The Weekly Five: Reasons why Sega is failing in the western markets


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.

Poor Marketing

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?

Poor Scheduling

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.


28 responses to “The Weekly Five: Reasons why Sega is failing in the western markets

  1. Mateus says:

    Right. The whole article talks about how the past influences the present, and this is the kind of thing the stupid animals running game companies don’t understand.

  2. IrishNinja says:

    Pretty thorough, I think you covered most of the bases here – I’d’ve only mentioned that they’re getting into the digital game later than they should’ve.

    We’ve seen them make great strides this gen to connect with their fan community & get input, but as you pointed out, point # 3 hampers a lot of that online. With all the swag they give out, I wonder why they don’t do a low-level customer reward program like Club Nintendo does, I’d be all over that.

    Here’s to hoping Yakuza 5 makes it here, one way or another.

  3. celso fontes says:


    • Shigs says:

      Quiet you! I like Dimps. They did sonic Advance 1-3, Sonic Battle and the Sonic Rush series. I love all those games. Yea, Sonic 4 wasn’t great, but I’m gonna cut them some slack for their past games.

      Barry, sure the “After Dreamcast era before 2005 was very good, but a lot of that can be contributed to some of those games they were working on for Dreamcast before they decided to pull the plug (EX: Super Monkey Ball was meant for the DC originally).You tend to put more effort into making a game a system seller when you have hardware to sell.

    • sonicplayer says:

      Lol,I mean I like dimps, too, but the level design is strange in their games to downright awful, sonic 4 ep. 1 was mostly a flat plane, sonic 4 ep. 2 however was more mixed, but there were far too many bottomless pits, and yes I know about the signs.

      Ps I like rush, rush adventure, and colors ds.

      Now sonic advance…maybe i just suck, but i only played the third game, I never made it past the second level and I hate the physics.

      Sonic generations 3ds should have had 3d like the consoles, new designs for the stages, or not been made at all, period.

      No comment for sonic pocket adventure (who remembers, or actually played the game (also made by dimps).

      So in short if dimps doesn’t cleans up its act, they should just go work on the 2d fighting games for Capcom.

    • Barry the Nomad says:

      I don’t think Dimps is all that great, but they have nothing to do with why SEGA is failing in the West. They’re a SEGA of Japan problem, not a SEGA West marketing problem.

  4. SOUP says:

    Good article

  5. Barry the Nomad says:

    Good op-ed! Though I disagree that the Super Monkey Ball, JSRF, Yakuza era was “pretty good”. It was not just pretty good, it was awesome. THat was when we still have Dreamcast quality titles hitting consoles. It went from amazing to awful in ’05/’06 for a lot of titles.

  6. Crazytails says:

    Being careless with sonic is another reason ithink. Binary Domain could have been so big. The game had potential to apeal to such a mass market since it is undeniably a good and unique game.

    • Shigs says:

      While writing this, I think I came up with about 5 more reasons.

    • CrazyTails says:

      Heh yeah of course :P. Sonic carries the brand more than any other franchise. Sonic games should have been taken just as if not more seriously than some of sega’s other succesful franchises imo. They’re occasionally making good games, but really they should be SEGA’s best offerings. Sadly sonic sometimes got the worst treatment.

  7. -nSega54- says:

    Fun read, though I personally don’t think a focus on classics is as important as pushing forward quality new IP. Classics will not grow your brand, they will only cater (mainly) to those who already enjoy them.

    Sega needs to create new IP that resonates as well as their classics did. And that requires work on their part, something they’re, it seems, very hesitant to do.

  8. gelloh says:

    Sonic might need a vacation for a bit.
    Bring back:
    Streets Of Rage
    Golden Axe Revenge of Death Adder (arcade)
    Dragon Force
    A true Shining RPG (or SPRG)
    Gunstar Heroes
    Eternal Champions
    Panzer Dragoon
    Skies of Arcadia
    Wonder Boy
    and DUH! PHANTASY STAR (why not give us the PS2 remakes?)
    They’re sitting on a gold mine, but the luster is fading fast…..

