Sonic the Hedgehog | Virtua Fighter | Phantasy Star | Streets of Rage | Shenmue | Golden Axe | OutRun | Yakuza | Alex Kidd | Shinobi | Toejam & Earl | NiGHTS | House of the Dead | Virtua Tennis | Valkyria Chronicles | Crazy Taxi | Space Channel 5 | Samba de Amigo | Super Monkey Ball | Jet Set Radio | Skies of Arcadia | After Burner | Space Harrier | Virtua Cop | Virtual-On | Total War | Columns | Daytona USA | Dragon Force | Pro Yakyuu | Puyo Puyo | Sangokushi Taisen | SEGA AGES 2500 | Zaxxon |
Sega was originally founded all the way back in 1940, before video games were even around. Martin Bromely, Irving Bromberg, and James Humpert started the company in Honolulu, Hawaii. They created the company to make coin-op games for U.S. military servicemen, who had all this spare time on military bases. Originally the company was named Standard Games, However that was quickly changed to Service Games, and in 1951 Bromely got the idea to move the company to Tokyo, Japan. In May of 1952, a new business name was registered: "Service Games of Japan".
Two years go by, it's 1954, and another American businessman, David Rosen, is starting up a company in Japan called Rosen Enterprises Inc. The company was originally created for exporting art, but during Rosen's time in Japan, he noticed a popular phenomenon. People in Japan were really into coin-op instant photo booths! The company changed their ways and started importing and exporting various coin-op games.
In 1965, Rosen Enterprises and Service Games merged together, Rosen's name was dropped completely, and Service Games shortened their name to only the first two letters, "SE" and "GA". The new corporation was named Sega Enterprises, and it was only the beginning for this soon-to-be-huge company. The first game released by Sega Enterprises was another coin-op game called Periscope. The game was a submarine simulator, and was an international hit.
Gulf Western bought Sega Enterprises in 1969, but allowed Rosen to stay the CEO of the company. Rosen led the company to prosper even further, creating more and more coin-op games.
Entry into the Video Game Market (1982-1986)
By 1982, Sega's revenues hit $214 million. The company was growing strong, with the advent of video arcades, and growing demand for the home video game market, Sega released a few new products in Japan in 1983. The first was Subroc-3D, which was an arcade game that utilized two periscope-type devices to view 2D sprites on a 3D plane. Sega also released their first home video game console, the SG-1000, due to the growing home video game market. It Included some popular arcade titles such as Space Invaders, and Sega's own, Zaxxon. Another arcade title they released was Astron-Belt, one of the first games to use LaserDisc media. This title would be licensed out to Bally Midway for release in North America.
In 1983, however, Sega was having financial troubles in the U.S., the American video game crash was apparent, and video games were seemingly fading away into obscurity. Gulf Western was pressured by the great crash, and sold all of Sega's U.S. assets off to a company called Bally Manufaturing Corperation, who specialized in making pinball games. All of this prevented the SG-1000, and its second release from 1984 , the SG-1000 Mark II, from ever being released in the U.S. The Japanese assets of Sega were purchased by a group of investors that included Hayao Nakayama, who owned a distribution company acquired by Rosen back in 1979. Nakayama became the new CEO of Sega of Japan, and Rosen moved back to the U.S. to become the head of Sega's U.S. subsidiary.
The multi-billion dollar Japanese company CSK bought Sega Enterprises in 1984, renamed it Sega Enterprises Ltd., put the HQ in Japan, and by 1986, Sega was trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The chairman of CSK, who was also a friend of Rosen's, Isao Ookawa, became the new chairman of Sega Enterprises Ltd., and things were looking up. in 1985, Sega released the SG-1000 Mark III in Japan. Thanks to the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Video games were starting to resurface in the U.S., and Sega of America was officially established as a business name in 1986.
