Sega confirmed on October 27th that Rieko Kodama, a veteran developer at the company and a pioneering figure in the games industry, died in May 2022. The company had not shared news of her death at the time out of respect for the privacy of her family. Her death became public knowledge after people spotted a memorial tribute to Kodama in the staff credits of the newly-released Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) Mini 2 microconsole. She was 58 years old.
Rumors about Kodama’s death circulated late on October 26, 2022, when Retro Gamer Features Editor Nick Thorpe spotted the memorial message and posted a screenshot on Twitter.
Finally, the staff credits include a memorial message for Rieko Kodama. She started as an artist on games such as Alex Kidd In Miracle World, Phantasy Star and Sonic The Hedgehog, and was the producer for Skies Of Arcadia, 7th Dragon and most recently the Switch Sega Ages games. pic.twitter.com/v6xk8oUNYO
— Nick Thorpe (@HKT3030) October 26, 2022
Ares Arcadia, a Skies of Arcadia fan site, contacted Sega Producer Yosuke Okunari via Twitter, seeking clarification. Okunari responded in English, confirming the accuracy of the memorial and that Rieko Kodama had indeed died. Sega Japan noted that she died in May 2022, but did not share details to respect the privacy of her family. In a statement to IGN, Sega expressed condolences and gratitude for her contributions.
As you understand it. We respected her.
— Yosuke Okunari /奥成洋輔 (@okunari) October 27, 2022
Rieko Kodama began work in 1984 as a graphic designer at Sega, working on titles like Alex Kidd, Altered Beast, and Sonic the Hedgehog. She sometimes went by the pseudonym “Phoenix Rie.” She later became a director and producer, with a key hand in now-beloved Sega classics like Phantasy Star, Skies of Arcadia, and Magic Knight Rayearth. She also produced the 7th Dragon series and the Nintendo Switch-based Sega Ages retro collections. In 2019 the Game Developers Conference awarded Kodama its Pioneer Award in recognition of her achievements.
The announcement prompted more public comments from Kodama’s colleagues and others who knew her. Sonic the Hedgehog co-creator Yuji Naka paid tribute in a statement on Twitter, saying that he “wanted everyone to remember her.”