November 20, 2008

SEGA Shows Signs of Life

Andrew Weymes Says: The last generation of consoles wasn't very kind to SEGA. When the SEGA Dreamcast launched in 1999 in North America, it's only competitors were the Nintendo 64, and the Playstation 1. While the Dreamcast launch was a failure in Japan the year prior because of a small library of games at launch, and the looming shadow of the Playstation 2's launch, the North American launch was a huge success. The Dreamcast had an impressive lineup of games, and had an obvious technological edge over the current competition. The Dreamcast had some amazing launch titles such as Powerstone, Soul Calibur, the classic Sonic Adventure, the forgotten Blue Stinger, Trickstyle, Hydro Thunder, House of the Dead 2, NFL2K, and Ready to Rumble among others.

The Dreamcast sold an impressive 500,000 units its first week in North America. SEGA continued this momentum all the way until the launch of the Playstation 2 in 2000. Despite releasing critically acclaimed titles such as Shenmue (an incredibly deep action adventure game for it's time), Jet Grind Radio (the first cell shaded video game), and Sonic Adventure 2, the interest in the Dreamcast dwindled after the Playstation 2 entered the scene. Debt, fierce competition, and some clever marketing on the part of Sony put an end to the glorious era of SEGA video game consoles.

By 2002, the mighty SEGA had fallen, and became a third party developer releasing games on the Playstation 2, the Gamecube, and the Xbox. This came as a shock to many SEGA loyalists that never imagined Sonic would be on a Nintendo console. SEGA had minor success with games such as Virtua Fighter 4, Super Monkey Ball, as well as critical success with Jet Set Radio Future, but the majority of SEGA titles released on either the Playstion 2, Gamecube or Xbox such as Sonic Adventure DX, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, Shadow the Hedgehog, and Sonic Heroes were met with mediocre reviews. Sonic Heroes was the most successful of these titles, selling over 2 million copies.

The current generation of consoles started off a little rough for SEGA with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Sonic the Hedgehog was met with less than stellar sales and mediocre reviews. However, SEGA is showing an upward trend since then. SEGA published Condemned 2, which was met with mostly positive reviews. Golden Axe: Beast Rider received some rather poor reviews, which was upsetting to many fans of the series, but SEGA's more recent games such as Valkyria Chronicles—a Playstation 3 exclusive—and Sonic Unleashed, a multiplatform game were met with generally positive reviews.

Many people have lost faith in SEGA after the slew of average Sonic games that plagued the previous generation, but they shouldn't abandon hope just yet. With an unexpectedly deep strategy roleplaying game—Valkyria Chronicles—and a true next generation Sonic title, faith in the resurgence of SEGA is at an all time high. Before the fanboys start clamouring for a Dreamcast 2, they should realize that SEGA's place is in third party development. If SEGA entered the console market again, they would most assuredly be crushed by the intense marketing of Microsoft, the excellent quality of Sony, and the innovation of Nintendo.

An interesting idea for SEGA is to align themselves with either Sony or Microsoft and make exclusive games. This could attract more attention to SEGA, as well as help the console of their choosing. An exclusive Sonic title may not sound like much right now, but if the next Sonic game were to get a 9, or higher, exclusivity could definitely help move a few consoles, and get SEGA back in the limelight. SEGA is trying to succeed this generation, and for the most part they are. SEGA fans should be very pleased this holiday season. With SEGA showing signs of its former self, one can only hope that this trend continues.