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Sega: The Wild Card

by Zosha Arushan - April 1, 2001, 2:07 pm PDT

Now that Sega has offically begun to announce console support, Nintendo fans must wonder what it might mean for the GC.

With the recent news of Sega's Smilebit team supporting XBox, and the surrounding hoopla of said announcement, the significance of Sega's withdrawal from the hardware industry finally makes itself clear. Sega has become the ultimate Wild Card, due to its structure as well as it, along with Nintendo has created groundbreaking games on a consistent basis.

Sega's internal teams, have gained a large measure of independence and have the freedom to choose what platform they would like to centre its attention on, after the unfortunate demise of the DreamCast. Depending on what team goes where, these decisions might alter the future of said console.

For instance, take Smilebit. The company has just announced that certain games, will "premiere" on the Xbox. One of the titles is from the Panzer Dragoon series, a property very popular in the States as well as in Japan. For the Xbox, a system who many thought would get little to no Japanese support, this is a major boon for its longevity and its viability in Japan. However, the question arises, are these games exclusive, and for how long? Depending on the length of the exclusivity contract, the Smilebit games on Xbox might become its proverbial "killer app", encouraging both sales as well as continuing support for the system.

The PS2 currently will be the first system to get the upcoming Fighting title, Virtua Fighter 4, by the renown Hitmaker. While Sega as a whole has derided the PS2, there is nothing to say that Yu Suzuki and his team of expert coders might prefer the great power that the PS2 provides, albeit at a cost. That said, Suzuki has also hinted at Xbox support more than once. Another possible PS2-dedicated team is Overworks, known for Skies of Arcadia. Overworks has key members from Team Andromeda, who created many of the greatest Sega RPGs, including Panzer Dragoon Saga. This team's support would most certainly give any console a boost in popularity.

So where does this leave the GC? Are any teams possibly interested in it? To answer that question, it's certainly obvious that Sonic Team is looking Nintendo's way. Consider that Sonic Team has not only made fun of both the Xbox and PS2 on numerous occasions, but also, Miyamoto-sensei and Naka-sensei are supposed to be good friends. Sonic Team will probably bring their namesake mascot as well as the Phantasy Star Online series to GameCube. There's also the off chance that we might see Shining Force in one form of another, what with Camelot working with Nintendo. It along with other teams have stated that the GameCube is indeed a wonderful machine.

Now, one might be ask: Why give Sega so much credit? Why would people buy Sega games for other systems, instead of buying a DC in the first place? While the answer may not be so easily written, allow this example to be shown.

After the big Xbox announcement, it became obvious while checking message boards and chatrooms that Xbox supporters were obviously thrilled while Sony and Nintendo fans were downplaying the news. In fact, the Sony and Nintendo side were saying things that were suspiciously close to PR "damage control". Whether one can grasp the situation out of hand, or not, it is obvious that Sega's support does mean quite a bit in these next generation wars. It is ironic that these same gamers who so casually dismissed the DreamCast out of hand for "mediocre Sega games" now are increasingly enthused and jealous as the 3rd party teams choose primary consoles.

The last part of this complex equation is exclusivity. Sega, being financially unstable at the moment requires large amounts of cash flow to continue to even produce quality software. Microsoft paid Sega over 20$ million dollars for the exclusive rights to the XBox Sega games that were shown at TGS. However, it is extremely unlikely that these titles will remain only on the American console. Rather, it is merely a matter of time until those titles are ported to other systems, in all probably chance, the PS2 and GameCube. Sega needs to ring in as many sales as it can, spreading its userbase as far as possible. So question arises, how long and how stringent will these exclusivity contracts be? As much as Nintendo fans love the idea of Sonic and Mario battling it out on the GameCube, one must face the conclusion that it is entirely possible that Sonic GC will be ported to the other "major" systems as little as 6 months after initial release. On the other hand the GameCube will get the titles that originally were developed for the PS2 and XBox. It is highly unlikely that any major game by any large developer will remain on just one console.

Sega's influence in the coming system wars is yet to be seen, but there is no doubting that their new status as a third-party will in some way shape the final outcome.

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