Saturday, March 31, 2012

Going It Alone Without Sega

Well first off, I'll start by saying that Daytona USA and Sega Rally Online Arcade are on sale for 400 MSP each (XBL only, sorry guys).  So if you have an Xbox 360 with internet, you have no excuse not to but these now.  Good for you, good for Sega. YOU'RE TOO LATE NOW.

But now for the bad news.  I'm fairly certain everyone knows this but Sega has recently posted big losses of about $240 mil in the last year (March '11 to '12).  Tons of people laying off and Sega claims they will restructure their development to only include big IP's like Sonic, Total War, Football Manager, and Aliens.  We don't know what this means for titles still in development, like Jet Set Radio, Shenmue, or Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing 2.  Something's gonna get cut cause that's the business.

EDIT: Seems that SEGAbits says that big bloggers like Kotaku have overstated the news.  Sega isn't giving up on other IP's as easily as it seems.  I already take Kotaku with a grain of salt and now it pays off.


I'm a bit distressed by the news but it's not totally surprising.  We all know Sega has been ailing for years and their only way out is to take even fewer risks.  All of this on the heels of my "Sega needs to do more" rant.  I know it sucks ass.  No specific reason why Sega is doing poorly other than that they've gone back to being "Good Old Sega" again...the one that falls into holes that it can't climb out of.  Oh wait, that's right, it's because of all the money spent on Dreamcast 2 development, thanks Zach Morris. (sike)

A brief aside pertaining to financial woes: I recently wrote a paper on Midway Games.  Yes, the Midway of Mortal Kombat, NFL Blitz, and Cruis'n games.  Like Sega, they were lucrative in the arcade business.  In '01, they closed their arcade division due to financial losses.  In '03, American media magnate Sumner Redstone owned 80% of Midway's stock.  Later, Midway started publishing mediocre games like Area 51, Psi-Ops, and The Wheelman.  Midway lost an ass-load of money and was eventually stripped and sued to pieces, only to have whatever remaining pieces to be bought out by Warner Bros. for cheap.  But I'll get into Midway again at a later date--I'm getting off-topic and I want to save it for later.

It's distressing to me because I've said many times it's my "goal" to work at Sega.  Then make some new racing games and actually restore sanity to video games.  A while back, I took some initiative and asked somebody on the official Sega forums if they offer any jobs for aspiring programmers.  Here's how it went down.  This is me:

Here's a strange question. I'm studying to get my graduate degree in game programming at Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (ranked 2nd in Princeton's Top 10 gaming schools) and will most likely be doing some intern work in the next six months. Rather than be harvested by Electronic Arts (like 2/3rds of my class will be), I was wondering if Sega was interested in holding some internships or job openings for programmers. I know Sega of America is in California but if I have to travel, then so be it. I like Sega so...I guess I would like the chance to work with you guys.

I'm just curious and am throwing this out there. Don't know where else to ask this question since Sega doesn't have a "contact" e-mail besides video game support (such as "perform a hard reset").

And this is an admin:

Gaming jobs are the best out there, so firstly - welcome to the first step in a satisfying career! For jobs at SEGA, keep in mind that we are a publisher, not a developer. If your programming focus is aimed at game creation, you'll be better suited for development positions. If you have interest in web programming, you'll be an excellent fit within a publisher.

My recommendation for anyone looking for jobs in video games covers off two main websites - and Both should give you a ton of resources for available positions by company and region. SEGA jobs are listed in the above link (as noted), but again, this will depend on what you are looking for.

My final recommendation is not to be down on any company or job you take. Experience is experience, and you'll find that a diverse portfolio will be helpful in finding work where ever you go. If SEGA or one of our developers is in your sights, then figure out the kind of jobs they hire for and build your resume to match that, both in school and real world experience. Hope this helps, good luck!

That sounds like a great response and I really can't complain.  The thing that gets me is how Sega is now labeling themselves as a publisher only.  Ok, I've known for the longest time that Sega only publishes great games and doesn't make them themselves...but where are all these official Sega games coming from?  I know they're making some on their own.  I heard Sonic Adventure 2 was developed in San Francisco, hence the City Escape and Radical Highway stages.

