For over 4 decades SErvice GAmes has been at the forefront of Electronic Gaming. From co-founder David Rosen’s innovative strategies in establishing arcades across Japan to the adaptation of SEGA’s Naomi arcade board into a home console (the Dreamcast), SEGA has remained on top through its daring game plans and sound leadership. And, in 1999 Sega of America got a new head coach: Peter Moore.
After sending the Dreamcast to the showers in 2001, Coach Moore decided it was time to restructure the team at SEGA. A year later, we had a chance to catch up with him at E3 2002, to see how his game plan was going.
Upon approaching SEGA’s territory at E3, you couldn’t help but notice how the former quiet command center of last year had become a bustling stadium of activity. On the outer rim gamers got a chance to catch a game of football, SEGA-style in comfortable stadium seating, while inside, SEGA’s top players were hard at work running the field of executives and reporters.
In the inner rim sat the bullpens–with soundproof walls, and an upper deck of additional offices. Then sitting side-by-side on the lower level glowed game cabinets, featuring the hottest sports titles coming out this year. While watching sports fans take turns playing today’s top teams, I waited for Coach Moore…
Then out of the corner of my eye I saw him coming over with a broad smile. After a swift and expressive greeting, Coach Moore ushered me into one of the meeting rooms and we sat down. While setting up my tape recorder, I noticed the large SEGA Sports posters proudly hanging behind him. “Fire Away”, he said smiling.
Raising an eyebrow, I threw out the first pitch and asked how the company’s reformation was going. “We’re very satisfied,” Coach Moore said in good spirits. “We still had probably a million units of Dreamcast hardware… and transitioning, going from one complete business model, where your competitors now become your friends and your friends now become your competitors.”
According to Moore, SEGA got itself out of a pinch with its Dreamcast unloading effort, while making another successful play by releasing titles for the top 3 consoles: “…To get out of something… that’s dead in the consumer’s eyes is a very expensive proposition… Not only did we do that well; we did that profitably. We were able to drive all Dreamcasts through the marketplace by Thanksgiving (2001) and at the same time were shipping new multi-platform product for PlayStation 2, and in particular for Xbox and followed up with Gamecube.”
After Coach Moore’s pep talk, I thought I’d ask him if he felt that the events of 9-11 would be a factor on plans for new and future games—after all, I pointed out, it certainly was interesting that the U.S. Army showed up in full force at E3 ’02 and set up camp next door. On this, he had an interesting view:
“I think that’s directly because of the patriotic feeling and the respect we have for the armed forces. And I think they probably felt the time was right…and God Bless them. But I don’t think—I don’t see any real sea change in the types of games [coming out]…”
Coach Moore suggests that harder military themed games may actually be useful for some Americans during this time, while also noting that we may not see anything immediate in the way of possible changes to recent trends or a watering-down of violent content, due to lengthy production time for videogames:
“Remember, the development cycle is a year and a half to two years, so it’s too early really to see that post 9-11 and all of the sudden that there will be brand new games coming out. If a game is in development 9-11, chances are it will not get shipped until this fall anyway…
“Yeah I think, you know, certainly in our case ‘Super Monkey Ball’ and Sonic are very very popular–more family oriented, maybe less violent. But I have to say that I haven’t seen a drop off in ‘M’ rated games… ‘Halo’ being a great example where, you know, strong military theme. Any many people would argue…that that is a venting of some level of frustration, the ability to be more aggressive in a videogame–lets people vent some frustration with real life.”
In line with Coach Moore’s point, I asked if he thought we might see an increase in military type software in the near future. “Yeah. Yeah I think that…” he agreed. “America is right for that type of thing.”
Thinking about the other “Halos” (the Anaheim Angels), it was time to see about SEGA’s sports roster:
“I am a huge sports gamer!” Coach Moore exclaimed. “I think our sports line up is just incredible. We’ve now added NCAA football, NCAA basketball to our lineup. We have 6 different sports titles across each of the three platforms. So we’re shipping 18 skews now. We will take on EA head-to-head…”
Taking on EA won’t be easy, but Coach Moore’s visionary strategy may very well launch a successful interception of sports fans’ gaming dollars. “The realism in sports now that we are developing… We’ve forged a relationship, as you can see, with ESPN, because we believe there’ll be a merging of the broadcast medium, the interactive medium in sports sooner than our competitors think. And, we intend to partner with the worldwide leader in sports, which of course is ESPN.”
And, with that, Coach Moore got up and led me back outside to the roaring arena of new sports titles. After showing me around for a bit, it was time to say “’til next year”. Following a firm handshake and a later, Coach Peter Moore said “goodbye” and was off again to rally his team and battle it out on the new software playing field.
Check out SEGA on the web at www.sega.com