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Interview with head of SEGA

elostyle

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Jul 5, 2005
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http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/0,1518,441963,00.html



So what's SEGA up to these days? After the Dreamcast flopped, it got quiet around the japanese company. By now they are attempting a comeback as a videogame publisher. Hajime Satomi, 64, the company's head and billionaire talked to SPIEGEL ONLINE about his expansion plans and his own game experiences.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr Satomi, different from competitors like Ubisoft, Activision and most of all Electronic Arts did SEGA have almost no smash hits in the videogame charts recently. One could get the impression that your brand's best times are over.

SATOMI: They are still ahead of us. We want to be the no.3 among the game publishers on the world wide market by 2010. If things go bad, we'd be happy with rank 5.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But - how is that supposed to be possible?

SATOMI: Today, we are already no.8 worldwide. Our competitors on rank 3, 4 or 5 really aren't all that far apart from each other. We can do it. Overwhelmingly strong is only Electronic Arts. Just let me say it this way: In the longterm, we want to get close enough so that we can see their back right in front of us.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: That seems hardly possible just with a steady stream of reincarnations of your classic "Sonic The Hedgehog".

SATOMI: We're trying a dual path: On the one had do we put a lot of energy into the development of new, proprietary franchises and accept low profit margins due to the costs. On the other hand did we focus on expanding by buying the right developers. Just last april did we purchase studios like Sports Interactive and Secret Level.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And because your own growth isn't fast enough you focus on such costly buyouts?

SATOMI: We don't buy just to bloat our numbers - both sides have to suit each other. Like with Creative Assembly from England which we bought in the spring of 2005. We constantly watch the markets for such opportunities.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You also risk paying larger sums even though SEGA only reported losses for years?

SATOMI: SEGA did have a very difficult time bevor we fusioned the company with the arcade machine manufacturer Sammy in 2004. In the fiscal year until March 2006 did it finally achieve a profit again. And we have a strong cashflow thanks to Sammy which also helps SEGA. Depending on the size of our goal could we pay a low but also a 2 digit-billion-Yen amount for a takeover.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Sega always was something like the Disney of videogames with titles like "Sonic" and "Virtua Tennis". Now you're also offering more violent content with "Yakuza" or "Condemmed". Aren't you jeopardizinge your family-friendly image with this?

SATOMI: Up to now, we indeed foremost had kids as customers. Though, we also want to serve to different demographics. Only that way will we be able to dramatically grow our revenue in America and Europe by 2010. We believe that customers are well able to differentiate between our lines of product.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: SEGA has so far been focused on games for consoles and the PC. For mobilephones however, there are only few titles available - like an incarnation of "Sonic the Hedgehog". Will and can it stay that way?

SATOMI: The revenue we achieve with mobile games will eventually surpass what we achieve with console games - inevitable. It could be in 5 years or maybe in 10. In the industrialized countries, in Europe, USA and Japan, the console market is going to develope much slower than before. It's a developement we discuss on a regular basis. That doesn't mean that development for consoles and PCs will become unimportant - we see huge potential in Russia, India and China for instance.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Well, do you carry a cellphone in your suit pocket right now Mr Satomi?

SATOMI: Of course (pulls a white sony ericsson cellphone out of his pocket). It's only rented though since my japanese one doesn't work here in germany.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So, did you ever try to play games on this or other mobile phones?

SATOMI: Only a few times. I don't ride trains much and prefer to go by car - when am I supposed to play then? All in all, I don't game as passionately anymore compared to when I was younger.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The head of SEGA doesn't like to game?

SATOMI: I do have all the important consoles at home, of course, but I don't really play games for leisure anymore. They are getting more and more difficult after all! I get games presented to me because of my job when we or our competitors release important games.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: SEGA produced their own console up to 2001 - now you are publishing software for Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. Does it affect your company negatively that the PLAYSTATION 3(c)(TM) has been delayed my multiple months in Europe?

SATOMI: It will have a negative effect on our revenue in Europe. We have to step up the pace to keep it as small as possible.
 

MegaTen

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Feb 17, 2006
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What a shitty interview. Did the interviewer really have to sound so much like an asshole? :lol
 

loosus

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MegaTen said:
What a shitty interview. Did the interviewer really have to sound so much like an asshole? :lol
Well, asshole or not, I'd say it was pretty much on the money.
 