And then there's the crap licensed games like Iron Man, Thor, Aliens...where are these games being made then???  Yeah, that's right--Sega Studios San Francisco, which I have no idea where it a underground bunker under a non-descript building it seems.  Shoot for the studios owned by the if you're into Nintendo, go for Retro Studios in Austin, Texas.

Speaking of non-descript buildings, I've looked up Sega of America's headquarters on Google Maps multiple times.  Here's what it looks like.

This is it.  A plain brown 4-story building in a medium-density zone in San Francisco.  If it weren't for the small Sega logo on the building, you'd never know it was a Sega building at all.  LOL WHERE'S THE BLUE SKIES???  Yeah, Sega is some juggernaut, huh....performing hard resets in a modest San Fran office building.  Living the life it seems.

I know many of you were expecting Sega to dwell in a massive university campus setup (like Microsoft, pictured above), but no, just a tiny brown building.  Sega ain't that rich.

HA, now that we've gotten the building stuff out of the way, let's talk about actually working at Sega.  And this is where it get's really sad...

It's about time I start to discount working there.  Let's be real--Sega is downsizing.  They aren't looking to hire anybody.  In the meantime, job outlooks in general continue to get worse despite the fact that Electronic Arts is snatching up as many programmers as possible.  No really, we NEED jobs and if that means doing the programming equivalent of shoveling horse manure at EA Tiburon, well....what choice do you have?  Money talks--you need money to live.  To make your family and friends happy.  Am I going to throw away everything over the pursuit of lousy racing games???

And even if you did work at Sega, would it be that great?  Travel across the country and sit in your little office cubicle working on Aliens or bad Sonic games just to keep Sega on the respirator.  Never get to meet Yu Suzuki or Toshihiro Nagoshi.  It would be lousy as you'd expect.  And it all comes down to the climax which is this...

I think the outlook of new Sega racing games is really bleak.  Maybe a new Sumo Digital title or another XBLA/PSN port but I can't see much through the fog.  I have little faith at this point they can churn out new Daytona/OutRun/other non-derivative racing game.  You need the stars to align to convince Suzuki-San and Nagoshi-San to make another racing game especially considering the sad outlook of the game industry, MUCH LESS have the chance to pitch the game to Sega altogether.  Also throw in the possibility of another financial catastrophe and that likelihood can drop even lower or be wiped out altogether (as in Chapter 13, look it up).

So now what?  Well, we can continue to chip away at Sega and its studios and hope to catch a break but it may be in vain.  So we make our own racing game.  And we do it without Sega, Yu Suzuki, Toshihiro Nagoshi, Makoto Osaki, Tetsuya Mitzuguchi, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, the AM2 team, the #41 Hornet car, and the Daytona soundtrack.  Can it be done?  Yes.  Will it be painful.  Hell yes it will.


So it can be done without the Sega/AM2/Daytona name, huh?  Well let's look at two examples:

The first is Medal of Honor.  The first game came out in '99 for the Playstation and it had excellent reviews.  Electronic Arts bought the rights to the game but decided to kick the original team off the project.  So 22 ex-employees formed their own little studio called Infinity Ward which would go on to make Call of Duty.  Then Call of Duty would later triumph over Medal of Honor although that series has probably been run into the ground by Activision so that figures.  What goes around, comes around.

Second is Guitar Hero.  It was made by Harmonix.  After making Guitar Hero 1 and 2, Harmonix was kicked out--Activision made Guitar Hero 3 and so on.  Harmonix went on to create Rock Band.  Despite the ultra-success of Guitar Hero 3, the series fizzled out while Rock Band re-innovated the music genre with a huge library of music and new instruments and gameplay modes.

And if, should the Good Lord will it, maybe Sega will see our good deeds and intervene like an angel and then we will be able to make the best racing game ever made.  One can only hope.  I may be wrong but as they say, "Hope for the best but prepare for the worst."  We'll see what happens in a year or two .  But be on alert people since WE MANY NEED YOU some day.


