Opinion// SEGA and Nintendo: A Match Made in Heaven

Posted 20 May 2013 12:31 by
SEGA fans have had a lot to complain about lately. And it largely involves Nintendo. Once bitter rivals in the 1990s, the two companies have long since reconciled their differences, leading to the culture shock of seeing Sonic the Hedgehog on a Gamecube back in 2001. Today, we’re seeing similar reactions thanks to some exclusive Wii U deals.

And there SEGA sat, fearing that nobody cared about it anymore.

Recently, the prominent third party publisher not only signed another three Sonic games exclusively to Nintendo’s new console, but also plans to port Yakuza 1 & 2 HD to the platform (in Japan - no news on a Western release). This follows the revelation that Bayonetta 2 is to be a Wii U exclusive - news that practically caused internet riots (despite the fact that, without this deal, the sequel would never exist).

It’s a surprising, and somewhat ironic reaction - considering that the partnership between the two companies makes more sense than almost anything else I’ve witnessed this past generation. It’s a simple truth that SEGA’s Japanese output, in terms of creative approach and sheer philosophy, matches that of Nintendo more than Sony or Microsoft.

We’ve seen how well SEGA’s Japanese titles have fared on other platforms in recent years. Valkyria Chronicles, one of the most aesthetically pleasing and interesting strategy RPGs of the generation, tanked on PS3. Binary Domain, a fantastic squad shooter designed to appeal to the West, suffered a similar fate on both Xbox 360 and PS3. Sonic Generations, a game released on multiple platforms, only sold marginally more than the Wii version of predecessor Sonic Colours.

It is more than likely that money is involved. Money is almost always involved when it comes to platform-exclusive deals with third parties. But given the bombs it has experienced in the West with its Japanese-made games, can you really blame SEGA for this deal? It’s also important to remember exactly what platforms sell best in Japan. While the Wii U is not setting anything on fire, the PS3 has only just started to gain sales traction some seven years after launch and the Xbox 360 is non-existent.

And domestic viability is now a bigger factor than ever when Japanese publishers consider releasing products internationally. This is in no small part to the increased ‘Westernisation’ of the games industry over the past generation. The rise of the Xbox, first-person shooters and Hollywood-style stories have forced many third parties to mimic Western studios or risk becoming irrelevant. A number of SEGA’s console flops can be attributed to a Western audience’s apathy towards Japanese games.

Consider the above, and you begin to see why a multi-platform strategy might not necessarily yearn the best return on investment for SEGA. Why sell a Japanese-made game on platforms whose audiences are clearly not interested in? Why not sell a Japanese-made game on a platform whose philosophies match up, and with a company that has proven to help cultivate such artistic creativity? And if said platform offers money to keep those games exclusive, then all the better!

At the end of the day, a video games publisher is a business, just like any other. And clearly SEGA’s deal with Nintendo made good business sense, as opposed to the alternative. Ultimately, this offers promise for SEGA’s future output too. With the added exposure that an exclusive publishing deal offers, there’s an opportunity for Sonic, Bayonetta and Yakuza to sell well on the Wii U. If that happens, no doubt we’ll see more innovative titles from SEGA in the future.

So if you’re a bit annoyed that you don’t have a Wii U and won’t be able to enjoy Sonic, why not ask for a new console for Christmas? It’ll be around that time that Nintendo promises to give its ailing platform a good kick up the arse anyway. For me, I’m just hoping that the partnership increases the chances of a Western Wii U release for Yakuza 1 & 2 HD. That’d make my Christmas.

The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and does not reflect those of SPOnG.com except when it does.

Want to vent your gaming spleen? Send 900 words max of well thought-out, deeply analysed opinion and we may even run it. Send in 900 words of incisive but mostly brutally angry invective, and we almost certainly will.

Companies:
Games:

Comments

Posting of new comments is now locked for this page.