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Sega's Mike Hayes Pt.1

Interview: The Sega West boss on Madworld, Yakuza, Natal and much more besides...

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There was a lot of disappointment from Sega fans that we didn't have that on our release schedule last year. What I would say in our defence is that it has approximately 2.5 million Japanese [language] characters to translate in it. It's a huge translation job. That's about a million English characters.

What are your plans for your classic IP going forward?
It's important that on our old IP that is respected, we need to deliver a good product. And in some instances we have done that - look back at when we re-did Sega Rally. It scored well and was moderately successful commercially. But then with other great franchises like Golden Axe we didn't produce a great game at all.

Going forward, if we're going to look at any existing IP to bring out the locker, we have to make sure we get the quality to a level we now expect. I'm not saying which IP it would be - a Streets Of Rage, a Crazy Taxi, whatever. What we have to do now is build something that is 85 per cent plus [rated]. We can't just get away with PR.


I'm sure a lot of our readers will be pleased to hear you say that...
We've learned that lesson the good way but also the hard way.

Talking of classic Sega IP, we've seen the new Sonic game...
Doesn't it look great?

For a 2D fan - yes, it does. What was the thinking behind its creation? Bizarrely, it's a next-gen, old-school title...
The thing with Sonic you need to understand is that there are different parts of the Sonic family. This is how we're building the whole strategy. In one corner you've got Mario & Sonic franchise, in the next you've got Sonic The Hedgehog. Then you've got the All-Stars - that's pretty much everybody. Then you've got something we haven't seen for a while, which is like Sonic Heroes, multiplay-type game.

Those are the four areas we want to develop. Interestingly, each of those is going to have different audiences. With the Sonic The Hedgehog brand, we have a lot of people who are legacy fans in a way. And that's where the new game came from: Wouldn't you like to play in the style of your old Genesis or Megadrive but in the beauty of re-enhanced high definition? It doesn't mean we won't tap into the All-Star games, or we won't take Sonic in other directions in future.

Why make it episodic rather than a standalone New Super Mario Bros-style release?
Kind of a mixture of reasons. A lot of it is the whole digital entertainment part. We like everybody else are trying to learn how best to deliver entertainment in the future to consumers. This was a relatively low cost part of Sonic. We wanted to see how it was received via that delivery.

For something like Sonic 4, the consumer will often be quite core. They play a lot of multiplayer, a lot of downloads off XBLA and PSN. We're feeling our way if we're perfectly honest, but it seems to make sense.


EA and Activision have established their iterative franchises. What are Sega's - or is your strategy different?
I would struggle to think of any publisher that has a different strategy at the moment. You have to focus on the IP which is your strongest and do as much as you can to prove and enhance that. To answer your question, our big IPs are Football Manager, Total War, Sonic, Mario & Sonic, Virtua Tennis and, now, Aliens. Obviously we have AvP, Gearbox's [Aliens] game and whatever else we may do.

They're not necessarily all annual, but they'll probably [come out] at least one every two years. We're certainly not trying to over-do Sonic - we need to plan that roadmap.

The challenge in the industry at the moment is that new IP is very expensive and very risky. We'll certainly take risks with Vanquish and some announcements we've got coming at E3, which will be 2011 projects - again in that core area. If it takes $20 million to create a major Xbox 360 game, we'll do that, but we'll also [reinvest in our core franchises]. EA, Activision, Ubi, us - everybody's moving down a similar path of looking inwards at existing IP. It's not that we're spending less, we're just spending money in less risky areas.

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