Moving into the second month of our Year of the SEGA Developers, we shine the spotlight on two beloved SEGA development teams as well as their short life as a single entity. SEGA’s Overworks and WOW Entertainment were formed in in the midst of the Dreamcast era alongside several other internal SEGA development divisions. Prior to the formation of these teams, SEGA had a long history of shifting about, renaming, and refocusing the efforts of their many internal developers. To better understand where Overworks, WOW Entertainment, and SEGA’s many other divisions came about, let’s dive into a short history of SEGA’s internal teams!
The early 80s saw the Development Divisions. While output from these divisions were simply branded as being a SEGA game, fans couldn’t help but notice similarities between games like OutRun and Space Harrier, while titles like Alien Syndrome and Altered Beast played similarly to each other and were quite different from the likes of OutRun. This is because of the talented division heads, each with their own sensibilities and trademark gameplay styles. Yu Suzuki headed up division #2 while Rikiya Nakagawa headed up division #3. While the development divisions focused on arcade titles, the consumer development divisions focused on home console games. These teams released early Master System titles and worked closely with the arcade divisions to produce home console ports.
In the 1990s, SEGA reorganized their R&D studios, the consumer divisions, and the development divisions with a new naming classification. The SEGA-AM Teams, short for Amusement Machine Research & Development Teams, each had a numeric designation from 1 to 11. Despite this simplification, ask any SEGA historian to name every team in this era and you’ll encounter a number of unknown divisions, missing divisions, and divisions that seemingly came and went with no output to their name. Still, several teams in this era made their mark and became well known to SEGA fans, including SEGA-AM2, Sonic Team (SEGA-AM8), SEGA-AM3 (creators of Virtual-On and Last Bronx), Team Andromeda (SEGA-AM6), and several others. Nearly every classic SEGA title from the Genesis era through to the Saturn can be traced to a SEGA-AM Team. Not only did SEGA’s restructuring make classifying who made what game easier for SEGA fans, but it also gave specific teams some much earned public praise.
In 2000 during the Dreamcast era, another reorganization took place, this time putting more of an individual emphasis on each of the divisions. The newly formed teams included WOW Entertainment, SEGA AM2, Hitmaker, Amusement Vision, Sega Rosso, Smilebit, Overworks, Sonic Team, United Game Artists, and Sega Mechatronics. Some teams were largely unchanged from to 90s divisions, like Sonic Team and SEGA AM2, while others gave a proper name to existing former SEGA-AM Teams like Overworks (SEGA-AM7) and WOW Entertainment (SEGA-AM1). While these formations only existed until 2004, when yet another reorganization occurred, the teams of this era made an incredible impact on SEGA fans.
In 2004, during another reorganization, Overworks and WOW Entertainment were merged to become SEGA WOW. United Game Artists, meanwhile, was folded into Sonic Team, thus explaining the very Space Channel 5-like games Feel the Magic: XY/XX and The Rub Rabbits!, as well as the abundance of Ulala cameos in Sonic Team games like the Wii version of Samba de Amigo and Sonic Riders. Amusement Vision and Smilebit merged and spun off two teams, one focusing on the Yakuza series and Monkey Ball sequels, and another working on the Mario & Sonic titles. If you ever wondered why Jet Set Radio‘s Gouji Rokkaku makes a cameo in Yakuza, there’s your answer – the game featured former Smilebit members.
Several other changes took place in this era, and while I wish I could chart every internal change here, doing so would look read like a complex Holmesian explanation featuring several dozen names and logos pinned to a wall with color coded string running between them with dates from the 1980s through to the present. Today, there exists with SEGA Consumer R&D Division teams consisting of Team Yakuza, Sonic Team, CS3 R&D (which contains former Overworks members), and Sports R&D (still producing Mario & Sonic titles, as well as the Let’s Make a series). Meanwhile, on the arcade side, there exists the Amusement R&D Division, a much smaller division than SEGA had in the 90s and 00s, and even smaller now following last week’s announcement of layoffs.
The realm of smart phone games is covered by SEGA Networks, a group founded in 2012 and a major focus for SEGA as they move forward. SEGA Networks is responsible for the Kingdom Conquest series and is working with Sonic Team on the recently revealed Sonic Runners. Purchased studios also play a major part within SEGA, with the company acquiring existing studios rather than forming new ones internally. Despite being initially external, The Creative Assembly, Sports Interactive, Three Rings Design, Hardlight Studio, Relic Entertainment, and Index Corporation (owner of Atlus) all now fall under the SEGA umbrella and bring many popular franchises with them featuring a sizable back catalog, new sequels, and brand new titles utilizing SEGA owned and SEGA licensed IPs.
Overworks and WOW Entertainment are our focus throughout February, but I thought many readers would appreciate a brief history of SEGA’s internal development divisions to put this month’s developer into context, explaining how they came about in 2000, what they produced following their merge, and what former staff are producing today. Throughout the month expect many features shining the spotlight on many classic Overworks and WOW Entertainment games, as well as a few you may have overlooked!
In the comments below, feel free to share your knowledge of SEGA’s internal shuffling about of and creation of development divisions. Have a correction or an addition to make? Let us know!Ad: