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Monday, February 09, 2009

Color Me Skeptical: Sega's New Console

Sometimes I'll read something that just feels like a real head scratcher. This might turn into something of a series...

First is this assumption that a recent Sega trademark hails a new console. For one thing, I've seen where patent and trademark speculation get us - and it isn't pretty. For another, it ignores the fact that Dreamcast aside, Sega has a healthy interest in hardware - so another trademark has a far simpler explanation than the company re-entering the home market.

And what exactly would be gained by a Sega console? It's a fierce generation for competition, with Sony and Microsoft shelling out dollars left and right for control of assets. Sega would have to take a bloodbath in production, advertising and development costs to get a dent in at this point. Remember that Microsoft's ability to buy marketshare was a factor in the Dreamcast's fate to begin with, and now would not be any different.

So Sega would be out a truckload of cash to offer gamers ... anything new? It seems unlikely unless Sega has some kind of hardware trick, a la Wiimote, up its sleeve.

In general, though, I wouldn't wait around for something which would cost a ton during a global recession, especially when its unclear if gamers would even want it.


sterno said...

I think they'd be terribly foolish to even give this a try. Right now it would be difficult to release a console with substantially more power than the 360 or the PS3 and get in the ball park of a reasonable price. It's also not clear to me that a more powerful system is even a selling point unless it has some pretty fantastic games to go with it.

They could try to compete against the Wii, going for a lower end system with clever controls, but is there really anything that new to be done here?

The other thing to consider is network effect. One of the valuable things about the PS3 and the 360 is a large base of game developers and the XBox Live and PSN networks respectively. If you buy a Sega system, you'd need your friends to also buy a Sega system to play with them.

If they are going to do this, their best bet would be to deliver a console at roughly the same time as the next gen of xbox or playstation, with superior hardware, and a lower price. Perhaps if they can include some new way to play games (a la the wii) they have an improved chance.

But in the end I think this would be a prohibitive long shot. I grant that the Wii seemed as such, but Nintendo's going to have a hell of a time duplicating that success in the next generation now that Sony and Microsoft have learned that lesson.

Josh said...

Yeah, exactly. I struggle to think where they could make their niche. Nintendo is hammering the $199 market, so the "cheap" console would be hard to beat. And anything more expensive would just get clobbered in between Sony and Microsoft, and I just doubt Sega has the cash to survive that.

If I could imagine a console that might work, the only thing I can think of something that would cost about $99, have no disc based media and download everything off the net. If Sega could get a downloadable classic library up at start - then maybe? But it would still be up against the massive Virtual Console library, so probably not.

sterno said...

Actually, a thought occurred to me. Imagine Sega released a console at say a $400 price point. The console was similar to the 360 and the PS3 in terms of performance, networking capabilities, etc. Maybe a little higher power but not substantially so.

Then imagine that this console was partnered with a major developer to provide a substantial number of exclusive titles. That would really be the only thing that could change the market share equation. So consider what would happen is Sega partnered with... oh... how about EA...


The thing that could make a new console a serious contender is a large stock of exclusive titles. There is no better resource for that than EA. EA would stand to make a killing and would have tremendous leverage in any relationship with Sega. It would be a juggernaut.

That's the only way I could see this happening and I've heard no rumors to suggest that this is a possibility. But boy would that change the game overnight.