It’s sad to see how bad Sega is doing these days. With the whole restructuring and with many offices closing it’s hard not to worry about our favorite game company’s future. Heck, if I were Kellie, Ken or the rest of the community staff, I’d be dusting off my resume’s right about now. But I feel many of us kinda saw this coming. We promoted and championed our favorite new Sega games (and still do) only to see them poorly marketed and handled like garbage with little promotion outside of Sega’s own website. So why is Sega doing so badly as of late? What are they doing wrong? Read on to see my own personal feelings on the matter. Just remember folks, this is an opinion article.
There’s an old saying. “You have to spend money to make money.” Advertising is a very important part of selling your game and Sega has been very poor at this aspect. They’ll put the cash out to promote the latest Sonic and Mario Olympics game, but when something that can attract the core crowd like Binary Domain comes out, they pull back the marketing dollars and rely almost solely on online marketing. This was a major title for Sega this year and the only commercial ad I saw was on WWE wrestling for one show. In a similar situation, I did not even know Yakuza of the End was coming out until less than a week before its release due to lack of any push by its publisher. I just found out about the July 10th release of Rhythm Thief while writing an article about its demo. Meanwhile, Sega was completely silent about the game during E3. You do know that selling and marketing means finding ways to gain peoples’ interest in your products, right?
Sega seems to have only one kind of schedule with their releases. Put the major Sonic games out during November, AND EVERYTHING ELSE IN FEB/MARCH! Oh! Also, make sure it’s being put out near or on the same day as a major game release it cannot possibly compete with. As I mentioned before, Binary Domain vs. Mass Effect 3, Resonance of Fate vs. Final Fantasy 13 and Bayonetta vs. Darksiders. Also, those games I mentioned came out in the first quarter AFTER the big Christmas rush where you have some extra breathing space to schedule your game properly. I guess they gotta make that little bit extra in the final fiscal quarter.
In fact, releasing games on the final quarter is usually a strategy some game companies use for games that either couldn’t quite make the Christmas deadline or more likely in Sega’s case, gives a bit of a fiscal boost in the final month with games that they feel might not sell as well during the rest of the year. Yakuza in America does okay, but it’s mainly niche and they make just enough copies to get a decent return. In that case, it makes sense. However, with games like Resonance of Fate and Anarchy Reigns, I see it more as a lack of faith in the game and even if the game does poorly, it may do just enough to give a little push to the bottom line just before the fiscal quarter is over. That’s the only reason why I think they put Anarchy Reigns in the first quarter of 2013 instead of its original summer release where it didn’t face too much competition.
On the positive side, while I still feel it’s not being marketed well, July 10th is a good release spot for Rhythm Thief. Right when everyone has more free time and there’s not too much competition on the market.
The horrible stench of 2005 – 2008
Nothing can ruin your future software sales than a bad reputation from the past. Unfortunately, that’s were Sega stands today. In the early 2000’s, Sega had to abandon the Dreamcast due to bad sales and the spark of inspiration they once had was dying off. While their first forays into third party development were pretty good (Super Monkey Ball, JSRF, Yakuza), things were starting to go sour. If Shadow the Hedgehog in 2005 didn’t show how bad things were getting, Sonic ’06 sure as hell did. That same year gave us the worst Sonic 1 port of all time on the GBA. With poor sound, skipping framerate and glitches galore, you could not make a worse Sonic 1 port if you tried. Where was the Q&A on these Sonic games? Add to that, the horrible Golden Axe; Beast Rider, Stormrise, the Golden Compass, plus a myriad of poor to mediocre Sonic games and you now have a bad reputation for making crap with your glory days far behind you. From 2009 to today, things have been changing greatly in terms of quality, but the smallest mistake and people are now going “LOL! That’s Sega for you,” while ignoring great games like Sonic Colors, Bayonetta, the Yakuza series and Binary Domain.
Poor handling of the Marvel licensed games
Okay, granted this is something many companies do. Buy a major brand license. Put some B-D list developers on the projects to save money and put out a half-assed product that sells well enough to make a decent profit. You know how these games ended up, but this was a poor time for Sega to be putting out mediocre to poor games. Its reputation had been shot and was in need of a boost. I mean, when you put the same horrible developers that made G.A. Beast Rider on your Iron Man games, you’re not thinking about the quality of the product, but more of the bottom line and that just hurts your business in the long run.
Too many risky, new IP’s. Not enough of the old ones.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Making a publishing deal with Platinum Games was the best decision they made in years. (Too bad they probably soured the relationship by treating their final game like garbage.) But when you’re not doing well, a new IP is even more risky than usual. Putting an M-rated game like Madworld on the Wii was a bad idea. M games NEVER do well on a family-friendly Nintendo console. Then you got games like Tournament of Legends which was obviously more of a Wiiware title than a retail disc release. Also, and I’m gonna take a lot of flak for saying this, the Conduit. High Voltage software are like the nerdy guys who try oh-so hard to impress everyone and end up still failing. “It’s gonna be great this time we swear! Tons of bump-mapping, great online (Okay, it was pretty good. I’ll admit), super-duper controls and no glitches!! We promise!!” All of that doesn’t matter if your game design is poor in the first place. Also, there were TONS of glitches.
So what about some of the old IP’s that everyone knows and loves? The only thing we have right now is Sonic, Yakuza (good luck with us seeing #5), Virtua Fighter and Super Monkey Ball. Yes, they tried and failed with NiGHTS and Golden Axe, but that was more a fail of the developers than the franchises. But with the new digital market, there’s a new opportunity to go back to the classics with a lot less risk. How about Crazy Taxi 4? A new Streets of Rage in HD 2-D? Samba De Amigo Kinect/Move? With Virtua Fighter 5 and Sonic 4, Sega is seeing how profitable digital games can be, so how about bringing some of our beloved franchises back? While the new IP’s they are putting out in the digital market are killer, I’ve love to see some old favorites return and not just the old games brought back with a new coat of paint.