A few days ago, Sega Sammy CEO Haruki Satomi walked on SegaFes’ stage in Akihabara, Tokyo, to open the curtains on what many have seen as a new beginning for the publisher, announcing much-awaited initiatives like New Sakura Wars and Shenmue I & II for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Today’s issue of Weekly Famitsu included an extensive interview with Satomi-san, who made some definitely interesting points about the announcements and the future of Sega in general.
Satomi-san explained that the company was able to achieve profitability in all regions for the second consecutive year in all business segments, including arcade, smartphone games, pc games, console games, animation, and merchandise. With this foundation that allows achieving stable revenue, Sega is ready to take on new challenges.
Last year, Satomi-san extended two relevant messages to his employees. The first is “let’s regain confidence and pride because we have many fans supporting us.” The second is “We have to provide exciting content for those fans.”
Previously, he used to feel that the entire group had lost confidence, so he thought that it was necessary to change the mindset of its employees. One important element that he aimed to address is that producers would release games only when confident that they’re “absolutely a good game or service” whether or not they expect big sales.
Satomi-san believes that the company is managing to regain the trust of consumers, and that commitment to the quality of the product plays a major role in improving earnings performance as well.
Interestingly, he believes that it’s not good to just blame the situation of the market when something doesn’t go well. For instance, the market environment of arcade games is in dire straits, but the company shouldn’t just look towards the outside. Sega itself has a share in that market, so if that market shrinks, they’re also responsible for that decline themselves.
Basically, whether a product sells or not is the company’s responsibility, and Satomi-san would like his studios to aim to make good games regardless of platforms, and not to work on IPs just as a one-shot, but with an eye on how to grow them.
Satomi-san feels that globalization is also an important factor to the growth of Sega’s IPs. Until now, too often he had to face only Japanese gamers when promoting his games. Yet, delivering the charm of the publisher’s IPs overseas should not be the exclusive responsibility of the western marketing teams. The developers in Japan should make an effort to be responsible for that as well.
Satomi-san explained that he heard the message from the fans about wanting relevant old series to come back, so he thought it was necessary to develop games to meet these expectations.
Just a few years ago, there was a proposal about creating a new series from the company’s IPs. At that time, he mentioned that he was ready to bring back Sakura Wars, and the room went silent. However, when the meeting was over and he was about to leave, the staff enthusiastically told him “I absolutely want to do that” so he responded, “why didn’t you say that during the meeting?” So, in the end, they decided to bring back the series backed by the support of the fans and by the enthusiasm of the developers. Satomi-san will be directly in charge as project owner and executive producer, so we should expect more information to come down the line.
He is aware that it’s an important IP for Sega, and that many fans are waiting for its return, so he can’t just do it half-assed. While he can’t share any details yet, the fact that he is in charge of the whole production also shows that the initiative won’t end with just the development of this game, so the fans should look forward to it.
Speaking of Shenmue I & II they’re important games also popular with fans overseas. They marked the beginning of 3D open world games, and they have been considered legendary ever since. He hopes that young gamers of the current generation will play them.
Another interesting point Satomi-san made is that it’s important to target gamers beyond Sega’s fans, because making games only for their existing fans will cause the company’s production to stagnate. It’s relevant to cater to those who aren’t playing Sega games, alongside those who have abandoned the publisher’s content in the past. This is also true for New Sakura Wars. While he would like existing fans to enjoy it, it’s necessary to aggressively think on how to earn new fans as well.
In a previous meeting with investors, he explained that Sega will operate four IP axis. The first is existing IP, continuing to create new games in various forms for series like Yakuza or Sonic. The second is the revival of existing IP. The third is new IP, as creating new challenges has always been a value of the Sega group. The motto “creation is life” is part of the publisher’s DNA. The fourth axis is working on IP from other companies. Satomi-san admitted that Sega has not been very good at this until now.
Interestingly, Satomi-san explained that he tries not to decide by himself whether a project should be greenlit or not. This is something that professionals within each segment of the company should decide. However, there are times in which he might take the initiative and decide that it’s better to increase the size of a project by investing more, and a perfect example of this is New Sakura Wars.
He would also like to continue hosting events like SegaFes, as he thinks it’s an important occasion to meet the expectations of the fans and to share emotions with them. While specific games have their own events, there aren’t many for the whole company.
Sega has already games catering to the requirements of eSports in the planning phase, and Border Break is one of them. In the future, this commitment will increase, and it’ll be important to create games that players can enjoy for a long time.
Satomi-san concluded by reiterating that Sega is ready for new challenges. He believes that the fiscal year 2018 will be the year in which the publisher will announce things that they have been building up until now. More than ever, he would like fans to look forward to it.
If you want to listen to us talk about Sega’s recent announcements, you can check out the new episode of our DualShockers’ Weebcast.