Simon Jeffery

Simon Jeffery

Western developers are being courted to create games for Sega, based on
the Japanese company’s classic characters and IP. 

The plan was
outlined to Next Generation by Sega of America president and COO Simon
Jeffery.

Sega has yet to officially announce games for next generation consoles,
above and beyond Condemned and Full Auto for Xbox 360, set for launch
later this year. But video footage of games based on Sonic the
Hedgehog, Virtua Fighter, Afterburner and House of the Dead have been
for shown behind closed doors.

Jeffery said that Sega’s IP  is being seeded among developers in
Europe and North America in order to give its products broader global
appeal. The company bought UK developer Creative Assembly earlier this
year, following that up with a publishing deal with Canada’s Silicon
Knights.

"Over the last year, we’ve seen a major shift in company strategy. For
the West we should not be relying on Japanese product any more. We
should source western product for the western market and that’s what
we’ve been doing for the last six months."

He added, "We’re going to be announcing a lot of product over the next
six to 12 months which is being originated in the West. The western
gaming markets have developed enormously over the last five years. The
kinds of games being made in Japan tend to largely appeal to Japanese
gamers. We are no longer doing the typical Japanese company thing of
just bringing Japanese product to the western market."

Classic Sega

But Sega isn’t just creating new IP among western development partners.
He said, "We are building new properties in the West, for the West, but
we are also taking classic Sega properties and giving them to western
developers to build and that is something that will work in our favor.
That is something we’ll be announcing in the months ahead."

Although Jeffery would not give specifics, he confirmed that Sega’s
biggest names, including Sonic, would be joining the next generation
caravan some time in late 2006. "There’s every likelihood that there
will be Sonic games on the next generation platforms. We would be
insane not to do that," he said. "But when platforms are introduced to
market they tend to be expensive with limited numbers of hardware
available at retail. They tend to be picked up by early adopters and
the games we’ve announced are aimed at that consumer.

"Mass market gamers come later in the hardware’s life-cycle. We’re
very hopeful that the hardware companies can get the numbers into the
market six to 12 months into the life of the consoles, so we’d be
releasing about that time, ideally coinciding with a Holiday."

Ups and downs

Jeffery says Sega has a newfound confidence, following its exit from
the hardware business and an indifferent beginning as a software maker.
"We’re pretty confident about where we are in the world right now.
We’ve had some ups and downs.

"We emerged from not being a hardware company to being a software
company with a lot of flamboyance but then maybe didn’t quite live up
to expectation. We didn’t really plan out our platform strategy widely
enough."

He says rivals lack Sega’s creative edge. "A lot of the leading game
companies are almost becoming packaged goods companies – they are
driven by licenses and sequels. We see a great opportunity for Sega to
be building original games. We have a fantastic portfolio of IP that we
can update and contemporize, rather than just trying to build our
company around movie licenses or sports franchises."

He said that online would be a "focal part of our business" but
scotched recent rumors of a Sonic MMOG. "Some fan somewhere has way too
much time on their hands," he said. "We are investing in the online
space but Sonic is a brand that skews to the young and traditionally
younger gamers are not part of the MMOG experience. I’d be amazed if we
did that. It’s nothing that Sega has planned."

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