is a developing story and so far the first time I know of Dragon Quest being involved in an alleged financial crime.