Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

My Open Letter of Loving Advice to Sega

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Recently I saw on twitter that Sega was asking its fans to fill out a online survey to help them figure out what they need to do next for the company. That or it’s a long list of tick boxes just to take our e-mail address and sell it on to third parties. Well I got half way through the survey where I had typed a long page essay of why I wanted another sexy Altered Beast arcade game only to realize, “you know what? I’m going to write a letter instead!” So here it is folks, my open letter to Sega on some loving advice – from the heart – to get them back on track:

Dear Sega,

alien3_md_1I feel times must be getting little hard for you. It’s been over fifteen years now since you left the console business and it seems as the years progress you appear to be having more success marketing merchandise from the past as opposed to focusing on new projects for the future. This period hasn’t been all bad though. During these fifteen years we have seen you make friends with Nintendo to the extent you have actually allowed Sonic to appear in a video game series with Mario and done quite well from that. We have also seen several Sega games be released to Nintendo consoles. The young boy I was in the nineties would never have believed this truce would happen. You have also published some incredible video games such as Condemned: Criminal Origins, Vanquish, and Bayonetta. Now I understand these I.Ps did not sell well but they are all original ideas which will stand the test of time and though didn’t get the recognition they deserved on launch certainly have a fan base today. Of course it has not all gone well.  Aliens: Colonial Marines while in my opinion not a terrible game by any stretch certainly had a lot of bad publicity behind it which certainly didn’t help your reputation. But you made up for it (and the Alien franchise) by allowing Creative Assembly to create the fantastic Alien: Isolation, a game that I could not praise enough from a design prospective. It may not be a game for the mass market but it is original and frankly one of the best AAA games I have played for some time.

sonic_gang_ughLet’s talk about Sonic, shall we? Once again you deserve to be commended on always trying to do something new with Sonic. This is what I like about your company, trying something new and not sticking to the same formula. The problem is this clearly isn’t working. The harsh reality is Sonic now has far more titles that are perceived as low quality as opposed ones that are critically acclaimed. The worse part is when you do release a good title such as Sonic Generations it tends to get overshadowed by the severe negative history of prior games and therefore doesn’t get the attention it deserves. This is where I suggest something that might seem a little crazy: stick to what works. My biggest recommendation for Sonic moving forward is to head back to its roots on the Mega Drive/Genesis and make a very simple low budget title that mirrors the feel of Sonic 2. You may argue you tried this with the downloadable Sonic 4 but if you really look at that game it still tries to add modern elements to it and ignores what made the originals so fun. Stick to the formula, have eight stages with two acts per stage, make those levels colourful and have awesome groovy nineties names like Volcano Metal Zone. Have some sort of collect fifty rings bonus where you enter a special stage at a checkpoint and go for a emerald. Have Super Sonic playable if you collect all the emeralds. Make the game 2D, none of this 3D on a 2D plain rubbish, just 2D. Most importantly don’t let Sonic talk, ever. No seriously I want his mouth zipped shut, in fact I want no cutscenes in a Sonic game. Just give me the thumbs up pose when I finish the game. The best part of Sonic Generations by far was the fact the original Sonic (and best) kept his mouth shut. If you want to something a little different then here it is. Allow a second player to control Tails like in the old days, only this time rather than have him fly in when Sonic zips off ahead allow split screen so the second player can catch up themselves. If they really want to zip back to Sonic allow a simple button press to transport them back to Sonic to help with a boss or a difficult area. Why would this be awesome? Because it allows two players to both co operate and compete in the same game. You can race toward the end (the best thing about Sonic 2′s overlooked competitive mode), but for those that want to help each other you can stick together. This is a winning formula for all types of gamers. Make this Sonic game and see how well it sells. Then once that has brought success repeat this formula every year. Yes, every year until the buzz wears off. You don’t need to spend a lot of money and you can keep it as a downloadable game as well. I also understand that you probably would rather market Sonic to the younger audience. Here’s the thing though the new generation of young gamers still prefer to old Sonic games on the Mega Drive than the modern 3D attempts. Sonic can be great again, so why not stick to what works?

sonic_vs_mario_hahaLet’s move on. It’s time for a little reality check Sega. In the nineties you where riding the waves of sun glasses clichés and fan art of Sonic literally murdering Mario in magazines. What you need to realize is that a lot of those younglings that loved you are now grown up and a small percentage are actually making games for a living. May I suggest you find the people that have that passion and allow them to go rampant with some of your I.Ps (including Sonic)? Would it really hurt your reputation to have a indie developer make a Kid Chameleon sequel? A passionate indie developer who loves this game will go absolutely nuts with the current development technology. I understand you worry that you want to hold on and protect the past, but at this stage really what is the worst that could happen. We’re not talking big budget here I’m talking small. So no crazy expensive 3D games, just cute colourful games with small development budgets. Why not bring back Altered Beast? I would love to see another 2D site scrolling sexy brawler. I want to have the “power up” slogan come back. I want to see ridiculously muscular men (and put women in to this time) literally exploding out there clothes with their bulging muscles. I want to turn into new animals like Gorilla and a land Shark. There are several other forgotten gems that would be interesting to see indie developers work on such as Ecco the Dolphin series, maybe bring back Fatal Labyrinth, Flicky, a new Story of Thor (Beyond Oasis in the US)? There are a lot of forgotten I.Ps. Why not cross some of the game series over like Alex Kidd in Shinobi World?  Nothing wrong with having a bit of fun like these games originally were. Lets have more smaller titles and less money poured into AAA games. Also while we are here we want these games on the PC, consoles, and portables. We don’t want mobile titles. The mobile market is over saturated and no one wants another stupid endless runner or match three game. Unless your going to make a good quality game I want you avoid this platform entirely. Remember quality doesn’t mean spending a lot of money. Get a passionate development team that cares about the project and you’ll be fine.