  9. radrappy says:

    your 3rd point is right on the money. Sega’s reputation has never quite recovered from these troubled years and it’s absolutely KILLING them now. Mediocrity has yanked the developer from everyone’s radar and it’s going to take a LOT of work to get back in the spot light. It’s going to take some years of consistently high quality titles to do so.

  10. SkyBlue says:

    I agree with points 1 to 3, but 4 is hit and miss (I personally liked the Iron Man demo I played but I never buy licensed stuff anyway).

    5 is something that contradicts what SEGA is about doesn’t it?

    They are known for making New IPs, so saying that they are risking business by doing this makes little sense when you praised Yakuza, Bayonetta etc.

    I agree that they should try to reawaken old IPs but do you trust them enough to not screw those up?

    If they take points 1 to 3 I can see SEGA doing much better then now. 4 was more something every company has to do “because it’s a good idea”.

  11. Hitrax says:

    Does anyone remember when SEGA first announced what was to be their inevitable death in Jan 2001? They announced they would cease Dreamcast production, leave the home console market and become a third party company for all machines,
    do you remember when people used to say SEGA’s greatest pro was it’s high quality games and it’s greatest con was it’s consoles, so if they got rid of SEGA consoles the problem would be solved wouldn’t it?
    We would have these typical triple AAA SEGA games everywhere on all the main consoles, therefore, bad marketed SEGA home hardware would no longer exist to hold SEGA back from selling well and raking in fortunes?Well, nope not really, it never ended up quite like that at all did it people? No, not at all, instead what we got was a much weaker SEGA in every sense of the word, a much reduced presence in the video game industry scene and an increasingly shittier and shittier Sega that was a complete shadow of it’s former self, it wasn’t looking good, everybody thought that SEGA’s problems where their home consoles, but no, they were it’s actual strength, SEGA was only ever really good as a home hardware manufacturer as well as a software one.
    Now, SEGA still continue to fall and can’t even get the same recognition for quality as a third party company like Capcom or Namco – these two you’d think, would be in the same league as SEGA should be in, but SEGA can’t even manage that in their third party guise, never mind their first party one.
    It’s no longer about SEGA having to butcher it’s home hardware division, greatly shrinking the company down to near irrelevance in comparison to before, but it’s now about SEGA having to butcher all it really has left, offices and 2nd party companies and sub divisions within the wider SEGA organisation. The next stop for SEGA is bankruptcy, it cannot possibly sink any lower.
    Sad, but true…

  12. Hitrax says:

    In saying that, there was a particular highly ambitious plan that SEGA had set out for itself following their withdrawal from the home console market, they said that they wanted to aim for 25% market share of the entire Videogame business, rising SEGA’s profile to a point that they could never do when they were still making their home console hardware, but no,

    it stands out now that, SEGA would have stood a far better chance still being a major player in the industry with their home hardware, rather than shrinking to an irrelevant lowly third party, mostly ignored entity by the wider audience, it may be hard to believe to some, and it certainly was in Jan 2001, but now, it’s easier to see, when you consider what has happened since, that it’s true it would have been much bigger had they kept the Dreamcast going, but yes, the profits at the time was a big influence in their decision to leave,

    but the day they did that, was the beginning of the end for SEGA, even some ex employees on ‘Talk Dreamcast’ will tell you, SEGA is not the same company as it once was, it’s a mere tiny fraction of it’s former self, and a big part of that ‘tiny fraction’ is the fact it still has the same name it did when it was far greater than what it is now,

    still, all good things must come to an end at some point some may say, maybe SEGA’s new slogan should’ve been ‘Too be this Good doesn’t last’.

  13. SpandersP says:

    Shiggs, you’ve nailed this spot on for me. They haven’t learnt from the past; releasing Sega Rally on the same day as Halo 3. Binary Domain a week before Mass Effect 3?! BD would have stood a better chance being released now.

