Legendary Developer Masahiro Sakurai Is Ending His Essential Video Series Soon
It was great while it lasted.
Game development is a notoriously secretive process. Studios tend to play things close to their chest, from the finer points of game design to their upcoming schedules. It doesn’t help that for most of us, the more technical details of making a game would go right over our heads anyway. And soon, one of the most consistent sources of knowledge on the inner workings of game design is going away, with the end of the Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games Youtube channel.
Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai launched the channel in August 2022, after finishing work on the final DLC character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Since then, he’s posted multiple videos each week on the craft of game design, but in a post on the channel’s community page on January 9, he announced that he would soon stop making videos.
“I'm planning to wrap up Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games sometime this year,” Sakurai said. “Until then, I hope you'll stay tuned!”
Sakurai didn’t give a timeline or a reason for the channel ending. While he confirmed that he is still making games in a recent video, he hasn’t spoken about any specific project, and previously told the Japanese publication Denfamico Gamer that he considered himself “semi-retired,” according to a translation on social media from PushDustIn.
Whatever motivated Sakurai’s decision, the end of Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games is still a huge loss. It’s not that his channel is the only place where the average player can learn about some aspects of game design. Noclip, for example, has been making in-depth documentaries since 2016 charting the development of games from Rocket League to Immortality. Just last year, Double Fine developers offered Psych Odyssey, a 32-episode deep dive into the making of Psychonauts 2.
Plenty of indie developers are also more open about their process than larger studios would allow. But there’s no one else doing quite what Sakurai does. To have a games industry veteran speaking frankly with players on specific aspects of game design is invaluable. Sakurai’s videos cover a massive range of topics, from broad topics like player motivation to hyper-specific explanations of attack animations and the physics of jumping. Along the way, they offer an unprecedented look at Sakurai’s own classic games like Kirby’s Adventure and Super Smash Bros.
Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games stands out for its clarity. The channel’s videos are tiny, usually just two to three minutes long, and they break down complex topics into an easily digestible form. Anyone who wants to understand more about game design could walk away with a solid foundation on dozens of topics in less than an hour watching the channel.
Sakurai’s videos are also just a lot of fun to watch. Made with production company QBIST and a translation team known as 8-4, the channel’s videos are lavishly produced, blending gameplay capture and animation with footage Sakurai shoots of himself speaking. That helps them appeal to a general audience that might be less willing to listen to a dry but informative lecture on game design.
The loss of Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games is disappointing on its own, but it’s especially tragic considering how rare of a resource it is. Developers working at studios are often prohibited from sharing their knowledge in the way that Sakurai is, and the consequences go deeper than lack of understanding.
The games industry’s secrecy makes the prospect of leaked information more enticing, leading to incidents like last month’s hack that exposed Insomniac Games developers’ personal information along with the company’s production schedule. A huge contingent of entitled gamers have an outright hostile relationship with developers, and while it would be naive to say that more transparency would solve that problem, closing the gulf between designers and players could help build a little empathy.
Whatever Sakurai moves on to do after shuttering the channel, Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games remains a treasure trove of knowledge. Even if you have no interest in developing a holistic knowledge of game design, learning even a little more about Sakurai’s thoughts and process is well worth a few minutes of your time.