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Could eSports be Key to the Future of Sega?

While Sega’s days as a games console powerhouse may appear to be long gone, it is safe to say the brand remains one of the best known and respected in the industry with its projects always gaining plenty of attention. Whether it is releasing free mobile versions of classic titles on Sega Forever or looking to take steps into augmented reality with Sonic the Hedgehog, fans and industry commentators are always keen to see what the company has up its sleeve.

This may be why the company’s recent investor report has picked up plenty of attention in the last couple of months. One particular aspect which seemed to pique many people’s interest in the ‘Road to 2020’ business plan was the suggestion that the company is looking to create global hits, with a focus on making the most of ‘dormant’ properties.

As Sega Forever has shown, gamers are still keen on the company’s best known titles so there is a clear appetite for reviving some more old favourites. No names were given in terms of the series that Sega has in mind, but AV Club’s suggestion that Virtua Fighter could make a comeback with eSports in mind is a tantalising prospect.

Why? Well, eSports has the potential to put Sega back at the top of the gaming industry. According to research from Newzoo, eSports will generate $696 million in revenues this year, with this figure set to grow to $1.5 billion by 2010. The industry has already attracted major sponsorship from brands including Acer and Audi and fans now even have the chance to gamble on the outcome of major matches. Sites such as www.bets.io offer odds on clashes in all of the leading games, from League of Legends to Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

Could Virtua Fighter soon be featured on such sites? To be honest, it is not impossible. After all, similar fighting games such as Tekken and Street Fighter have a significant foothold in the industry through tournaments such as the Capcom Cup, where the best players in the world take each other on for a share of a prize pot. Last year’s tournament, which was based around Street Fighter V, saw the winner, NuckleDu, take home $230,000. Smaller prizes were also awarded to the rest of the top eight.

Virtua Fighter remains a well-known and much-loved brand, so a new version of the game with refreshed graphics and gameplay may well just have what it takes to challenge other fighting games and become a major part of the competitive gaming world. The consequences of this would be huge for Sega, putting the brand at the centre of major tournaments and back in the spotlight in a huge way.

While it is hard to say exactly what Sega may be planning at this stage and with which titles, it is highly likely that the unstoppable rise of eSports has not escaped their attention. Whether it is Virtua Fighter or another game, it will be interesting to see how matters unfold over the coming years.

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  • Khalill

    I wouldn’t recommend Sega pushing VF into the e-sports realm. Unless they simplified it for the general audience (as other current-gen fighting games have done), no one is going to be interested in playing it (besides us Sega fans). Due to it’s complicated and slow nature, it won’t appeal to the Western audiences on a broad scale.

    Fighting games in e-sports is a weird spot to be in, revenue-wise. A game like Street Fighter 5 is considered terrible by its (former) players and current professional players (slow speed, much more simplistic = less exciting to watch, iffy online connections, have to purchase characters) , but it brings in the viewers. This is partial because of the Street Fighter brand name, partial because Capcom throws a lot of money into the prize pools, and partial because players are afraid of trying other fighting games out (Tekken, Guilty Gear, Injustice, etc.).

    The polar opposite is true for games such as Injustice 2 and Guilty Gear. Developers update these games frequently at the players’ requests, offer huge cash pots, and offer great tutorials for new players, but they hardly get many viewers.

    I really do want Sega to come back on top, but I don’t want them to repeat the Dreamcast scenario.

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