    The Marvel games have been an absolute joke and done nothing to regain Sega’s reputation.

    If FPS are all the rage, then why didn’t they release Conduit on multiplatform? Why not put out an Outtrigger spin off?

    Sega never follow through with their franchises unless it’s Sonic. This is a massive shame considering the breadth and depth of it’s back catologue.

    Compared to other publishers, Sega are shrinking fast. I just hope their digital strategy can take them to a more profitable place.

  14. Sega Uranus says:

    They have too many classic IPs that would work fantastically in our modern world, but I kind of like what they have been doing lately. I never expected another Golden Axe game after Beast Rider this gen, and now I am fully expecting Revenge of the Death=Adder sooner than later.

    But most of these issues can be summed up by just saying “Simon Jeffery”. We are still feeling his effect. A lot of blame should be given to Sonic Team as well. There still really is no reasoning for most of what they do, regardless if their games are a lot better than they were three years back.

  15. Hitrax says:

    If SEGA fail again with this new digital phase of business model, then I do not see much point in Sega, I mean why? The Sega we all knew and love is already largely dead and near irrelevant in the industry world stage,

    I just hope they are successful and get bigger again, but this new structure doesn’t suggest they’ve learnt from their constant marketing mistakes,

    I mean, as many have already said here, they are an absolute joke with their release schedule, releasing unknown IP’s at the same time as huge multi million sellers is suicide, how many failures will it take for Sega to realise this?

    And for Christ’s sake, will they start improving their own IP and give us classic revamps and decent re-releases, the recent Sega Vintage Classics are good, but it’s not really enough, at least market things properly and support what you are best known for, WHILE, properly marketing the new IP – as no one is gonna even know they exist, just like what happened with Binary Domian.

    I hope they bring out a Bayonetta 2 and not confirm what these rumours have been saying and cancel it, they would have been better off bringing that out instead of Binary Domain, at least they would have made some half decent profit on it, or at least stand a better chance of it.

  16. matty says:

    I just figured they had shit planning as to wear they should focus their resources, especially budgeting. Or maybe SEGA HQ could just be underestimating the west.

    Also, people say that the they should bring back their old IP, which isn’t a bad idea if they handled it like Generations and Guardian Heroes, but they could have stood stronger on their new IPs ’cause if they don’t look like they give a shit about their new titles, then how can anyone else be expected to?

  17. Final Hazard says:

    We need to have more faith in sega, they still have one more chance. If you heard about the SA2 xbox live arcade and psn port it should boost their profits enough to make a strong comeback. We all know Sonic Adventure 2 was the fans favorite 3D sonic game of all time and its inevitable re-release can open up new possibilities like yakuza 5, Sonic Adventure 3, or maybe even another home console. The possibilities are endless.

  18. Final Hazard says:

    Im positive Its sails will topple every other sonic game to date

  19. Emmett The Crab says:

    I like Golden Axe Beast Rider.

    • Barry the Nomad says:

      lol, Emmett, I read that in a Hans Moleman voice. “I was saying boo-urns.”

      And yeah, Beast Rider has its moments. 🙂

  20. Cody says:

    You forgot their horrible support. Their AU/UK support email auto-replies there’ll be a 2 day response and yet months later there’s still no reply.

    You can’t get hold of a real person. You can try the 1902 number but it’s a costly timed call.

    They merged their Twitter account into the main @Sega one, however God help you if you want to submit a support request to them outside of America (3 tries and ongoing…)

    On top of all of that, the AU/UK support offices just got closed. Now there is literally no way at all to get any support. I mean when you have a problem, what are you expected to do?

  21. Hitrax says:

    Sometimes, it seems like SEGA do everything they can NOT to succeed, I heard a few months back, not even a week after they announced their restructure, that they just bout a whole island resort to turn it into another pointless SEGA Casino, for Christ sake, SEGA need to get their priorities in order..

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