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Did The Videogame Industry Die With Sega?


SE-GA!!!! Anyone who owned a Sega Megadrive/Genesis will know that word, sung with confidence and self glorifying haughtiness, at the start of many a classic Sega game. It was a seal of quality and quirkiness, a sign that you were playing a Sega game, and all the baggage and craziness that came with it. Yet, Sega very rarely use it to introduce their own games anymore, with only those games that are deemed ‘retro’ having any chance of having the logo heralded at the start.

The reason is that the confidence has gone, and those crazy blue skies are a thing of the past, because Sega are now just another videogame publisher. The difference between Sega and the others is that Sega bang out poor Sonic games every now and then, and manage to mess up enough classic game conversions of old titles that many don’t bother, looking to emulators instead for their Sega thrills.

Pure joy refined

Pure joy refined

I remember reading an article, when Sega decided to drop out of the hardware race, where the writer gleefully predicted that EA would soon ‘be looking in their rear mirror at the bright red Ferrari catching them up on the fast lane’.

That prediction proved false, with layoffs, poor financial results and a total lack of innovation and risk taking already getting the vultures taking notice, hungry for Sega’s many prized assets. Assets it has no idea what to do with itself. Essentially, the Sega of old, of Burning Rangers, Daytona USA, Crazy Taxi and the like, is dead, replaced by a Western focused Japanese publisher with no clear idea where to go.

So with ‘our’ Sega gone, what is the videogame industry becoming? Microsoft want to turn gaming on the Xbox into just one option on the screen of a money-making ‘do all’ set top box. Sony can’t decide if it wants to follow suite, although is more promising than Microsoft. Nintendo, who went their own way with the Wii, and did very well, is slowly being convinced that games should just be one part of a wider offering in a console.

This kind of game just wouldn't, ever get a retail release now

This kind of game just wouldn’t, ever get a retail release now

In the realm of computer gaming, where we used to have Atari, Commodore, the PC and many, many more, we now have just the PC and Mac to choose from, which isn’t really a choice as 90% of Mac games are PC or iPhone ports. Where there were many, now there is one.

We also have mobile gaming in the form of the iPhone and Android, both of which started out well, but now both of which are being taken over by the evil of the IAP and ‘free to play’ nonsense, nonsense that is slowly but surely encroaching on the consoles and PC. Note: although the new platforms that let you play Android games on your TV look nice, just remember that having them on your TV will not make these Android games any less shit.

I don’t like where the industry is heading. A future where free to play, micro transactions and season passes are the norm, where all the consoles are virtually identical aside from an exclusive here are there, where there is only the PC as an alternative, an alternative that itself is limited to slightly better looking and slightly better performing versions of console games, and where gaming as a whole is just one option to select in the black/grey box sitting under your TV.

The future

The future. Hope you like grey.

The industry may be making more money than ever, but that industry is looking less and less like a videogame industry and more and more like one facet of a wider industry that has that awful, nasty word emblazoned on it: multimedia. The passing of the Sega of old may just be a coincidence, happening at a time of great change in the industry, but it was all the money men needed to whisper in the ears of publishers and platform holders everywhere: “See? It doesn’t work, you need to expand and find new ways to make money”.

These same money men are right now whispering in the ears of Nintendo and Sony. They are already in charge at Microsoft, and have been since they decided to charge for online play. “See, we are now making millions charging them for playing the games they have already bought, just think what else we can do!”.

Sega, please come back. Please come back and save us from this inevitable future, a future of grey skies. Bring back the blue skies of old and cast these grey clouds, hovering over the landscape of gaming, away for good.

Hurry. They are closing in.

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Editor and founder of VoxelArcade and The Smartphone App Review. Favourite games: Uridium 2, Frontier: Elite II, Sensible World of Soccer, Far Cry 3, Zelda: Ocarina, Metroid Prime, Solar Quest, F-Zero GX, Monkey Island 2 and Tetris.

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7 Comments

  1. I hear a lot of what you’re saying but all I know is that the last generation of gaming has produced the best games yet. That’s partly just the mechanical evolution of the medium but also, I feel, down to some seriously dedicated and talented studios, working across a range of platforms. 
    Sony are painting arguably the most positive vision of the future at the moment. That has nothing to do with bas, just my assessment based on what we can glean about the next-gen. You’re absolutely right: after two positive generations, Microsoft now want to simply cash their chips in and squeeze as hard as they can. Nintendo seem to have spent too long in the crack-den and mobile’s turned into a clusterfuck of shady business practices. 
    I think you’re maybe being hard on PC, though. It’s the last bastion of sanity in many respects. Between its open nature and Sony’s loyalty to the heart and soul of console gaming, I think there’s enough positives ahead to keep the medium afloat – so long as the public vote with their wallets and allow the likes of IAPs, monthly subs and the like to crash-and-burn. 
    Back to your original point though: yes, Sega need to man-up and have a serious word with themselves, lest they go the way of Atari.

    • Oh and great article btw!

    • Luke Martin VA You are right, but when our only hope of keeping our beloved hobby lies in the lap of Sony, we should be worried.
      I would love, love, Nintendo to purchase Sega’s assets and all its development teams. It would be the making of both firms, fill the release gaps for Nintendo and allow Sega to make Sega games. Never gonna happen though.

  2. It’s difficult. Playing a lot of Sega games in Mame or on old systems, I can clearly start to see that they definitely weren’t quite up there with the best of Nintendo. But when Sega experimented, when they really set themselves of being great, they produced titles than no one else can match.
    The Sega we have now barely even seems like the same company. Problem is simply that people are not buying games like this anymore. Not that they often ever did in any significant number.
    I like to remember a past where Shenmue and co sold millions and were ultra hits, but they weren’t. Sega didn’t destroy their past, we did.

  3. It’s difficult. Playing a lot of Sega games in Mame or on old systems, I can clearly start to see that they definitely weren’t quite up there with the best of Nintendo. But when Sega experimented, when they really set themselves of being great, they produced titles than no one else can match.
    The Sega we have now barely even seems like the same company. Problem is simply that people are not buying games like this anymore. Not that they often ever did in any significant number.
    I like to remember a past where Shenmue and co sold millions and were ultra hits, but they weren’t. Sega didn’t destroy their past, we did.

    • RobMortimerVA I’m not really saying that Sega made the very best games, but the fact that there was a platform holder willing to release games such as Nights, Burning Rangers, Space Channel 5, etc as big retail releases, was a significant part, and an expected part of the videogame industry around the launch of the Dreamcast. Now, those games would only ever see the light of day as downloadable titles – if that. 
      I wish there was a shapshot of a game shop shelf in 1999 and one today to compare it to.

      • Simon Burns True, but like I say, that could never happen again because we didn’t buy them. There were two things that would have allowed Sega to keep making these games.
        1. Use the profits from successful cash cow games (E.g.: Sonic)
        2. Use the profits from a successful cash cow system (E.g.: Wii/DS)
        Sega had 1, but they had the opposite of 2. The consoles drained money and ultimately left them in this state. Which is why I think the argument of being publisher only made much more sense for Sega at the time than it ever has for Nintendo.
        I just think barring AV and a few other developers, Sega’s output just hasn’t been of high enough quality or attractiveness to the public to justify creating such original titles. It’s a real shame, but don’t forget that Sega has brought us Bayonetta and Sega allstars racing in recent years, games that would have been unlikely to see from many publishers. If we actually all went and bought them, maybe we’d get a few more risky titles.
        I hope the new generation and proliferation of indie talent that is coming will push them to try new things and sign up that new talent. We can help by buying it!

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