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We've lost the trust of older fans - Sega CEO

Hajime Satomi wants to win customers back, establish the company's brand once more

After a series of high-profile misses like Aliens: Colonial Marines and Sonic Boom, Sega is recommitting itself to quality. According to a Siliconera translation of a Famitsu interview with Sega Sammy CEO and president Hajime Satomi, the publisher is placing a renewed emphasis on making great games, particularly in the console space.

"I've been talking to the employees about how we should start putting serious consideration into quality from this point on," Satomi said. "Especially in North America and Europe, where it's always been more of a focus on schedules, I believe that if we can't maintain quality, it would be better to not release anything at all."

He went on to suggest the company used to have that focus, but lost it shortly after it left the hardware market entirely to become a third-party publisher.

"We did our best to build a relationship of mutual trust with older fans of Sega, but looking back, there've been some titles that have partially betrayed that [trust] in the past 10 years... Sega in the '90s was known for its brand, but after that, we've lost trust, and we were left with nothing but reputation. For this reason, we'd like to win back the customers' trust, and become a 'brand,' once again," Satomi said.

When asked if Sega would have new consoles titles ready by the end of this year, Satomi said he couldn't promise anything as a result of that renewed focus. However, he did believe Sega would be ready to announce a new project at this September's Tokyo Game Show.

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Latest comments (11)

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 2 years ago
Okay then, Sega. Get to work on a few revivals and/or reboots (Shining Force, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Phantasy Star, etc.), enough with the not so hot Sonic games until you find a team that can do them right and stay far away from anything resembling a movie license.
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Joel Hruska Analyst/Journalist 2 years ago
The insane thing about this is that Sega has a perfect example of how to keep a franchise fresh and interesting. Mario, the character that Sonic *debuted* against, still gets quality titles every few years. Sometimes they're 2D side-scrollers and sometimes Nintendo tiptoes into 3D, but each Mario title is well-crafted and tight. Not all of them are equally excellent, but none of them are bad.

Nintendo, in other words, has found ways to update the core gameplay and concepts at the heart of its original 2D side-scrolling franchise and continues to give fans of it what they want while simultaneously innovating enough to keep people coming back. For all the companies various failings in the console market, it knows how to iterate its franchises.

Sega doesn't have to reinvent the wheel for Sonic. It could start by locking its design teams in a room and making them all beat the best Sonic games and then saying: "Ok -- rediscover what made our franchise great in its heyday, break out the core elements that gamers loved (plenty of retrospectives and reviews on this) and then update those in a way that stays true to the original game.

No Were-Hogs. No weird side characters. No angsty story. Bring back speed and smooth gameplay, and players *will* come back.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 2 years ago
@Joel: Or you could just buy Freedom Planet (look it up) and see how a Sonic game might look and play under the right hands... :D
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Show all comments (11)
Paul Jace Merchandiser 2 years ago
I'm still not sure why Sega hasn't just licensed Nintendo to make a pair of Sonic games for console and handheld. That's the quickest way to inject some quality back in the Sonic brand. As for the rest of their line up, some additional licences to other companies might work as well but I think they should just try to focus on what they know and what they do best instead of trying to branch out so much.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 9th July 2015 12:13am

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 years ago
Sega is that company which had all the classic games which inspired the PS2, PS3 and 360 area, but went nowhere. At best they got a stuck in the past sequel or emulation re-release. Shinobi, Altered Beast, Phantasy Star, Shining Force, Daytona, House of the Dead, Virtua Cop, Space Harrier, Alex Kidd, Virtua Fighter, Virtua Rally,
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Axel Cushing Freelance Writer 2 years ago
If they are serious about bringing back "quality" to their name, I'm all for seeing it. What they might want to do is focus on just a few titles to start off, go back to their original IPs, and bring them up to date.

Shinobi - Could very easily be redone as a stealth action game in the vein of Splinter Cell or more straight action like Ninja Gaiden.

Sonic - He's the flagship character, he's going to get a game, so make it a good one. Get back to the basics: speed and excellent level design.

Shining Force - With as many people buying Final Fantasy, Star Ocean, and the Tales series, there's clearly an appetite for JRPGs. Learn what doesn't work from those examples, then apply that knowledge to make the sort of JRPG that gamers have been missing.

