A reader examines the rumours that Sega will team up with Xbox in Japan and what it could mean for a new wave of sequels to classic games.
I’m not even sure I am a Sega fan anymore. I definitely used to be – the Mega Drive was my most prized possession as a kid – but as many have pointed out the Sega of my youth don’t exist anymore. Once they gave up making consoles they very quickly gave up on all their iconic franchises, except Sonic, and concentrated on Western-made PC games. A U-turn so bizarre it would’ve exploded my young brain if some time traveller had come to tell me about video gaming in the far future of 2020.
So when you get a rumour saying that there’s some industry shaking event coming up next week involving Sega it’s almost impossible to imagine what it could be. Sega don’t have the technology or money to make their own streaming service or console and there’s no space for it in the market anyway. And as much as I’d love them to announce Skies Of Arcadia 2 I wouldn’t really describe that as ‘revolutionary’.
As a pseudo-fan I’ve been wracking my brains for some thought of what it could be and, sadly, the simplest explanation is that the guy hyping up the announcement was either completely making it up or grossly exaggerating something less exciting. I still think that’s the most likely explanation but then I read the theories about a team-up with Microsoft…
Anyone that knows their Sega history will know that they go way back with Microsoft. The Dreamcast was a proto-Xbox and at that point in time Microsoft wanted to buy them, but they turned them down. Microsoft always knew it would have trouble making it big in Japan, although they’ve never done the obvious thing of just buying a few developers and concentrating on games Japanese gamers would like. Because of course that would be too simple.
But the rumour now is that Microsoft will let Sega sell the Xbox Series X (and presumably Project xCloud?) as if it was their new console. Whether the Xbox name would even be kept is anyone’s guess, but it would be promoted as a Sega product.
There are two obvious problems with this, the first being that in these days of global brands it completely confuses what Xbox is about. But that’s Microsoft’s problem, I don’t care about that. The other issue is that it ignores that the actual problem is with the games not selling in Japan.
Japanese people didn’t buy the Xbox because they didn’t like the name or don’t buy Western products in general (this is an oft repeated bit of nonsense, Japanese people don’t care where something is made anymore than anyone else in the world – Apple is huge there, for example). They didn’t buy it because it had no games they liked and the marketing was awful.
Now, I’ve no idea what Sega’s marketing is like in Japan but they’re still a big name there so I assume they must know their way around an advertising agency. So let’s assume that’s an instant upgrade for Microsoft. But to me the deal makes no sense unless the Xbox Series X gets some Japanese-friendly games out of it, so what if part of the deal is to fund Sega for a bunch of exclusives?
Microsoft gives Sega a $1 billion, or however much, and they get a dozen Japanese games over the course of the generation. Now it starts to sound like a good idea. Especially as those games may also be successful in the West and both sides can actually make a profit on the deal.
Of course, the obvious question is why Sega, given they’ve been on such a low ebb the last few years. Well, Square Enix or Capcom are too successful/expensive at the moment and they don’t have the hardware history. Konami might have been an idea given the PC Engine but they wouldn’t be my first pick either.
So there you have it, a completely proof-free theory of how Microsoft could end up giving Sega a second life and finally make a success of Xbox in Japan. If I was Bill Gates I wouldn’t want to put the future of my games brand in the hands of the people who made Shadow The Hedgehog, but desperate times call for desperate measures and if we get a new Golden Axe and Shinobi out of this I’ll be over the moon.
By reader Scotty
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