Well there you have it. Just a few suggestions on how to get you back on track. It does sound like your new friendship with Atlus is probably helping. I’m not expecting another console from you guys but it would be pretty great if you released some new games.

You have the power, have a nice day.

Jam

Written by jamalais

April 21, 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in Blog

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6 Responses

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  1. Great article, I feel like it’s so simple for Sega to succeed if they do something like this, but they seem so unusually adverse to it. I’d love to see them do something like thi, as would a lot of other people I am sure

    Austin

    April 22, 2016 at 11:25 am

  2. That’s a well written letter, I hope you actually did send it to Sega.

    Sparky Kestrel

    April 22, 2016 at 10:07 pm

  3. You know, as much as I LOVE Sonic, I think the reason SEGA is the only brand from the old guard that I still really care about is this: they take risks. Many of this risks hurt them but at least they’re trying. Arguably, that is what is lacking now. They are playing it safe because they don’t have the war chest or market position to really take those risks right now.

    Throughout the year, whenever I played an obscure, quirky, and straight-up FUN game, it has often been SEGA published. I look back to games/series like Seaman, Seventh Cross Evolution, Guardian Heroes, Panzer Dragoon, Illbleed, Power Stone, Burning Rangers, Three Dirty Dwarves, Skies Of Arcadia, Crazy Taxi, Secret Of Lodoss War, Alpha Protocal, Binary Domain… SEGA has often pushed forward games that did something different or were simply just FUN.

    Nowadays, I feel like video games are being treated like movies. Critiques are so artsy-fartsy and full of crap. I don’t care if the story made you cry and if the game is visually stunning.. WAS IT FUN FFS?!!

    I’d like to SEGA come back to rekindling that arcade magic and placing their stamps on unique offerings that, hopefully, will get the big studios to stop regurgitating the same crap year after year. In terms of flagship offerings, I think a modern-day Alex Kidd, Kid Chameleon, or Ecco game would be fantastic. If you think about it, retro is doing well because the modern stuff just isn’t as fun. While platforming games may be a hard sell, every so often you see games like Gianna Sisters, Ori & The Blind Forest, Dust, Shovel Knight, Rogue Legacy, Valdis Story: Abyssal City, and Rayman prove that it can still work.

    Jam, you’re right on the money about SEGA working with indie companies and smaller brands. I think the Atlus acquisition was a smart move that they really need to nurture. Atlus tends to make really quirky games and that’s a great brand fit for SEGA. If they can work with indie companies to shine spotlights on lesser-known projects, it can be a win-win-win scenario!

    For now, I would say they should give Sonic a break and let him serve as a cameo or mascot. The problem with Sonic is that the game design was flawed from the start because here you have a super-fast hero who is punished for rushing through levels because of how things sneak up on you. You guys know what I’m saying.. LOL.. But a racing game could work or have some more of these mash-up/party games. Those are always good fun, as much as we like to rag on them.

    All I know is that I see a huge void in the industry right now. SEGA can fill that void and they’re not limited by being tied down to a hardware platform. I’m rooting for them and, deep down inside, I’ll always a be a SEGA fanboy. They can bounce back. As for folks like Nintendo, Capcom, and Konami.. Well, I don’t know. With the latter two, it’s like they don’t care that they are sitting on a gold mine. All these great franchises just rotting away. I would love to see games like Sunset Riders, Rocket Knight/Sparkster, Castlevania, and Contra get the SEGA touch. Could you imagine?? *NERDGASM*

    Yogizilla

    April 23, 2016 at 10:35 am

  4. I hear you Fred, and I reiterate your sentiment. Unfortunately, Sega can’t solicit vision or conjure it from nothing. You have to hire someone who already has it. Unfortunately for them, they refused to follow the Nintendo formula of milking the sacred cow and their properties have suffered for it. Instead of making Sonic an actual character, giving him a life, and making him part of the family they just pasted him into games and relied on similar mechanics translated into 3d games. Nobody gives a shit about Sonic because he’s just a picture, not a person like Mario. Now, it’s too late. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg that is the structural decisions they make as a hardware company 20 years ago. From the Sega CD – Saturn, Sega had no idea what the market would bear, no game plan, and no vision. By the time they made the Dreamcast, it was too late. They got rid of all the people who had these key characteristics to follow an idea through to success, thinking they could rely on their name only. Now even their name is worth nothing. It’s almost parallel to what happened to Atari, and what looks like may happen to Sony with all of this Playstation 4.5 and VR nonsense.

    bmulligan69

    April 23, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    • Couple quick notes, first is that Jam wrote this piece, so the thoughts and opinions are his. That said, it’s not his fault for thinking Sega can be resurrected, Europe is weak to the big blue. Just kidding, kinda.

      Fred Rojas

      April 25, 2016 at 12:05 pm

      • Ha! Read this again and noticed my mistake. Sorry Jam!

        bmulligan

        April 29, 2016 at 6:56 am


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