SEGA’s big next-generation blunder

The Sony and Microsoft gods are laughing atop their mountains of cash after the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have been smashing sales records left and right after their release. Both companies sold 1 million consoles a piece in the 24 hours following the launch of their consoles, and Sony has announced it has since sold through 2.1 million units as of Dec. 3.

Riding on the console’s coattails were the launch games. Many of the big publishers and franchises were there, Ubisoft with Assassin’s Creed, Activision with Call of Duty, and EA with Madden and Battlefield. In truth, however, none of the games on either console are really all that groundbreaking. But that hasn’t hindered launch software sales.

Would SEGA have been better off focusing development of Sonic: Lost World on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One?

In the UK, six of the top 10 games in last week’s sales charts belonged to next-gen consoles. Hell, the PS4’s Knack, which didn’t review all that well and certainly wasn’t viewed by most as a must-buy, outsold Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. It’s easy to see the console hype gave these games a huge sales boost.

Unfortunately, noticeably absent from the list of these major publishers was SEGA, which had zero titles on the PS4 or Xbox One.

In fact, as silly as it sounds, SEGA has no publicly announced next-gen titles currently scheduled to be released in the West (Yakuza Restoration doesn’t count).

And it’s not that SEGA didn’t have anything to release in this time frame either. For example, Sonic: Lost World and Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, both games apart of SEGA and Nintendo’s exclusive agreement, released on the Wii U very close to the next-gen launches. Typing of the Dead: Overkill stealthily released at the end of October, as well. Trickled in between and after were a couple mobile games and some of the Genesis 3D ports to the 3DS eShop.

Could SEGA really not have had at least something ready for the PS4 and Xbox One launch? What about one of those Genesis compilation discs they used to throw at us every couple years, or maybe even bring out a new version of the Dreamcast Collection?

Better yet, why not release the oft-rumored Shenmue 1 and 2 HD Collection? Actually, doing this would have been a great strategic move for SEGA as it would have been a relatively cheap and easy port and would have served as a litmus test to see the feasibility of Shenmue 3’s from a sales standpoint. Sure, there’s nothing to say SEGA can’t still release the game, but it would have filled a very noticeable action-RPG void in both console’s line-ups.

Instead of doing any of that, though, SEGA signed the exclusive deal with Nintendo to bring three Sonic the Hedgehog games to the Wii U and 3DS. So far, two of those games have shipped, and both have been commercial and critical failures.

Sonic: Lost World has been an utter flop in Japan and in the UK, where numbers have been officially released. While the NPDs no longer reports software sales for North America, VG Chartz reports it has sold about 42,800 copies in North America. Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games has thus far been a disappointment, as well, and hasn’t had the same success of previous games in the series. There’s still that last unannounced game that will be the third and final game in this agreement. What that is we don’t know, but it’s hard to think that SEGA could succeed with a new Sonic game where Sonic: Lost World and Mario & Sonic have failed.

It’s also true that we don’t know the details of the agreement SEGA signed with Nintendo. It could very well be that Nintendo paid a king’s ransom to get these exclusive Sonic games, but it’s highly doubtful as Nintendo hasn’t exactly been chomping at the bit to secure third-party support for its consoles in like, forever.

Mario & Sonic was the second game in SEGA and Nintendo’s exclusive agreement and hasn’t lived up to series’ expectations since its release.

Going back to Sonic: Lost World for a moment, though, just imagine if SEGA had released it on PS4, Xbox One and Wii U. Not only would it have not been overshadowed by the impending launch of Sony’s and Microsoft’s systems, it would have certainly been featured in both company’s many pre-launch hype events. Instead, it was lost in the sea of next-gen console hype, and oh yeah, releasing it on a struggling platform the same day of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Battlefield 4 isn’t exactly the smartest thing to do.

I fully understand that hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but you don’t have to be a genius to have predicted what would happen this holiday season. Gamers want the PS4 and Xbox One, and the Wii U has become an afterthought, or at the very best, a secondary console people buy to play Nintendo games.

And looking back, it’s not like SEGA has a history of not showing up for the launch of a new console either. For example, last generation, SEGA had Condemned: Criminal Origins at launch for the Xbox 360 and Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz for the Nintendo Wii.

In the end, it comes down to several big strategic missteps on SEGA of Japan’s part. For one, Sonic: Lost World should have been released on PS4 and Xbox One at launch. Second, SEGA should have had some digital titles ready to go at launch, too, even if it was a lazy HD port of Shenmue 1 and 2.

Something would have been better than nothing. Unfortunately, SEGA chose to align itself with the console loser this holiday season. With no major games announced to be released by the end of the year, SEGA has become a holiday loser this year.

Chris Powell

Chris is the editor-in-chief at SEGA Nerds and Mega Visions Magazine. Over the years, he's written for publications like Joystiq, PSP Fanboy, RETRO magazine, among others. Oh yeah, he's also been a diehard SEGA Nerd his entire life.

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