SEGA has its roots in the Western world and that influence is still ever so present today. It all started in Hawaii, went to Japan, then was bought by Gulf + Western, but then settled on Japanese ownership in 1984. But all those years of influence from Western staff and ownership never completely went away even after being staunchly Japanese for most of its life. Selling arcade machines, making your own consoles and even dabbling in in-door theme parks requires tons of investment that won’t be recouped in Japan, so it’s good to have international roots.
Author Archives: Trippled
It was 2015 when I posted the four part retrospective of Sega of Japan’s game development. 2015 was the year where they announced a new initiative and went as far as to make their previous corporate divisions their own separate companies. Such as Sega Games, Sega Interactive for arcades and so on (which they are already undoing again in April). Sega Game’s new president, Haruki Satomi, promised that he would right the wrongs of the past, gain back the trust of consumers and also shareholders with their “Road to 2020” initiative. Of course this encompasses the evolution of their Japanese in-house studios, which are arguably the core of Sega.
When SEGA dropped out of the hardware business, SEGA fans wanted more games than ever before. Sadly, that didn’t happen as best as it could have. While several great SEGA games came to the west, several never saw a release outside Japan. In part two of this SEGA retrospective, we go through every system’s Japanese exclusives and add our own opinions on games SEGA should have localized and how they could have handled the Japanese line-up better.
Sega is a Japanese company first and foremost, no way around it. As I did in the previous two articles of mine, I will delve into the Japanese side of Sega, and exclusively tailor this to Japanese only Sega games that have not made into the west, as well as how those types of games evolved. Read on for a retrospective look back at some games you likely never heard or about and surely never played!
Arcade? When you ask the modern western gamer about such a concept, they will likely know about the genre of “arcade” in today’s market of downloadable games on console, PC and smartphone. Home and mobile ports of classic coin operated titles. But twenty years ago, people would visit actual venues to play games they could otherwise not to, offering considerable advantages in graphics, controls and cabinet designs.
Putting a coin into a machine should get you more enjoyment that you expect out of it. That has been the ethos of SEGA’s coin-up division for as long as existed. Immediate, visceral, thrilling; all of that should be encapsulated into the experience. One session should not go longer than 3 minutes. Often times games offer more depth as well, which is best summed up by the phrase “easy to learn hard to master” – which can be said of countless fighting games.
But different cultural perspectives can transform one concept considerably, and this can be applied to arcade games. Back in the glory days of arcades, westerners played in an arcade maybe once a month or even once a week at most. However in Japan, with its density of population, going to an arcade can become simply a part of your everyday routine, similar to how westerners play their games on home and mobile platforms. But what could one keep coming back to the arcade, time and again? Cards. Yes. Magnetic cards.
A NEW STRUCTURE, A NEW SEGA
The executive team, Hideki Okamura (Left), Hisao Oguchi (Middle) and Takayuki Kawagoe (Right).
In 2005, Sega was back in the black in all areas for the first time in a long time. The Sega Sammy structure was completed, and the next generation home consoles were ahead. Like in the formation of twelve new R&D studios in 1998, executive management had a reset. Long time executives Hideki Sato and Hisashi Suzuki retired from Sega, after their thirty – or even in Suzuki’s case – forty years of service.
As mentioned in Part 3, Hisao Oguchi would atain the highest executive position which he held until 2008 where he received even wider responsibilities as Chief Creative Officer of Sega Sammy.
Then there is Masano Maeda, who joined in 1991. Madea was responsible for building a new Western management team that made crucial partnerships and buyouts of Western companies, like Creative Assembly, Sports Interactive and Secret Level On a side note: the amount of games developed for Xbox 360 amount to roughly forty games, and on PC to about sixty games. On the Dreamcast, the amount comes to fourteen, and old PC releases amount to sixteen.
REUNIFICATION AND TWELVE INNOVATIVE R&D STUDIOS
Playing up an executive managing director and joking about the state of the Dreamcast at the time, says a lot about Sega’s attitude at the time.
In Part 2 we covered Sega’s golden age, but great heights inevitably can bring great lows. Sega had lots of up and downs throughout their history. They also had great games, lots of them! But ultimately Sega did not make that much money from the Saturn. However, in the arcades they did absolute gangbusters. Sega needed to change their approach in regards to development and also their hardware. The solution was to make the Dreamcast and NAOMI arcade hardware the same and have all of the internal studios make games for it,in turn allowing them further grow and prosper. Twelve R&D studios in total were established, and the nine software studios were not split into arcade and console divisions – they made games for everything. Hisashi Suzuki and Yu Suzuki would manage the arcade business, with Hisashi putting in his final stretch at Sega before retirement.
THE NUMBER ONE ARCADE ENTERPRISE
The Model series of arcade hardware by Yu Suzuki in co-operation with Lockhead Martin, where the next step in the Sega arcade world. Virtua Fighter sold Sega Saturns in Japan.
In Part 1, we looked at Sega’s origins and their Japanese game development during the 80s. In Part 2 we turn our attention to the golden age, when Sega was fought in the console wars and arcades were in full-force globally. Throughout the 90s, Sega would really grow up and mature and have individual divisions, splitting into arcade and consumer software and product development. Many of the programmers, designers and planners of the 80s and earlier would become managers and producers of their own divisions.
Let’s start Part 2 off with the growth of their AM studios, which is short for Amusement Machine Research and Development.
Sega is an interesting company when it comes to their origins. There are companies like Namco, Taito and Konami that started in the 60s with electromechanical games and there are those like Capcom and Square that started in the 80s with video games. Sega is different.
Sega had its roots even earlier with slots and jukeboxes in the 1940s in Hawaii, when they were known as Standard Games. Today, Sega of Japan would rather say that Sega didn’t start until it was moved to Tokyo and renamed to Service Games in 1951. However all that expertise in manufacturing slots and jukeboxes during the Standard Games days really gave Sega the boost they needed when they entered the market to manufacture their very first “Amusement Machine” in 1965, Periscope, which the company still prides itself for as it was their first worldwide commerical success.