Monday, July 2, 2012

Sega & Midway Similarities: The Death Of Gaming Giants

I read a good article on SEGAbits detailing five reasons for Sega's recent woes and they are as follows:

1. Poor marketing
2. Poor scheduling
3. Terrible games from '05 to '08
4. Terrible Marvel games
5. Too many new IP's, not enough old ones

Right now we are all bummed out about Sega.  But I cannot get too upset anymore.  This is to be expected for Sega.  I'm hoping this is a cathartic stage in that they'll turn around, albeit they'll have nothing to show for the next couple of years besides Football Manager and a few more Dreamcast ports.  But you never know cause just when I think they couldn't be any dumber, they either totally redeem themselves or reach unprecedented levels of dumb-ness.  It's a game of Chutes & Ladders and I can't guess where they'll be in 5-10 years.

And now for your feature presentation...

I did some research on Midway (and Atari and Williams) Games a few months ago.  I should've brought it up sooner but now is a good time.  You see, Sega and Midway had a lot of common.  See this:

*  Both were old-school distributors of arcade/amusement hardware, including slot machines, jukeboxes, and eventually bona-fide arcade cabinets.

* Both had their own "League of Legends."  Midway: Ed Boon, John Tobias, Eugene Jarvis, and Mark Turmell.  Sega: Yu Suzuki, Yuji Naka, Toshihiro Nagoshi, Tetsuya Mitzuguchi.

* Both were prolific at arcade games.  Both had their own lines of fighting, shooting, and (lots of) racing games.  Mortal Kombat<->Virtua Fighter.  Maximum Force & Area 51<->Virtua Cop.  San Francisco Rush, Cruis'n Everything, Super Sprint, Spy Hunter, Hydro Thunder, STUN Runner<->Virtua Racing, Daytona, OutRun, look on the right side of the screen.

* Both were known for pushing the envelope in terms of edginess.  While Sega had Sonic, Streets of Rage, Toejam and Earl, and all that "Sega does what Nintendon't" bullcrap, Midway had Mortal Kombat, Rampage, Smash TV, NBA Jam, and NFL Blitz.

* In the turn of the millennium, both  got hit hard by the decline in arcades.  In '99, Midway stopped manufacturing pinball machines and in '01, stopped manufacturing arcade games altogether.  Sega also suffered the same fate but at a much slower pace (i.e. AM2 released OutRun 2 and Ghost Squad in '04, Sega still continues to make arcade hardware--Ringedge & Ringwide--though it's awfully underutilized).

* Both were "bailed out" by private investors following the arcade heyday.  In '03, American media magnate Sumner Redstone bought a majority of Midway's stocks.  In that same year, Sammy Corporation bought out Sega.

* Both their "League of Legends" bailed out to create new studios.  John Tobias left to create Studio Gigante.  Eugene Jarvis left to create Raw Thrills.  Yu Suzuki left to create YS Net.  Yuji Naka left to create Prope.  Tetsuya Mitzuguchi left to create Q Entertainment.

* Both lost a s***-ton of money & prestige during that period.  Sega obviously lost billions for years after the Dreamcast debacle.  Midway lost $115 million in '03 as they began shutting down studios, including Midway Games West and Midway Adelaide, that same year.

* Both published a ton of mediocre games since then.  In Midway's case, this included BlackSite: Area51, Vin Diesel's Wheelman and Psi-Ops.  In Sega's case, the Marvel games are a great example.

However, unlike Sega, Midway actually did go bankrupt.  In '07 and '08, there was a revolving door of higher-ups getting their asses kicked out the door.  In '09, Midway defaulted on its $240 million debt and crumbled into a million pieces only to be devoured by Warner Bros. for a measly $49 million.  At that point, Midway's stock were worth less than a dollar.  Rumor has it that whatever remaining Midway execs were devouring caviar and wine while "Rome" burned.

If there's any good news to be had post-Midway, it's that their franchises aren't completely dead.  High-quality Mortal Kombat games are still being produced by Warner Bros.  NBA Jam and NFL Blitz got remakes from Electronic Arts.  Hydro Thunder got a remake for Xbox Live.  And, love it or hate it, the Cruis'n games made a comeback in the form of multiple Fast & Furious games for arcades (including a terrible Wii port).

The good news is that Sega's "death" has been a much slower process, mostly because Sega still has Japan's support while Midway only had America to rely on.  I only hope that Sega learns from Midway in that they aren't eating the caviar while their company continues to die.  I think the changes  they've made says "Well, we know we suck but at least we're going to do something about it," which demonstrates more maturity than Midway ever did IMO.

Also, I was thinking about Sega and what we would do if they actually did perish from this earth.  Would it be THAT terrible?  All those IP's don't just disintegrate into thin air--they are still in existence.  Midway's prime IP's still get love today.  Who's not to say Sega's old IP's couldn't get the same recognition?  Maybe someone else will give Sonic their dues.  Maybe someone else will actually bring back Daytona.  Maybe Yu Suzuki will be able to make Shenmue 3 no longer bounded by the shackles of Sega-Sammy.

To be disappointed with Sega's death would mean to be disappointed that they missed the opportunity to return to "glory."  Yet clearly as of their condition today and the trends in game design it's very unlikely this'll occur even if they remain alive for a long time.  Everyone says that today's Sega is only a hollow shell of their former selves and will continue to be mediocre regardless of what happens.  I hope I'm proven wrong and that Sega and the fans stay resolute.  It's always great to remain optimistic but, as you've heard plenty of times, it's necessary to prepare for the worst.

"No society is guaranteed perpetual existence." - Mark Levin

Still we have faith that Sega will live and by God, even past the grave they will.