A few months after Japanese pinball manufacturer Sammy took over Sega
(officially a “merger”), the boss Hajime Satomi, had these wonderfully
understated words to say, “It’s unfortunate that Sega has been losing
money for ten years”.
He added that an appropriate course of action would be for offending
board members to “take responsibility”. One survivor of the ensuing
bloodbath was company stalwart Hisao Oguchi, who had been appointed
president of Sega Corp only in 2003, and had not presided over many of
the mapcap mishaps of the previous decade.
In Japan, the company has been in a frenzy of reorganization, pulling
together the many disparate entities that once made up Sega’s sprawling
empire. Evidently, Satomi has no patience with muddle, declaring that
only “uniformity” can lead to a sensible strategy.
Sega in the West has also seen changes at the top. After a long stint
running the European business, Naoya Tsurumi is now heading up both
transatlantic operations, with Simon Jeffery,
former boss of LucasArts, serving as president and COO in the States.
The idea being that what’s good in America must be good in Europe.
Worldwide, the merged operation is aiming for 40% growth within three
years, with the Japanese coin-ops (Pachinko) making up about 75% of the
business. On its own, Sega is forecasting sales of $1.8 billion this
year with profits of around $70 million.
While its formidable Japanese development talent is being marshaled in
readiness for the next generation, the company is reorganizing in the
West. Recent deals have included the purchase of British house The
Creative Assembly, best known for its Total War series. More
acquisitions and activity can be expected as the company seeks to
expand its development and franchise bases.
China will likely be another area of activity over the next few years.
The company is working on a massive online version of adventure Shenmue
for the Asian markets, and has signed a distribution deal with AtGames
for Chinese territories.
Closer to home, its complete 2005 roster included Super Monkey Ball
Deluxe, Shadow the Hedgehog, Shining Tears, SpikeOut: Battle Street and
Spartan: Total Warrior, all of which can please reviewers and
retailers. More ‘Superstars’ from Sega’s rich heritage of game
characters are likely to appear in the first generation of games for
new consoles including Sonic, House of the Dead, Virtua Fighter
and even Afterburner.
Most publishers will tell you that creativity is their key strength.
With Sega, you can believe it. Again and again, the company has
innovated and taken risks. That, alas, has often been its undoing.
Perhaps now that the burden of hardware stewardship is a part of its
history, Sega can begin to shine again.