Sega vs. Nintendo, The Epic Battle of Home Consoles (1987-1994)
Now that Sega of America was developed, Sega was ready to bring its home game consoles to the U.S., however, the SG-1000 Mark I wasn't as technically powerful as the Mark III, so in 1986, they re-released the SG-1000 Mark III in the U.S. under the name of the Sega Master System. The system had various titles such as Fantasy Zone, which created their first popular mascot, Opa-Opa. A little later that year, Sega had developed a new mascot to replace Opa-Opa with Alex Kidd. It wasn't actually official if this was their new mascot or not, but due to the popularity of the game, everybody assumed it was. The North American market wasn't enthralled by Sega's console, due to low sales. The major problem was the aggressive advertising strategy Nintendo employed with their console. Even though the Master System was technically superior to the NES, Nintendo was still able to get the upper hand. They already had the Famicom out since 1983 in Japan and the NES since 1985 in the U.S., so they got the upper hand by having their system out first. The Master System did well in Europe and Brazil, however. It lasted until 1996 in Europe, before it was discontinued, and in Brazil it lasted all the way until 2000. Sega needed something new to appeal to the North American market, however. The answer was the Sega Genesis.
Coming to store shelves in August of 1989, the Sega Genesis known as the Mega Drive in all other regions besides the U.S., was a great leap forward from the technology in the Master System. Sega launched ad campaigns that said "Genesis Does What Nintendon't". The system had lots of great arcade titles from that time such as Golden Axe, Altered Beast, Mortal Kombat, and Ghouls N' Ghosts made the Mega Drive a great system to play great arcade titles of the time on. Other titles like Earthworm Jim, Ecco the Dolphin, and Gunstar Heroes came eventually and showed that the Mega Drive had a slew of great original content with that same arcade-like style that everybody enjoyed. However, no game spurred more commotion than the 1991 release of Sonic the Hedgehog.
Sonic, the little blue hedgehog made his mark on the Genesis, so much that people saw Sonic and Mario as direct competitors. Everybody who grew up around this time must have had some sort of argument in school with their friends at the lunch table. Who was better: Mario or Sonic? That's for everybody to decide on their own, but the two were very evenly matched at the time of the release of the Mega Drive.
In 1991, Nintendo released the Super Famicom in Japan, or Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in North America as direct competition for the Genesis. It had technically superior software, and a bunch of popular Nintendo franchises being released for it. In 1992 Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and fans went crazy over the game, Genesis was growing ever more popular, and Sonic 2 was — and still is — the highest selling Sega game ever made, selling 6 million copies as of June 2006. Also in 1992 Sega released the Sega CD (called Mega-CD in all other regions except North America). This was an add-on to the Genesis which used CD media which was capable of higher storage capacities and cheaper to produce than the cartridge. This was a great opportunity for Sega to get the edge on Nintendo. However, with a disappointing game library full of games which were only upgraded ports of previously released games on the Genesis and an obsessive focus on FMV games the Sega CD didn't live up to its full potential. By 1994, the Genesis had lost the battle, in terms of sales. Nintendo had released key games for the SNES such as Donkey Kong Country, Super Metroid, and Star Fox, helping sales of their system, and elevating it past the sales of the Genesis with its Sega CD add-on. Not helping any, Sega released another add-on for the genesis called the 32X that same year, trying to upgrade the power of their console cheaply, but consumers were not impressed, and the 32X only had a handful of games, many of which were just upgraded ports of older Genesis titles. Even if they lost the battle, the Mega Drive truly captured the hearts of many gamers everywhere, and was Sega's first large success.
Also during 1990 and 1991 the Sega Game Gear was released to all countries. It had a total of 6 games for its launch and then soon spanning over multiple genres and over 300 games. Its game cartridges were not region coded, therefore any game could be played on any hand held anywhere in the world.
The Game Gear was a portable Master System molded into hand held form. It had a lower resolution and a poor battery life. Compared to the Game Boy it was considered less efficient and its battery life (roughly 6 AA batteries) would last approximately 5 hours.
It was also offered in a variant "sport" version, colored blue. Although the Game Gear was deemed superior to the Game Boy it was lackluster in sales and considered bulky. Sega stopped producing games for the system in 1997.
Sega's Last Attempts at Console Glory (1995-2002)
After realizing that CD technology would be cheaper to produce, and allow the creation of higher-quality games, Sega planned a new console, called the Sega Saturn. Sega released the Sega Saturn in 1995, and at first, everybody was amazed by it.