Uh, so you know what Sega needs?  Sega needs a little help from his friends.  HIS SEGA FRIENDS LIKE YOU AND I!!!  GOD BLESS YOU SEGA!!!


  1. To be honest, although much of my own ambitions toward getting into the game industry was largely due to Sega games, I couldn't find myself wanting to join their American branch, more so with the way they were more about publishing than developing. I know with this announcement some people are saying that Sega of America is dead, but to me, in a different sense, the monster that was Sega of America died when the Sega Technical Institute went under. Then there was a slight bit of hope when Sonic Team USA surfaced, but then we saw how that turned out. There was a time where I told myself that if I ever did join SoA, I'd want to help build a new STI, but it wasn't a serious thought to be honest.

    But like others, I can't say I find this move surprising. I've been saying for a while that Sega needs to change something as they're nothing close to what they used to be. Less arcades, the Sammy merger, software-only development and losing some of their biggest names that made the company what it is. As much as I want to support them, a lot of "their" recent games lack that Sega flare that was apparent in the games they developed, Sumo Digital probably being my exception. My condolences to all of those who were laid off, and I wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors. For all we know, they might've joined Sega with similar goals as us, but weren't in a position to make a big impact.

    I guess the way I see it, Sega's in big need, and perhaps long overdue, of restructuring themselves. Perhaps this is a move that can lead to good things; the current formula is clearly not working for them. Aside from publishing games, the only games made internally they seemed to survive under was Sonic, Yakuza and Virtua Fighter, the latter two being powerhouses in Japan but not outside of it. Still, considering what I read more and more about SOJ, it can certainly lead to worse things.

    Looking at those screenshots of SoA's offices are depressing, not that the gloom-and-doom cloudy skies help any. I have an old magazine from way back in the day, right before the Playstation/Saturn launch, with an interview with then-Sega-CEO Tom Kalinske, and the building featured in the background definitely fit with what Sega was back then. Scan

    With Kalinske on mind, considering he was the man behind the marketing back in the Genesis days, behind Sega making fun of Nintendo and the Sega Scream, it makes me wonder how SoA would be like now if he were in charge of the given situation. There's also a link to an interview on Sega 16 with him. The more I learn about him, the more I learn that SOJ higher-ups really don't do anything but shoot themselves in the foot. Definitely a fascinating read.

    Also stumbled upon a rant on the industry by a Halo 3 speed-runner, and I think it sums up what you and I think extremely well. Then of course, there's the opposing viewpoint to consider. Things are ever-changing. Anything can happen.

  2. An excellent reply. I see what you mean about Sega aficionados working at Sega. Clearly Sega's not the strongest place to work so you gotta be somewhat of a Sega diehard to go there. But it's got to be a real bummer that people like you and I who really want to aid Sega just got nowhere. But with the way the game industry's going, frankly you gotta be some crack producer and/or boast a decade or two's worth of experience to get a chance to call the shots.

    Oh well, here's to hoping we (or some avid Sega racing fans) catch lightning in a bottle.

    Haven't read the Tom Kalinske article since it's long but I see what you mean. Sega's like a fast car but with little traction. They made many mistakes (such as the Sega CD/32X) but superstar talent like Yu Suzuki and Yuji Naka kept them in the game. Sure, they had a nice run with their consoles but they had their personal demons that Nintendo didn't seem to have. Nintendo kept trucking along at a steady pace, Sega took a dive, end of story.

    And I like the speed runner's post. It's a bit of a low blow against a lot of arty-farty games today (including Shenmue) but I see what he means. For someone with that "prestige," it takes some guts to say that for everyone to hear. I played some racing games like Daytona 2 or even my Super Sprint game and it's just awesome, even artistic in a sense to nail those tricky sections. Watching others' speedruns is great too, particularly OutRun 2 or Daytona 1. Much more enjoyable than these dialogue-laden games of today.