85: What's in a Name?

"The company publicly vowed 'never to stick to one concept for too long,' acknowledging that every piece of technology 'has a life and a death.' In principle, this policy was sound, and it was reassuring for customers to know Sega would remain committed to pushing the boundaries of videogaming. It has, however, been somewhat of a double-edged sword; pushing boundaries while simultaneously dispossessing consistency.

"Whether the management took this philosophy too literally or simply used it as an excuse to circumnavigate problems, it's impossible to say. In retrospect, one thing is certainly clear - this belief has remained at the core of Sega's principles ever since, and has turned the developer into something of an industry dichotomy; pledging longevity on the one hand by establishing and supporting long-lived game franchises, embracing brevity on the other by rushing out updated hardware solutions and abandoning console systems as soon as they appear to flag in the market place."

Spanner looks at the long, troubled history of Sega.

What's in a Name?

I probably know even less about marketing than the author, but it seems to me very apparent that the reason of Sega's troubles is the good ol' greed. That explains the fast moving forward and cutting off anything left behind tactic ("we don't need anything that doesn't make us money"), as well as the clinging to the Genesis system ("it made us more money than any other attempt, so we must try and milk it for all it's worth") and expensive(-ity of) add-ons. It's a greedy game companie's smart move to allow autonomy for the developers, since that will produce best games which will establish a base for success (and thus - money) in the long run (think franchises), it's too bad they didn't think of others - customers and 3d party developers - more.

Wow thats weird I just bought a Sega today and now I see the Sega symbol. But its definitely true that a name can help a system sell.

I found this to be a bit of a ponderous and wandering article without a strong central thesis. But then it struck me that there couldn't possibly be a better way to summarize Sega than that!

Because as the article notes, the problem particular to Sega the game company (as opposed to Sega the publisher or Sega the hardware manufacturer) is that they never had a strong and consistent identity. To this day if you ask just about any gamer "what is Sega?" you'll get shuffling downward glances and a few mumbled "Sonic" or "Shenmue" and perhaps a quiet "err... Peter Moore when he had hair?". Ask the same question "What is Nintendo?" and you'll get an enthusiastic list of franchises longer than your arm and rapturous anecdotes about Miyamoto or Yamauchi or even Howard and Nestor.

The closest Sega got to such an identity was probably with their "Blast Processing" advert. For a brief and shining moment that somehow managed to imbue the entire Sega catalog with a gloss that brought them all together under a Sega banner that meant kick ass gaming. But ultimately the SNES won the day and that was pretty much the last we heard of a unified identity for Sega.

Honestly, I have no idea what Sega does these days. They are almost completely off my radar.

Wow, who raised this one from the dead? SV93? Ah well.

Just a few notes around and about the article:
Virtua Fighter remains one of the great arcade stars in Japan and one of the things that has kept Sega afloat over the years. The franchise is kind of 'shuffled past' in this article while it has constantly raked in millions upon millions.

The word Saturn is never once mentioned in this article oddly enough. And with it, Segata Sanshiro, one of the greatest Japanese media icons ever.

I think this is also something that Sega has consistently failed at, seizing the attention of the Western market. They're a household name in Japan, mostly because of the fact that they ruled (and currently rule) the arcades there, but always undersold in the rest of the world.

Sega is currently employing a few design studios to create games that have taken quite some notice:
Mad World (aka the insane black, white and red wii game) &
Bayonetta (aka that action game about that chick with the hair and glasses by the guy who created Devil May Cry)

Valkyria Chronicles is also about to hit and is set to put some new vigor into the strategy rpg genre by distilling the level grinding and massive micro management out of the genre and putting pure rock-paper-scissors strategy first again with a dash of excellent graphical design thrown into the mix.

They also published the two Condemned titles.


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