Chakan - This one has more "cult" potential than the other titles (and it doesn't start with an "S"), but given the highly unexpected success of Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and The Witcher series, it might just be the sort of thing that makes gamers say, "Wait, Sega put this out?" with astonished disbelief.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 2 years ago
@Axel: The Shining series is still being cranked out in Japan (the last game was Shining Resonance in 2014 for the PS3). Unfortunately none of those games has come to the west since 2007. Personally, I think Sega should divide the franchise into dungeon crawlers (Shining in the Darkness), turn-based strategy games (Shining Force-Shining Force III), and maybe action/RPGs (Shining Force Neo/Shining Force EXA).

As for Chakan, it would be a big stretch for it to be anything more than a "cult" (lower selling) game unless it really did something different. Riding the nostalgia wave only works to the point of getting those who recall an old game to buy it while younger players pass it up for something they know. Still, it would be cool to see the character pop up somewhere again as attempts to bring him back years ago didn't pan out as they should have:

http://www.thelostworlds.net/BO2/Chakan_and_Sirens.html
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Axel Cushing Freelance Writer 2 years ago
@Greg
With regards the Shining series, in all their multiple forms, I had been thinking more along the lines of a total reboot (and I hate the term, but it's the closest one that can be used). Instead of hiding the series in Japan, go for worldwide release, starting fresh across the board. I can see the appeal of having things broken up like what you're describing, but at the same time, there'd be the risk of taking the same road Final Fantasy has gone down with some really interesting games and some "WTF?!" titles. Crisis Core was interesting, Dirge of Cerberus rather less so.

My thought on Chakan was less about "riding the nostalgia wave" and more about seeing an IP that doesn't have the sort of baggage that more recognizable series have. True, old game geeks like you and I would probably have a different appreciation than younger players, but all the components are there to make something satisfying for both groups. Somebody saying, "I can't do anything with this property!" probably shouldn't be touching it.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 2 years ago
@Axel: Well, the Shining series has already gone "WTF" if you look up Resonance gameplay videos on YouTube. I'll wait. That B.A.N.D. system and the musical instruments? Not in my Shining game, grrrr. That said, i may need to import it just so I can get a chuckle and cry at the same time.

Anyway, I was thinking along the lines of staying true to the original games in the series (Shining in the Darkness/Shining Force). As for the more action-based games, they mimic the Diablo games to some extent, so that could be the third and final route.

The same goes for Phantasy Star, which has been through some rough times in terms of getting decent games out and getting the ones worth playing localized outside Asia. I'm replaying the Master System original (again) for a future article and it's amazing how much it innovated back then with things pushed aside for flashier visuals and less impact. Even the first Phantasy Star Online has a nicer "feel" to it than some of the later games.

And yep, if there's to be anything Chakan-y coming, it has to be from people who want to do something new and can do so for anyone who picks up a controller. The Kain stuff was an interesting read because you could see some cool stuff that would have been done in a Chakan sequel absorbed into other properties (with both successes and failures).
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany2 years ago
That's a commendable exercise in self-critizism that you don't always see in the industry, I could even mention more companies that blame the players for not buying their game (Won't say name :P) before taking the blame or look the other way around pretending that all is fine.
SEGA has ideas and has talent; but that is one of the basic rules in game designs: we all have ideas, but making this ideas work in a game is a complete different story.
Talking about traditional fans. I'm still waiting for another "Condemned" game, I still consider it one of the best franchises that SEGA created in recent times. Maybe they could think about de-freezing that one?
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Suzuki-san left in a sulk - they fragmented and squandered their AM# development studios - attempted a unfortunate merger with Microsoft - and attempted to claim they knew better that everyone else, only for all of their fanciful business structure creations to collapse like wet wall-paper. That is not even dealing with the internal board room feud that saw one chief die in harness and another to depart in infamy.

A company that even tried to exit from its amusement business... only for that to be now their only establish market placement!

As a co-contributor for the book on "Service Games" (SEGA) - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Service-Games-Rise-Enhanced-Edition/dp/1494288354
I have spent many years, consulting for, or evaluating the amusement attraction side of SEGA's business, and seen how often this has pulled their highfaluting aspirations for consumer only business, out of the fire!

"Mejor-Chupa" may be the new approach for the Japanese board room knife session - but also having a plan to move forward would not hurt. Time to look long and hard at what SEGA has and has not, and move forward - some loving in the arcade sector may also go a long way to improve their image with their core (remaining) audience?
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