Things look a bit bleak over at Sega. There’s been a lot of restructuring that’s been occurring as of late. Several titles have been cancelled or delayed to focus on more AAA games. The European and Australian offices have been closed down. Jun Sunoe had to sell his guitar for cash and is now using an old ukulele and poor Takashi Iizuka had to change his toothpaste from Crest: Ultra Whitening to store brand!
Okay, those last two are lies, but the Sega outside of Japan has been in dire straits as of late. However, things are not as bad as they seem. Some recent decisions have actually been very beneficial to the company. Read on to see why those dark clouds may be breaking up into blue skies.
I’m starting off with what seems like the worst thing to happen so far. Sega had to close its European and Australian offices. The main reason for this is the fact that they focus on so few retail titles now that it’s costly for them to keep these extra offices open. It sucks that so many people will be out of a job, but this NEEDS to happen for them to survive. Not to mention the fact that with them pushing a lot of new titles digitally, they really don’t need those offices outside of promotion. But there might be fewer employees let go than previously thought as several of them are being re-positioned within their new division, Sega Networks (this might just be within SoJ though). With teams focused solely on digital games mainly for smart phones and tablets. I believe this restructuring will be a good thing mainly because…
A.) Focusing on only AAA games means you’ll see a lot less mediocre to poor quality games from Sega. This will in turn, help bring its catalog closer to its former glory. If the games are great, fans will buy them and there will be less “Sega sucks” on the ol’ game forums.
B.) Games like Sonic 4, All-Star Racing and Monkey Ball have done very well for Sega on the smart phones and tablets. In fact, Sega keeps updating All-Star Racing with new racers and tracks even when the sequel is right around the corner. Yes, the smartphone/tablet market has been lucrative for Sega. I believe part of the reason is because they don’t do the .99 cent thing that’s been killing other major games brought to that platform. Outside of some sales, they mostly keep their games around the $2.99-$9.99 price range.
The Digital Frontier
The smartphone/Tablet market is just the tip of the iceberg. Last week I mentioned that Sega hasn’t given much love to its old IP’s and focused mainly on new ones for its retail games. However, in the digital market they are going hand in hand with Sega re-releasing many of its classic and greatest games back onto the current gen consoles thanks to digital downloads. Now, our favorite titles from the Saturn and Dreamcast era are returning and in full HD. Games like Jet Set Radio, Sonic Adventure 2 and NiGHTS will soon return for die-hard fans while making new ones. This will help garner interest in sequels to these IP’s in a lesser-risk environment. Not to mention the brand new digital games coming from innovative developers such as Avalanche Studios (Renegade Ops) and Arkedo Studios (Hell Yeah!) which allows Sega to publish some great, new IP’s at a much lower cost than full retail. Sega’s new download space is starting to feel like the Sega of old but in a brand new way. With disc-based consoles probably only lasting another generation or two, THIS is the future of Sega and it looks to be very bright.
Sonic Team giving Sonic a Vacation
Since 2005, there’s been a regular Sonic game made on consoles (not counting portables) by Sonic Team each year. Sometimes by its A team and other times by its B team but there’s always been one put out. This year, outside of Dimps Sonic 4-2 and Sumo’s All-Stars Racing Transformed there’s no new major Sonic games to speak of and this is a great thing. Why? It means Sonic Team is taking their time and has their full attention on the next big Sonic title. Granted, they do have their hands full with Phantasy Star Online 2 as well, but I believe that is mostly a separate team within the division if I’m not mistaken. It makes you wonder what 2013 holds for Sonic. Will the series be re-invented as the rumors say or will we just get another great Sonic game to go with Colors and Generations? Time will tell.
The Community Staff and Brand Managers
No matter what, Sega needs a face. It needs people who can listen to the fans feedback and help them with their questions and concerns. It needs great people like Kellie Parker, Julian Mehlfeld on the community side plus awesome (and patient) brand managers such as Ken Balough and Aaron Webber to bring light to Sega’s upcoming games with giveaways and events like Sonic Boom and the Sega Arcade. Not to mention dealing with all the whiny fanboys and their bullcrap on a daily basis. For that, they deserve a freakin’ medal. With the other offices in English speaking countries gone, these folks are the only way to connect to Sega for many people. Here’s hoping they stay around for a long time to come.
As I said earlier, Sega’s main focus now is on fewer retail titles and making sure those titles are of the highest quality. So far, it’s really showing. When Alex and I previewed the Sega games at E3, we couldn’t find a stinker in the bunch. Hell, we couldn’t even find one that’s mediocre. Aliens: Colonial Marines, Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed, Hell Yeah! and The Cave. All of them were looking fantastic. Even Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz was shaping up to be one of the best SMB games yet! Not to mention the digital side (again), but this year we got awesome games like Jet Grind Radio, House of the Dead 4 (PSN), Sonic 4: Episode 2, the Monster World Collection, Alex Kid and friends collection (with Super Hang-On in 3-D), Virtua Fighter 5: Final showdown, Dynamite Deka and Dragon Force (both in Japan), NiGHTS HD (YES!!) and the all-but-confirmed-by-Sega, Sonic Adventure 2. When it comes to quality games, it’s a great, great year to be a Sega fan!
So there you have it. Not looking so bleak anymore is it? With a stronger focus on quality games, new divisions made just for tablet gaming and a strong showing in the digital space with innovative new games along with some great classics, there’s nothing but “blue, blue skies I see!”