It had some great titles such as Nights: Into Dreams, which was penned as being the new mascot for Sega. The Saturn was touted as a 32-bit 2D console, even though it did have some 3D games being developed for it, Sega was really pushing the 2D games. However, the PlayStation (PSX) won over the hearts of U.S. gamers, and was penned as a console tailored specifically for 3D games. The Nintendo 64 (N64) had a similar approach, in that it was tailored specifically for 3D gaming. Not only that, but it was released around the same time as the PlayStation in the U.S. Both the PlayStation and N64 did marvelously in the U.S., and Sega abandoned the Saturn within three years. However in Japan the Saturn did much better, outselling the PlayStation into 1996, and defeating the N64. The Saturn was the most successful console Sega ever produced in Japan, but the same success was not shared in the U.S.
After the Saturn was discontinued, people were wondering what Sega would do next. They decided to produce a console called the Dreamcast. Released in the U.S. on the mystifying date of 9/9/99, the console saw lots of commercial success within its first year because of the technical superiority to the N64 and PlayStation. Its major focuses were on innovative and fun gameplay, although it was also the first console to feature online play. The Dreamcast was also the first console to feature a modem port built directly into the back of their console. The games released for the system were innovative, fun, and graphically stunning, including one of the first cel-shaded games, Jet Grind Radio. Sega also released Sonic Adventure at the launch of the system, making Sonic Sega's mascot once again. Other titles such as Seaman, Samba de Amigo, and Shenmue were all innovative and fun, and received good press. It was definitely a big step up from the Saturn, but Sony was already planning a follow-up to the PlayStation, called the PlayStation 2 (PS2). The PS2 was released in October 2000, and received generally average press until 2001, when more great games began coming out. On top of that, Microsoft entered the market with the Xbox's release in 2001. Nintendo had another console in store for the market as well, the GameCube, which was released in November 2001. The Dreamcast at this point was, sadly, only an afterthought. What had Sega done wrong? They released their console too early, and all of the bad press from the Saturn carried over to the Dreamcast through the company's then-tarnished reputation. In 2002, Sega officially discontinued the Dreamcast; therewith announcing that they would only be developing software from that point forward.
Critically acclaimed games
Being one of the biggest game publishers in history, Sega has a mixed reputation when it comes to both good and bad games. While Sega has a long list of criticized games (like Sonic Forces and Columns), they have a decent list of video games that were either critically acclaimed or slammed with awards and nominations.
Here is a complete list of Sega's critically acclaimed video games:
Out Run was Sega's first video game to win an award and went down as one of the best video games and arcade titles of all time. It was also the most-grossed game of 1987.
Shining in the Darkness was recognized as one of the greatest RPGs of all-time. The game itself inspired many role-playing video games shortly thereafter, including Phantasy Star 3, Final Fantasy, and System Shock. It was also the introduction to the successful Shining series, the game receiving a 93% from Sega Pro and a 90% from Sega Force.
Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) was Sega's third biggest title and was recognized as one of the best original games of all time. Because of its early popularity, the titular character became Sega's newest and current mascot by luck, a character that would go down in video game history as one of the best. Sonic would also be the first video game character to receive a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Space Channel 5 may not have won any major award itself, but it was slammed with several nominations, and Ulala, the leading character of the franchise, won several awards herself and was featured in The New York Times on multiple occasions. Pudding, one of the main antagonist, is recognized as one of Sega's first independent female antagonists. Michael Jackson, who cameoed in Space Channel 5 and Space Channel 5: Part 2, had sited the game as one of his favorites.
Sega's Jet Set Radio was one of the first video games to feature cel-shaded graphics, a texture to make 3D objects appear two-dimensional. The game was nominated for several awards, and won a select handful. Because of the game’s success, the developers went on to make a sequel, Jet Set Radio Future, which was also critically acclaimed. Captain Onishima, the antagonist of the game, was listed as #95 in IGN's "Top 100 Videogame Villains" list.
Due to the success of these titles, several of them and their characters were featured in the Sega All-Stars video game series developed by Sonic Team and Sumo Digital. It features playable characters from several of Sega's hit-titles, including AiAi and MeeMee from Super Monkey Ball, Beat and Gum from Jet Set Radio, Ulala and Pudding from Space Channel 5, and Sonic and Dr. Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog.