I was expecting some light reading. But when my review copy of Service Games: The Rise and Fall of SEGA showed up on my doorstep, I found a text book. The nearly 400 page book details every step of Sega’s foray into the console industry, both in America and abroad. The amount of information in this book is staggering. And even though you know how Sega’s fate unfolds, you’re still rooting for them the entire time.
Hit the link for our full review of Service Games: The Rise and Fall of SEGA.
I thought I knew a lot about the history of Sega. Boy was I wrong. Every angle of Sega’s consoles is covered, from hardware specs, to market share and sales figures. Sam Pettus and David Munoz did a great job compiling all of this data, as well as framing it against the backdrop of Sega’s competition from Nintendo and Sony.
Probably the biggest topic the book covers that I was unaware of was the in-fighting between Sega of Japan and Sega of America. As a bit of a Dreamcast aficionado, I knew all about the competing hardware designs from America and Japan, as well as the nepotism towards Sega’s Japanese divisions. What I didn’t know was that this was just one example of Sega of Japan shooting down the hard work of Sega of America that had gone on for a decade. It seems that if Sega of Japan had cooperated more with Sega of America, things could have turned out different for Sega.
Sega’s history is a nostalgic train wreck. At almost every point where Sega could have turned things around, they made a dumb mistake. Just one example from the book would be that they announced the Sega Saturn right as the Sega CD dev kits showed up at studios. The studios, of course, put off development for Sega CD and instead waited for the more powerful Saturn, causing the CD’s library to suffer. It seems like the only time Sega made the right decisions, other than the first few years of the Genesis, was the US release of the Dreamcast. But by then it was too late. Sony had already taken over by then with the PlayStation, and already knew what they had to do to outshine Sega with the PS2.
It’s like rewatching that horror movie you’ve seen twenty times. And as the girl is walking down the dark hallway right towards the killer, you’re still yelling at the TV, “No, don’t go down there,” even though you know she’ll be dead in ten seconds.
One word keeps showing up on the pages of the book: “arrogance.” After reading the book, I’d have to agree that Sega of Japan’s arrogance and reluctance to adapt to the market or take advice from others is what spelled their doom. And as the book points out, arrogance seems to be something that curses each major player in the videogame industry, one by one. The first victim of masochistic arrogance was Atari, who saturated the market until it was dead. Then it hit Nintendo after they put so many rules and restrictions on their third party developers. After taking power from Nintendo, Sega rested on their laurels until the one-two punch of Nintendo and Sony knocked them out. Finally, today it seems that Sony has fallen from grace after their wildly popular PlayStation and PS2 consoles. Their approach to marketing and supporting the PS3 was nothing but pure arrogance, and now they’re in third place behind Nintendo and Microsoft. I’m sure this isn’t exclusive to the console industry, but it is one of the more interesting topics brought up by the book.
Service Games: The Rise and Fall of SEGA is a must-read for any Sega fan. My only complaint is the amount of typos. There are spelling or grammar errors on the majority of the pages. It would have been nice to learn more about Sega’s arcade divisions, but that’s another story entirely. I definitely recommend this book, even if you think you already know quite a bit about Sega.
The majority of the information in the book can be found at eidolons-inn.net. However, much of it has been updated and corrected, not to mention the site design is right out of the ‘90s. Also, the photos that are found in the book are not available on eidolons-inn.net. If you’re just looking to browse the information, visiting the site might be a good idea. However, if you want the most accurate information, the Kindle (no photos included) or print versions of the book are the way to go.