Examining Sega’s Early Publishing Attempts After The Console War
What was it like for Sega right after admitting defeat in 2001?
When Sega announced they were leaving the hardware business, I can speak for all Sega enthusiasts in saying that we were shocked and heart broken. Of course, the writing had been on the wall for some time.
During the latter part of the ‘90s, the Sega brand had once was all but gone. The Saturn was a blur of a console that didn’t find mainstream success, and the Frankenstein of a 32X was just as bad.
It was an odd time after the Dreamcast was discontinued; Sega fans had to get their games on non-Sega consoles. I’ll admit it was tough to watch my favorite Sega mascots on another console.
But I guess there is solace in the fact that Sega is still around in one form or another, and we get to see our favorite mascots hit the big screen again. Let’s take a look at Sega’s early transition after losing the console war.
Sega GT 2002
Gran Turismo is one of the greatest racing games ever made, and Sega needed a competing title. Thus, Sega GT was born on the Dreamcast in 2000.
Sega GT was about as close to Gran Turismo as you could get on a competing system. The game was well received, and Sega was in the process of developing the sequel when the Dreamcast was discontinued.
The game was then reprogrammed for the Xbox, and it was a tough pill for Dreamcast aficionados to swallow at first. Do we support another console when we had just purchased our Dreamcasts two years prior?
The collection of cars and the depth of game play still fell short when you compared it to the PlayStation offering. Nevertheless, Sega was getting their feet wet in the publishing business.
Sega GT 2002 featured online game play thanks to Xbox Live, and the graphics were surprisingly better than the original game. Sadly, Sega GT is one of the Sega franchises that hasn’t survived beyond this period.
Sonic Heroes was the first brand new 3D Sonic game released across all three major consoles. The game had many unique elements, and some borrowed from the previous Sonic Adventure titles.
Using a teamwork aspect with three characters instead of one was a unique design element. But many hardcore Sonic fans didn’t appreciate Sega mixing up what was a tried and true formula.
There were various gameplay modes, including story and battle. There was also a multiplayer split-screen mode, but none of that was enough to salvage the game.
Another area that Sonic Heroes was panned on was the music. Game journalists such as Matt Casamassina with IGN called the guitar rifts cheesy at best; not a good look for Sega’s first publishing efforts.
Needless to say, Sonic Heroes didn’t make the same impact as Sonic Adventuredid four years prior. Gamers were used to Sonic’s 3D outings, and it wasn’t anything terribly unique anymore.
For some reason, Sega has had a tough time getting the 3D Sonic games right after the original Sonic Adventure.
Jet Set Radio Future
Another title that was sadly planned for the Dreamcast made its way onto Microsoft’s console. There is no doubt that Microsoft benefited tremendously from Sega exiting the console market.
The Dreamcast would have dampened everything the Xbox was about, from online play to the games. Jet Set Radio Future is set after the original game and featured updated visuals.
But a lot of the game play was the same, and JSRF didn’t fare well when it came to sales, only selling about 80,000 copies in a six month window. Sega seemingly gave up on the franchise after that failure.
Many of these original franchises were distinguished on the Dreamcast, but as a Sega gamer, we simply couldn’t stomach ushering them on a rival console. I’ve played JSRF recently, and it wasn’t a bad game.
The story was not strong and the gameplay was repetitive, which I believe is half of the problem with the franchise. Another thing is that the controls are hard to get used to if you’ve never played before.
Life On a Nintendo Handheld
Sega also made the presence on the Game Boy Advance. There were many popular Sega franchises ported to the handheld console. One of the most notable was Crazy Taxi, which featured full 3D graphics.
Monkey Ball was also a popular franchise that made its way to the GBA. There was also the Sonic Advance trio of platformers, built on the original side-scrolling Sonic the Hedgehog titles.
I have to say that the initial Sega handheld titles released on the Game Boy Advance were satisfactory. You could feel the touch of Sega quality, and the powerful processor behind the GBA made it work.
The GBA was the first handheld Sega had published since the failure of their original handheld, the GameGear. A handheld that was bested by you guessed it, Nintendo.
Recognizing Sega titles on the GBA felt a bit weird, but it was a welcomed surprise to say the least. Sega would also publish a few titles for the Nokia N-Gage handheld console during this time frame.
A Surprise Uppercut for Electronic Arts
After the failure of the Sega Saturn game, publisher Electronic Arts had decided against supporting the Sega Dreamcast. With Electronic Arts being a major sports game publisher, Sega needed to act.
Thus, the 2K series of sports games was released under the Sega Sports banner. The NFL 2K series was a stand out hit and managed to do well long after Sega had exited the console market.
NFL 2K’s success attracted the attention of EA. Everyone from gaming journalists to consumers hailed the NFL 2K series as better than EA’s Maddenin every way possible.
Electronic Arts acted in one of the most controversial ways ever, and secured an exclusive contract with the NFL. This deal effectively killed off the Sega Sports NFL 2K franchise altogether.
This exclusive deal with the NFL drew a major backlash within the gaming community. Gamers were appalled that EA would cut off competition in such an unfair way.
To this day, the Madden series is still the only choice for a licensed football title. Gamers have been confused with EA ever since, and the vast majority of hardcore gamers would like to see a 2K sports title return again.
Recently, Sega has started to come back into the limelight. In 2018, the company released the Sega Genesis Mini console, which was a massive hit with consumers.
Sega did everything right on that mini-console, from the games to the design. Whereas Sony had bombed the year prior with the PlayStation Mini. Sega also has many popular titles on the market right now.
The Nintendo Switch has been an excellent avenue for Sega, which re-released many classic games on the system. There was also a modern-day remake of Toe-Jam and Earl.
In a lot of ways, Sega is to the gaming industry what Apple is to the computer business. The company innovated and completely changed the way we played video games.
Even the Dreamcast was an instrumental console, and we wouldn’t enjoy games the same way if it weren’t for Sega. We can only hope the company will continue to push the boundaries when it comes to gaming.
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