Luckett_X

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May 12, 2005
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Haha, awesome. So clear to see the guy didnt have an answer to "soooo what else you doing thats not just Sonic updates?"

New franchises my foot. I also especially like the scaling back of ambition from "we want to be biggest third party!" to "3rd maybe?" then "but probably 5th I guess." and "yeah we're 8th currently ;___;"
 

Brobzoid

how do I slip unnoticed out of a gloryhole booth?
May 8, 2006
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so, is this like the head at sega, or one of them?


And sega is going downhill. waaaay downhill. Doubt there is anything interesting in this interview. :\
 

Systems_id

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Jul 13, 2005
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As if we needef further proof that Sega is worthless. Hard to believe this is the same company this is the same company responosible for Panzer Dragoon, Sonic, Shining Force, Jet Set Radio, Skies of Arcadia and other awesome titles. The DC really took it out of them I suppose (of with years of losses:p).
 
Aug 6, 2006
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It's definitely interesting to see such a critical interview, for sure... but yeah, with Sega's recent performance (since the DC failed), it probably deserves it... there have been a few good games, but nowhere near as many as there used to be.
 

Tieno

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May 6, 2006
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MegaTen said:
What a shitty interview. Did the interviewer really have to sound so much like an asshole? :lol
I guess some people here just got used to softball questions...
This is refreshing. He didn't sound like an asshole at all.
 

jarrod

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Jun 6, 2004
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Satomi said:
Today, we are already no.8 worldwide. Our competitors on rank 3, 4 or 5 really aren't all that far apart from each other. We can do it.
More LindBergh ports would be a nice start. ;)
 

loosus

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May 31, 2006
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I hate to say it, but I think Sega needs to start laying off people who are consistently unproductive. Sure, Sega might lose some big names, but what difference does it make if they aren't producing anything worth a shit, anyway? You shouldn't keep people on who made a smash hit back in the day if they haven't done it in 5 to 10 years and there's little hope of them doing it again anytime soon.

This is opposite of Nintendo. While I believe that Nintendo would be very reluctant to let go of someone like Shigeru Miyamoto, I do think they'd do it if the circumstances were ripe for it. Rare made a shitload of big, highly selling, system-selling games for Nintendo, but after a few years of unacceptably low productivity (or, negative productivity), they were let go.
 

jarrod

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Jun 6, 2004
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loosus said:
I hate to say it, but I think Sega needs to start laying off people who are consistently unproductive. Sure, Sega might lose some big names, but what difference does it make if they aren't producing anything worth a shit, anyway? You shouldn't keep people on who made a smash hit back in the day if they haven't done it in 5 to 10 years and there's little hope of them doing it again anytime soon.
So basically, you want SEGA to give Yu the boot? I'm actually a little surprised he's still there to be honest.


loosus said:
This is opposite of Nintendo. While I believe that Nintendo would be very reluctant to let go of someone like Shigeru Miyamoto, I do think they'd do it if the circumstances were ripe for it. Rare made a shitload of big, highly selling, system-selling games for Nintendo, but after a few years of unacceptably low productivity (or, negative productivity), they were let go.
RIP Gumpei. :(
 

Stoney Mason

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Aug 2, 2006
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MegaTen said:
What a shitty interview. Did the interviewer really have to sound so much like an asshole? :lol
Yeah man, why did he have to be all journalistic and shit! He should have just kissed his ass cuz Sega rocked the house like 10 years ago.

end sarcasm.
 

MaddenNFL64

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Jun 10, 2004
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Yeah, I could see Nintendo letting go Miyamoto, if he came up with a few ideas that tanked. I think they run a strong business, but they're also assholes in that arena. Glad they make some good games I enjoy, or i'd probably hate their guts :\.
 

Angelcurio

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Someone needs to be harsh and directly ask them why they dont delay Sonic next gen until it becomes a proper next gen title.

Now, if they announce an Afterburner port for PS3 with SIXAXIS funtionality i would shut up my mouth :)
 

MegaTen

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Feb 17, 2006
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Seriously what the **** is up with all of the Sega hate? Are you people not paying attention to Ryu ga Gotoku, Sega Rally Revo, Virtua Fighter 5, Sonic and the Secret Rings, Seaman 2, Aftur Burner Climax, Psy Phi, etc? Ah, but I forgot that GAF likes to constantly bitch about things over and over just for the sake of it.
 

