Well, Mike Hayes, CEO of SEGA Europe is clearly a busy man. Nevertheless we finally managed to pin him down for long enough to answer some of the many questions you sent in.
More of this stuff here.
Sega has made some already very successful titles for the Xbox 360, what are your thoughts on how the next-gen console is performing?
It’s important that SEGA are well represented at the launch of any new console, with strong games. The Xbox 360 itself has had a great start in Europe and our first two titles have exceeded sales expectations.
Many developers have complained that to develop for the next-gen consoles will result in much higher development costs, has this been a problem as a publisher? Do you think this is bad for the video games market?
To be honest it’s just inevitable. As machines become more powerful we have to live up to the standards of these new platforms with deeper, better looking games. Publishers have to invest more to ensure we create quality games.
Historically Sega had a tough time competing with cheaper, but lower tech rivals – how do you think that affects the modern next-gen console market? What can others learn from Sega’s history?
We prefer to focus on the future of the company as a software only publisher. It is important for any console to have strong titles with strong third party support. The rest should fit into place from there.
Sony’s PS3 looks like it will follow a similar direction to the 360, but Nintendo’s Revolution looks to be very different: what do you and your developers think about it? Do you have any Revolution games in development?
Current indications for the new next-generation consoles are that they each have enough individuality to stand out in the market place. I have heard some great things about both the PS3 and the Revolution and we are looking forward to developing for both platforms.
It is now pretty well known that publishers have to have a good catalogue of games franchises to succeed these days, but how do you go about hunting down new talent?
SEGA have a very focussed strategy to work with the very best developers in the world in order to continue deliver quality games. We already have great development talent to draw on from within SEGA itself, such as SEGA Japan, The Creative Assembly and our new Driving Studio. We are also privileged to be working with some of the best developers in the market, for example Sports Interactive and Bizarre Creations.
Sega has a huge fan-base in Japan, so big that Dreamcast games still have a respectable market, but how does that compare to the European market? How do Sega perceive the differences between Japanese and European gamers?
We realise that the key for long-term growth is understanding each local market and carefully adapting our approach to each. We have three major territory headquarters across the world. Our main head office is in Tokyo, but SEGA of America, based in San Francisco and SEGA Europe, based in London, form what we know internally as ‘SEGA West.’ SEGA are working to become a truly global company whilst still ensuring each territory consumers needs are met individually.
How do you think that the tastes of the modern games consumer has changed since the start of the console boom back in the 80’s?
The situation presents quite a paradox. On the one hand the quality and presentation of video games has evolved more in 20 years than any other media bar none. But on the other many of the basic game premises are the same, be they sports, shooting, driving etc. The key has to be that the same level of wow factor is given with every new game on every platform and, in a curious way, the ability of the gaming community (platforms, developers & publishers) to deliver this has remained constant.
How do you see the Sonic franchise developing in the future? Will he be making a next-gen outing?
SEGA will continue to evolve the franchise. A big part of this will be a new Sonic title, to be released on to next gen platforms later this year. Sonic will be fifteen years old in June this year and has become one of the most recognised gaming icons during this time.
You have recently partnered with iFone, how do you see the future of mobile gaming developing?
How will it compare to handheld console gaming such as on a PSP or DS?
Nearly everyone nowadays has a Mobile phone, they are everywhere. The potential for mobile gaming is enormous, but it’s important to understand what works on the mobile format. Handheld gaming on all formats shares the smaller screen size, but that’s where the similarity ends – control methods vary significantly across each. We’ve just released Sonic The Hedgehog via Ifone, and it’s become one of the fastest selling games ever.
If you could choose any, what kind of games would you like to be making?
SEGA has an official strategy of “games for everyone”. The brand is so universally known and accepted that we intend to deliver quality games in every genre, appealing to every age group. So for example we can have the all round family adventure titles like Sonic coming from the same company that brought edgy 18+ games like Condemned. This is the strength of the SEGA heritage and intention.
Do you read blogs? Which one is your favourite?
Don’t read ’em.
What is your favourite Gadget?
It would be an iPod if it didn’t keep breaking down, so it has to be my ever so reliable Blackberry.
Is Sega planning on buying any more development studios this year (like Creative Assembly)?
SEGA is always looking into new business opportunities. We’ll continue to strive to work with the best development talent, whether that’s working on single game deals, exclusive development output, or acquiring new studios, we’re actively looking at the best way to expand our business.
Rumour has it that the Dreamcast may be making a comeback, is that true? If not, is there any chance of some new hardware?
There are no plans for Dreamcast to make a comeback. At the moment SEGA are concentrating solely on developing quality software for both current and next generation games consoles.
Is High Def the future of gaming?
The level of quality and clarity that High Def technology has to offer is very impressive. In my view it adds significantly to the gaming experience. I suppose the extent to which the technology is picked up will depend on how the consumer feels about it.
Sega has just announced World Football Climax (PS2). Will it be released in Europe?
We haven’t confirmed this title for a European release.