Sega fan site Sega 16 has managed to land a golden
interview with ex Sega of America President, Tom Kalinske (pictured, right), who gives a comprehensive, revealing insight into the workings of the once mighty Sega, when he was at the helm back in its heyday through the early 90's.
The wide-ranging interview is a must read for both Sega fanboys and anyone interested in videogames and in how the console business evolved throughout this key decade in our pastime's short history.
Kalinske also speaks frankly about the challenges and difficulties of working with Sega of Japan at that time:
"They said they didn't like anything I had told them and disagreed with all of it, 100%. They didn't agree that we should advertise against Nintendo, staff up the U.S. to develop software, reduce the price of the hardware, or put our best title [Sonic] in with the hardware, and I can't remember all the other stuff they didn't agree with. Basically, they didn't agree with any of it, and I thought that well...this was the shortest career anyone ever had! That's it, three months, and I have to go find another job. But at the door, as he was walking out, Nakayama turned and said "but we hired you to make all the decisions for the United States and Europe, and so, that's what we want you to do, even though we think you're crazy and don't agree with it, go ahead and do it."
Kalinske also reveals how he worked closely with Sony on a proposal to jointly develop Sega's next hardware platform: "Sega said not a chance... Why would it want to share a platform with Sony? Sega would be much better off just developing its own platform, and it's nice that we had some ideas on what that platform ought to be and they'd consider it, but the company would be developing its next platform itself."
He continues: "At that particular point in time, Sega knew how to develop software a hell of a lot better than Sony did... They were just coming up the learning curve, so we would have benefited much more greatly -- at least in my opinion -- than Sony would have, at least initially, at least for a year or two. But Sega of Japan didn't want any of that."
The above revelations are only the tip of the iceberg. Kalinske, who is currently Vice Chairman of Leapfrog, is refreshingly open and frank when discussing internal Sega Japan/America conflicts.
He also reveals, rather coolly, that he obtained the Sega job, whilst tanning himself on the beach in Hawaii, telling the interviewer: "I'm lying on a beach in Hawaii, literally lying on a beach in Hawaii, and a shadow comes over me and I look up...it's Hayao Nakayama. He says "Hey Tom what are you doing?" I say, "Well, I'm here on the beach relaxing." He says "why don't you come back to Japan with me? I want to show you some really great technology." I didn't know what he was talking about, but literally, that's how the dance of recruitment started."
Speaking to the UK's leading Sega fanboy, none other than UK:Resistance's Commander Zorg
, SPOnG heard: "It's terrible to read that Sega was TEARING ITSELF APART at a time it should've been uniting to crush the growing Sony menace. Things might have been so different had Sega Japan and America got together over a warm sake and made the Saturn appeal to both sides of the world, instead of just a few thousand hardcore geeks"
SPOnG would urge you to go and make yourself a nice cup of tea, and sit down and read the full, splendid interview over at Sega 16.