After writing a quick little something here on The Digital Home about my hopes for a second Dreamcast by 2009, a flood of news and rumors hit the Web about the future of Sega.
First, it was discovered that Sega filed for a "renewal of brand" on the Dreamcast name and that was quickly followed with rampant speculation that Sega may be planning on bringing back its venerable console. Unfortunately, the company quickly responded by telling Gamedaily that it "has no plans to get back into the console business" and that the company is "very happy being a platform agnostic company and have moved up the ranks the past three years from #11, to #9, and now stand at #6 in terms of our market share by units among third-party publishers. We like our current strategy and have no plans to change in the middle of this outstanding growth."
Am I the only person who thinks this makes absolutely no sense? Sega is proud to be the sixth-largest game developer in the world and wouldn't want to do anything else? Does this company realize that it's competing in an extremely competitive environment and due to the recent merger between Activision and Vivendi, its chances of owning more shelf space are dwindling by the minute?
Sure, Sega has been successful in its software endeavor, but if it really wants to make a dent in this industry again, it should forget about its sixth-place spot on the software side and create the Dreamcast 2. If it doesn't, look for this company to flounder amid the rest of the small developers just waiting to get gobbled up by Activision-Vivendi or EA.
Do you want to know how to "move up the ranks", Sega? Let me explain it to you.
Point 1: You don't need to leave the software business
Why do all of these hardware manufacturers believe that they can't create games for other consoles? Although some may believe it's because of licensing fees and their unwillingness to help a competitor, I don't believe it for one second.
As a software developer, Sega makes a pretty nice profit on its games even though it must pay fees to the hardware manufacturers. Why would it be any different if it offered a hardware solution? The company could pay Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo the fees they require from developers and continue to create games for all platforms. Now, special Sega games like Sonic should obviously be kept on the Dreamcast 2, but all of the company's sports offerings and other popular titles should be ported to other consoles on a case-by-case basis.
Think of the benefits of this strategy: not only would Sega be able to turn a profit on its software endeavors, thus padding itself for any loss it would incur on the hardware, but it would create an opportunity where the company would profit off of each and every console. And from the other hardware manufacturer's perspective, why would they care? A new entrant into the business would probably not maintain a large share of the market in the beginning and they would still be able to collect fees from the sixth-largest software developer in the world.
Simply put, it's a win-win.
Point 2: Think of the hype
Can you imagine the hype surrounding the first Sega console in ten years (assuming a 9/9/2009 release)? Unlike the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, the Dreamcast 2 could hold a significant place in the hearts and minds of gamers of all ages.
First off, the older gamers would remember the days of playing Crazy Taxi, Toy Commander, Shenmue and many others on the Dreamcast, while the younger group of gamers who never had the opportunity to play the system and have heard about how great it really was will want to play it as if it's a rite of passage.
And if Sega creates a console that is in the original Dreamcast's vein, but cutting edge, most of the gamers looking for high-quality graphics and an immersing experience should be satisfied.
But more than anything else, can you imagine the excitement surrounding the launch of the Sega Dreamcast 2? I can see it now: "Sega shocks the world -- gets back into console business!" "Sonic to fight Mario once again!" "Sega releases most anticipated game machine in recent memory!"
Sega has the opportunity to unveil a console that could easily become the biggest story in gaming over the past decade. If everyone was shocked when Sega left the console business, can you image the shock when it comes back in? It would be Earth-shattering.
Point 3: Use your history to your advantage
Why do most people want a Dreamcast 2 to hit shelves? It's not because they need innovative gameplay -- they get that from Nintendo. And people most certainly don't need more graphical monsters -- they get that from Microsoft and Sony. Most people want a Dreamcast 2 because of their fond memories playing the first Dreamcast. It's as simple as that.
But for some reason, Sega is unwilling to capitalize on that element of its branding. Obviously most people play Sega games because they offer something worth playing, but couldn't it be said that they also play Sega games because Sega makes them?
If you're any older than 18 years old, do me a favor: think back to when you were playing games as a child. Did any developer besides Nintendo or Sega really jump out at you? I doubt it.
Sega has an immensely profitable image in gaming and ever since it was embarrassed out of the console business, it has refused to capitalize on it. To this day, most people don't recognize Sega as a software developer, they recognize it as a member of the old guard of videogaming that lost its way. Regardless, there is an immense amount of respect for the old guard and I think people truly want Sega to regain that "old-fashioned" mentality.
Call me an Old-Timer or a conservative, but to my mind -- gaming was a much better world ten years ago. And while Sony was around back then and making an indelible mark on the video game industry, it was Sega and Nintendo that always seemed to hold a special place in the hearts of gamers.
And even now, Sega and Nintendo are still there.
Forget software, Sega. You must create the Dreamcast 2.