Stoney Mason

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Aug 2, 2006
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It's almost impossible to envision Sega in one of the top tiers spots as a game maker in the future so in that respect its fun and sad at the same time to read their delusions.


They simply aren't funded the same way they use to be which is part of the issue. They are no longer a pet project and given tons of money (which was a great thing for us gamers because they made great games)

They are pretty much a nostalgia company at this point, relying almost exclusively on brands like Sonic, Monkey Ball, VF 5, and that's not what Sega use to be in the good old days. Even up to the Dreamcast Era.

When the market changes you have to adapt with it and Sega is now one of the slowest companies around when it comes to adapting to changing market conditions. Capcom is the new Sega as its often been posted.


I'm still buying Phantasy Star Universe. :)
 

Stoney Mason

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Aug 2, 2006
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MegaTen said:
Seriously what the **** is up with all of the Sega hate? Are you people not paying attention to Ryu ga Gotoku, Sega Rally Revo, Virtua Fighter 5, Sonic and the Secret Rings, Seaman 2, Aftur Burner Climax, Psy Phi, etc? Ah, but I forgot that GAF likes to constantly bitch about things over and over just for the sake of it.

 

MegaTen

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Feb 17, 2006
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If you honestly think those games I listed arent going to reflect what Sega is still capable of, then I guess you'll be the one missing out.

 

PistolGrip

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Sep 7, 2006
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You guys are being a bit harsh. Sega is trying to adapt. Last I heard they had crazy amount of of titles in the works for 2007 (117 link ).

Of course they have been on a extreme downhill since DC's demise but give them some time. For example, VF5 should be a huge hit worldwide and titles like PSO and Sonic will not be far behind on branding alone. Along with the new IPs in the works, they should have a pretty healthy future.

PSP: 29 Titles
PlayStation2: 28 Titles
PlayStation3: 17 Titles
Nintendo DS: 17 Titles
Xbox 360: 14 Titles
Wii: 7 Titles
Gamecube: 2 Titles
Game Boy Advance: 2 Titles
Xbox: 1 Titles
 
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Well I have a list too...

Virtua Quest, Shadow the Hedgehog, Super Monkey Ball Adventure, Shining Tears, Amazing Island, etc.

Sega just publishes more and more shit in between the actual GOOD games. That's what I complain about. The Sega label should mean something more than branded outsourced shovelware.
 

Stoney Mason

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Aug 2, 2006
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MegaTen said:
If you honestly think those games I listed arent going to reflect what Sega is still capable of, then I guess you'll be the one missing out.


I like the old Sega but keep living in that fantasy world in your head where everyone is playing Genesis games and Dreamcast games and Sega rules the roost with innovative and unique titles. I'm sure it's cozy and comforting in that space.
 

mr jones

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Stoney Mason said:
It's almost impossible to envision Sega in one of the top tiers spots as a game maker in the future so in that respect its fun and sad at the same time to read their delusions.


They simply aren't funded the same way they use to be which is part of the issue. They are no longer a pet project and given tons of money (which was a great thing for us gamers because they made great games)

They are pretty much a nostalgia company at this point, relying almost exclusively on brands like Sonic, Monkey Ball, VF 5, and that's not what Sega use to be in the good old days. Even up to the Dreamcast Era.

When the market changes you have to adapt with it and Sega is now one of the slowest companies around when it comes to adapting to changing market conditions. Capcom is the new Sega as its often been posted.


I'm still buying Phantasy Star Universe. :)
You really can't make it much clearer than that. They've lost touch with what current gamers want. The Sonic games that they put out aren't doing anything to help their floundering image (shadow the hedgehog? Guns? Really?) Very few of their new IPs have garnished any interest (even though I'd play through a sequel to Condemmed). Monkeyball isn't a large seller. Virtua Fighter, while very competent, isn't a large seller. They've tried to revive a couple IPs like Shinobi and Outrun, but those didn't work too well for them.

I really wouldn't know what to do If I was in a CEO position for Sega. I'd want to make a big push with their RPG properties like Shining Force and Panzer Dragoon RPG, maybe throw out something from left field like a sequel to Sword of Vermillion. Maybe work with a really nice followup to Jet Set Radio, or one of their arcade properties like Sega Rally or Daytona. SOMETHING that would get them back in the black so they can create new, original games.

Sega is quickly approaching the point that SNK was at back in the late 90s. I think that Phantasy Star is going to be one of their last major attempts to bring a title that can generate revenue. If that flops, or becomes a game that is so broken by hackers that no one plays, we could see a Sega that needs to be purchased by someone like EA, Activision, Capcom, or Microsoft to stay alive... :(
 

jarrod

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mr jones said:
Sega is quickly approaching the point that SNK was at back in the late 90s.
Must be a side effect of being bought out by the pachinko mafia. :lol
 

GhaleonEB

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loosus said:
Well, asshole or not, I'd say it was pretty much on the money.
if he was paying attention he'd know that Sega-Sammy - and the Sega division seperately - have also been profitable for years. He was just being an asshole.
 

Stoney Mason

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Aug 2, 2006
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GhaleonEB said:
if he was paying attention he'd know that Sega-Sammy - and the Sega division seperately - have also been profitable for years. He was just being an asshole.
Where did he ask about profits? He referenced their declining position as a software publisher on the video game charts. And the Sega response was "somehow magically" they would reverse trend and leap from #8 to #3. What Sega hits are tearing up the charts constantly in this country? Or discounting sales what innovative titles are Sega bringing into this market currently that people should look to them as an innovation leader?
 

mr jones

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jarrod said:
Must be a side effect of being bought out by the pachinko mafia. :lol
...but SNK was able to be bought from the Pachinko mafia, before they put all of SNKs IPs into hentai games for cellphones. :)

You watch. Next thing you know, you're gonna see Sonic cotton candy machines, Sarah and Pai in a hardcore "virtual callgirl" sim, and Super Monkey Pachinko.
 

Luckett_X

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SATOMI: Only a few times. I don't ride trains much and prefer to go by car - when am I supposed to play then? All in all, I don't game as passionately anymore compared to when I was younger.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The head of SEGA doesn't like to game?
I always love it when a gaming company head is revealed as not playing games much at all either. When Miyamoto says the same things it angers me. Sometimes a Game Designer can learn a lot from other successful products.

Whats the point in you being the company head if you don't really play games much? You obviously have absolutely no idea where the market is going. This is revealed by nonsense like the mobile phone gaming market exceeding revenue of console games?! Hahaha what a joke. The only reason theyre seeing profits is because theyve just ported over Sonic 1 to Mobiles, and god knows how much money they make off of Sonic ports. I give the mobile phone games market only a few years before it disappears, with mobile phones being more like pocket pc's than relying on specialised mobile game code. If he'd said DS, that would make sense in relation to Japan, but surprise surprise, it seems Sega has shit all in development for the DS!
 

Stoney Mason

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Luckett_X said:
I always love it when a gaming company head is revealed as not playing games much at all either. When Miyamoto says the same things it angers me. Sometimes a Game Designer can learn a lot from other successful products.

Whats the point in you being the company head if you don't really play games much? You obviously have absolutely no idea where the market is going.
To be fair when your the head of a company its more about the business aspects of running a company. You assume he has underlings he trusts to actually be playing the games and such and reporting back.
 

mattiewheels

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it's a reminder of the sad state of games journalism when i actually bristled at reading these hard questions, then caught myself and realised that they should have been asked. i'm too used to press release interviews and softballs.

so, the only game i can recall besides yakuza is condemned. which studios were responsible for those two? or is the old sega studio system evaporated into a more monolithic 'sega' now?
 

Stoney Mason

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Aug 2, 2006
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mattiewheels said:
it's a reminder of the sad state of games journalism when i actually bristled at reading these hard questions, then caught myself and realised that they should have been asked. i'm too used to press release interviews and softballs.

QFTMFT
 

mr jones

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mattiewheels said:
it's a reminder of the sad state of games journalism when i actually bristled at reading these hard questions, then caught myself and realised that they should have been asked. i'm too used to press release interviews and softballs.
I just wanted to bold that, because its true. I respect the interviewer for asking them, and Satomi for not dancing around them. Interesting read.
 

Ogni-XR21

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I love Spiegel interviews, it's real journalists after all, not those brown nosing game journalists.

I remember an interview where they asked Miyamoto what his biggest failure during his career had been, and iirc he was really upset by that question... :D