Sega is About to Unleash Some Big News
In case you haven’t heard, amid a global pandemic, domestic rioting and unrest, and seemingly endless troubling news, a rumor has escaped Japan that Sega is in the process of readying an announcement next week that will rile the video gaming industry.
Since, in general, it takes quite a bit to make ripples across an entire industry dominated by corporations with near limitless budgets coupled to the reality that we are getting close to the launch of the 9th Generation of home consoles, one wonders what in the world Sega’s cooking up.
The rumor leak came into being when Japanese technology journalist Zenji Nishikawa said that news slated to “rile up the games industry” about a “game company that everyone loves” will be appearing in the June 4 issue of Famitsu.
Essentially the hype can boil down to only one of three things but, technically speaking, every one of these things could be successfully argued away as well. Let’s take a look at the trifecta of most obvious possibilities and discuss why or why not they are likely the subject of the early June media hype.
Sega bowed out of the hardware game 20-years ago right around the time Sony released the Playstation 2. Its 1999 Dreamcast, despite being technically superior to all other hardware on the market at its time of release, was both a sales and critical disappointment.
Sales of the machine failed to meet Sega’s expectations despite several price cuts, and the company continued to incur significant financial losses attempting to generate interest in the console. Then, after a change in corporate leadership, Sega opted to discontinue the Dreamcast project on March 31, 2001, not only pulling the plug on its 6th generation hardware but also withdrawing from the console manufacturing business altogether, instead restructuring itself to become as a third-party software publisher. All told, 9.13 million Dreamcast units were moved worldwide.
Rumors of Sega’s return to hardware manufacturing have been floating around the industry for the greater part of a decade now. Typically dismissed as mere wishful thinking by longtime fans of the brand, this could be the first legitimate case of Sega gathering up some media presence to announce something so substantial.
If a Japanese hardware manufacturer were to consider returning to the console wars, the timing would be right. Word of Sony’s forthcoming PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s XBox X-Series have already flooded the industry. Sega would be right in the hunt to announce its intentions and show off prototypes/ specs at this phase of the console cycle.
That same journalist went on to dispel rumors of the Dreamcast 2 right away. If he’s being truthful that it’s not a DC2 announcement, that pretty much rules out the possibility of it being a console under any name, this includes a new handheld, hybrid (ala Nintendo Switch) or even a streaming service/ device. Was the source lying so as not to turn a rumor into a genuine leak? We won’t know until next week.
Sega Branded Microsoft Products
While Microsoft is a household hardware name here in its native US of A, it’s no big secret that the brand has struggled to capture the hearts (and wallets) of gamers abroad – especially in Japan; where gamers tend to prefer domestic offerings from companies like Nintendo and Sony.
Going all the way back to the Dreamcast days, Sega had formed a partnership with Microsoft, going as far as to have the DC run on a Windows (CE) operating system. It’s possible that in effort to secure more of the Japanese market for their systems and games, they have worked out a partnership with Sega of Japan to rebrand the products as Sega there.
This is a very realistic collaboration. The Sega Dreamcast actually said “Compatible with Windows” right on the front of its shell. Microsoft would certainly be wise to try and change its identity in the Asain market to appeal to users who are simply more comfortable supporting Japanese companies.
Another possibility is that Microsoft may actually be in a position to buy Sega. Now whether that would mean a resurgence of the Sega brand or its simple absorption into the Microsoft brand umbrella would yet to be determined as well.
Before E3 was cancelled due to COVID, a leaked 2020 ad made its way around the web featuring the Xbox Game Studios and Sega logos side by side along with the caption “Power Your Dreams”. The ad had a set date that coincided with E3: June 14th, 9:00AM PDT 12:00PM EST.
The biggest detractor to this possibility is the simple fact that news like regional rebranding happens daily and rarely could it be considered “industry riling”. In a situation like this, nothing aside from some box logos and branding are actually being changed. Maybe such a deal could grant Microsoft a better foothold in a foreign market while making the Sega logo relevant once more but again, it’s unlikely such an announcement would be significant enough for a publication to be touting the exclusive scoop on a global scale.
If Microsoft were to actually buy out Sega, however, that may be a more justifiable boast and the leaked E3 ad makes this a very strong possibility.
What is especially interesting is the fact that all of this lines up perfectly with Sega’s 60th Anniversary. In fact, the company is celebrating its 60th on June 3rd, 2020! An official site has been established to commemorate the occasion.
For many gamers, this milestone encapsulates a very rich history of gaming memories and experiences. While an official Sega Genesis Mini was released in September of 2019 to celebrate the system’s 30th birthday, is it possible Sega is going to take a page out of Atari’s book and release a system capable of playing the brand’s unimaginably vast retro software catalog?
Sega has a back-catalog that rivals some of the industry’s absolute biggest names. A machine that could potentially come packing titles from as far back as the SG-1000 all the way up to the Dreamcast would have undeniable appeal in a time where retro mini consoles have been actually able to outsell contemporary hardware.
Unless this thing worked off some sort of subscription streaming service or came packing a hard-drive the size of a small server, the catalog of included games would only be a handful at best of the many systems Sega has offered throughout the years (SG-1000, Master System, Genesis, Sega CD, 32X, Saturn, Dreamcast).
Based on the success of the Genesis Mini, the smarter choice would be to simply continue introducing miniature consoles the same way Nintendo has – create a dedicated Sega CD Mini, Saturn Mini, Dreamcast Mini etc.
While it would be an extreme disappointment – we have to stop and consider the legitimate possibility that this announcement could be something as insignificant as the release of a new game, a collection of Sega greatest hits available for contemporary systems/ PC for example.
And though it pains me to admit it, it could be something as minor as a proposed sequel to the 2020 Sonic the Hedgehog film.
Of course, were the announcement to fall into these dismal arenas, both Zenji Nishikawa and Famitsu itself’s reputation would be undoubtedly tarnished.
I suppose the good news is we need not speculate for long. The news will be official worldwide by June 4th.