Tom Kalinske oversaw SEGA of America in the early 90s during the Genesis era, arguably the company’s most successful time in the console space. Despite their incredible Western success under his leadership, his relations with SEGA of Japan were sometimes strained, most notably with regard to the launch of the Saturn. He departed the company in 1996.
Speaking to Gamesindustry.biz at the DICE Summit, shortly after the recently-announced downsizing and relocating of SEGA’s American headquarters, he does not mince words when discussing his former company.
“[Their departure from hardware] was not inevitable,” Kalinske said. “It could have been avoided if they had made the right decisions going back literally 20 years ago. But they seem to have made the wrong decisions for 20 years.”
He cites the SEGA-Sony system, the partnership he’d almost made happen before SEGA of Japan’s board of directors squashed the idea, as a main factor in his ultimate departure from the company.
“We go to Sega and the board turned it down, which I thought was the stupidest decision ever made in the history of business.”
“[Sony Interactive CEO] Olaf Olafsson, [Sony Corporation of America president and CEO] Mickey Schulhof and I had agreed we were going to do one platform, share the development cost of it, share the probable loss for a couple years on it, but each benefit from the software we could bring to that platform,” he said. “Of course, in those days, we were much better at software than they were, so I saw this as a huge win. We went to Sony and they agreed, ‘Great idea.’ Whether we called it Sega-Sony or Sony-Sega, who cared? We go to Sega and the board turned it down, which I thought was the stupidest decision ever made in the history of business. And from that moment on, I didn’t feel they were capable of making the correct decisions in Japan any longer.”
Despite Kalinske’s strong words, he clarifies that he doesn’t wish SEGA ill will, and seems hopeful that they’ll ultimately stick around.
“You have to really make a lot of mistakes to kill a strong brand,” he concluded. “I do think some great brands obviously have been destroyed, Atari being one of them. Why didn’t that survive? I think there’s a lot of bad decision making involved in killing brands like that. I hope Sega isn’t the same thing.”
“I think there’s a lot of bad decision making involved in killing brands like that. I hope Sega isn’t the same thing.”
The full story, which includes more about SEGA along with comments from Kalinske on Nintendo’s current rivalry with the mobile industry, can be found here.Ad: