|Posted on April 12, 2012 at 1:05 AM|
No Sympathy for the Devil
As you might have read, and I tweeted on this subject last week as well, apparently Sega is slowly circling the proverbial drain. The same drain we've seen quite a few videogame companies also slowly circle until they finally vanish with that loud "shaloop" sound at the very end. As they struggle to right ship, the next step is complete corportate restructuring and selling off their intellectual property. Also, possibly, sexual favors involving men's room stalls and wide-stances.
With the recent announcement they are taking a loss (and a bigger loss than expected, which means they were even expecting to take a loss in the first place), restructuring of the corporation, layoffs at Sega of America and only focusing on four franchises this fiscal year (Sonic, Football Manager, Total War and Aliens), canceling everything else in development and probably telling children Santa Claus doesn't exist, Sega Sammy is about a year away from being completely non-existent. This fits right-in with their already being completely non-relevant. Might as well just jump off the cliff, guys, you've been standing on it for a few years now.
A Japanese gaming company posting losses isn't surprising. Even that big of losses, actually, as the Japanese gaming scene has been struggling for quite a bit the past few years. It's more in relation to all the turmoil that's causing ripple effects through Sega itself that's really the big news. But honestly, Sega hasn't been relevant in a while. I know fans of this long-standing corporation would be inevitably hurt to have to say they "no longer exist" in the near future, but all those nostalgic feelings floating through their heads are of decades long ago. A time when attitude and style ruled the gaming world. In other words, Sega hasn't been Sega in a while. Most of their creative minds and forces moved on and the company as a whole has barely stayed afloat since 2000 when banking on their "star franchises" which they apparently only have four of now.
But I feel no pity here. Back in the early 2000s, I remember posting on the old IGN Message Boards my thoughts on what would happen to Sega. This was around the time Sega announced they would be shifting focus entirely to being a third party developer, notably for the newly released Xbox. I wrote that it's the first step to a steady decline in the same way television dramas will suddenly have "musical" episodes or early 90s sitcoms would take the show to Disneyland or Universal Studios to try and improve ratings with flash and gimmick - a sudden change in style and philosophy is the first sign of a decline.
Sega had found success with the Genesis entirely due to smart marketing and timing. I remember the time very well. You couldn't pick up a magazine or a turn on the television without seeing something Sega related splashed across your visual range. At school, everyone had Sega on their lips. The Genesis was the cool. The new. The relevant. It was Nintendo but not Nintendo. Then Sega began to screw up after those hey days. Screwing up a lot. Their actions alienated fans and those fans quickly shifted to Sony and the Playstation by the mid 1990s. Sega simply didn't have a market left and their IPs weren't enough to carry them as history has shown.
Again, that's screwing up a lot...as this pleasant looking hunk of something shows.
For me personally, though, Sega consistently showed signs of treating their consumers poorly. Why they still have a dedicated fan base today I'll never quite understand. I was one of the ones that fell into the trap of their schemes and bought a Sega CD. Twice. Then bought a 32X because it was the mid 90s and the publicity was there to sell teens like me on that and the internet wasn't there to really educate anyone. Those two devices were completely worthless. They still are.
I skipped the Saturn as a result of it all and, like many, went to the Sony Playstation when it came out a little later (the fact major developers were on board with Playstation helped, Sega made me have to become more knowledgeable on the industry as a result of the CD/32X fiasco). Eventually I did buy a Saturn much later. Used. For about 50 bucks and at a time when you could find them everywhere as people began to dump it. It's sad because the Saturn was a pretty damn good system, but Sega killed it before it really had a good chance. The Sega CD and 32X caused many to look at Sega the same way I did: a company that really didn't know what it was doing.
I bought myself a Dreamcast when that was released as well. You know what? I liked it. I didn't love it, but I liked it. However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't far more excited for the Playstation 2 that was about to be released a little after the Dreamcast.
Are you seeing a pattern?
You see, Sega felt that they could repeat the success of the Sega Genesis by getting to the market first. With the massive sales the Genesis had before the release of the Super Nintendo, I can't say I blame them too much on that theory. So they rushed to get the Saturn out before the competition's Playstation and N64. They tried. It failed. They then, rather stupidly, tried to do it again with the Dreamcast. It sustained itself a little longer thanks to arcade ports, but that's really about all it had going for it.
Nobody can deny Sega's marketing genius and perfect launch timing with the Genesis, but they were too desperate to try and repeat that exact perfect storm...and failed as a result.
Here's the thing that Sega never realized: the NAME sells the consoles and the NAME sales the game. After the Sega CD and 32X fiasco, Sega's name wasn't quite as polished as it was when you were buying Sonic the Hedgehog and Toe Jam and Earl. The consumer perspective changed, but Sega's business philosophy didn't follow that change. They were as out of touch to the way people viewed them as Atari was when trying to salvage their name with the "mighty" Jaguar console. Sega simply never learned their lesson, and the decline has been steady ever since.
If I sound like I'm a bit bitter. Well, it's because I am. What's odd is that there are still those that are in love with a company that, I'm sorry, has pretty much treated their fans like dirt. They rarely focus on the games people want (well, in fairness many of their staff have moved on) and often deliver half-assed products.They lost the name appeal, but didn't try and back that up with a new marketing approach as though everyone who bought a Genesis was still the same age and would fall for it again. Then when they got out of the console business, they kept releasing titles but with diminishing returns. Now...well...you can read that article too.
Sega's success with the Genesis was a result of circumstance; a perfect storm of market needs at a specific time blended with a "go get it" attitude of marketing genius (headed by Michael Katz and company). It was new. Exciting. Fresh. It was a perfect time and a perfect place. When that success of circumstance passed, it wasn't going to show up no matter how they many times they tried to force it into the market with early launches and "hip" commercials.
Their failure to realize this and their consistent mismanagement of their own property and treatment for fans (when Sega was at their most popular) with the 32X/Sega CD fiasco is why I just can't care about what happens to that company. I haven't for nearly 20 years now. Hell, I would throw the Saturn into the mix of a failure because they threw out the useless 32X into the market knowing the Saturn was right around the corner coming in from Japan. Why would you do that?
Oh, that's right:
Now they're in the poor house with only themselves to blame. There's still a fandom for Sega, but make no mistake: it's for what Sega once was. It's like thinking back to a great meal you once ate, maybe one to which all other future meals are compared to, but you know you'll never have another one quite as good. You can only hang on to the memory and hope they rehire the chef again.
Fans keep trying to hold on to Sega, but to Sega's memory. They wish and hope that they'll start making great games again. These are, after all, games that defined a lot of now-adult's childhoods. But, like childhood, I think it's simply best to keep in the past. Say your goodbyes, play some Skies of Arcadia or Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and know those aren't coming back. Holding on and hoping Sega will "turn it around" hasn't worked for over a decade, and I'm willing to bet that many that bought dead-weight consoles and peripherals in the past like me probably couldn't care less. Cherish the memories of Sega, folks, because distant memories are all that Sega can give you any more.