This whole damned industry is falling apart. For its size, there’s simply too much material out there (what with four major next-gen consoles plus the PSX, the PC, the unkillable Gameboy, and the WonderSwan Color), it’s mostly all either remixes of the same tired ideas or just crap to begin with, interest is waning, and the money supply available to consumers is dropping at the same time — both in Japan and in the US. Even overblown industry giants like Square and Namco are posting baffling losses, due in no small part to overcautious reliance on Sony’s continued incompetence. As the situation worsens, however, it gets only cumulatively more dangerous. In a risky situation, only the surest bets will be put forth and creative output and innovation stagnates all the more.
The only company out there who I see as being capable of saving this industry — who are consistently innovative, who continuously take risks to the extent of putting their very existence on the line, and who put out such a continuous stream of top-grade material that a single console hardly needs anything else to support it, would be Sega. Nintendo could help, but they won’t. (I see little need in elaborating there.) Any one console who had a monopoly on Sega’s creative energy should, in theory, have a stranglehold on the industry. The only problem is that Sega is Sega. Those who are not inducted into the Sega universe have no idea what they offer, and thusly see no reason to look at a Sega console, housing little but Sega games, if it means giving up on the sure-bet, familiar Final Fantasy 26 and Tekken 17. Mediocrity is genius if you don’t know any better.
Sega has always been easy to ignore, despite being the strongest of only a handful of creative forces left in the industry, simply because of its isolated nature. What this means is that while the rest of the industry suffers from stagnation, Sega suffers even worse, even while doing its damnedest on a continuous basis, making some of the best content which has ever been made in the history of the medium, making more of it than any other developer in the world, and pushing the boundaries in every direction no one else dares — for no one is willing to take a risk on an under-promoted, mysterious console, filled with “no-name” titles (such as the forgettable Jet Set Radio, Shenmue, Eternal Arcadia, Space Channel 5, Seaman, and Phantasy Star Online).
What happens, then, when Sega is freed from its own console? When the most prolific, creative, consistently innovative and high-quality developer on earth is let loose with its creative energies on every console under the sun? Sega is suddenly in a position to change the industry second-handed; to save it from its own self, whether it wants to be saved or not. With Sega as suddenly the largest third-party developer, everyone else will either have to innovate or be completely overshadowed on what was originally relatively safe territory, free of pressure. Rather than receiving poor copies of Sega’s ideas, months or years later, suddenly everyone will have access to the genuine article — and the copycats will either be out of business or trying something new.
Not only that, but Sega will finally get the respect they so rightly deserve — and which they indeed largely have from the majority of the gaming press and those comparably few with the erudition or luck to have owned and actually played Sega’s consoles, and their games. Perhaps now their sadly neglected library will finally get noticed, and a game like Jet Set Radio will no longer have to sell in the ridiculous quantities Sega has become accustomed to.
Now Sega has the upper hand. What they choose to do with it could very well determine the path the industry will take from this point forward. As sad as it is to see an era come to an end, a new time has long been coming: the long-delayed era of enlightenment. At last, perhaps, it has come.
We shall see.