Sega Sammy Holdings President Haruki Satomi recently sat down with CNBC in order to talk about video games and Sonic the Hedgehog, among other topics such as their pachinko business.
Here are the highlights (from the interview transcript):
CNBC: You joined Sega immediately after the merger. The company had a huge fan base, but it was bleeding. Turning the company around was difficult and you had issued a statement to say you betrayed the trust of fans and you were working very hard to improve the quality of games. What actually happened?
Haruki Satomi, President: “Simply that several years ago when we launched a Sonic game, the reception was very bad, there was a site called Meta-critic that aggregates the critics and scores games from 1-100, and at that time the Sonic game got 30 out of 100 so I felt like we…”
CNBC: Disappointed fans?
Satomi: Yeah disappointed, did not meet those expectations for the big fan base we have. So after I took the lead it will never happen again and I told our development team or even sales team that we should not release a game unless we 100 percent agree with and are confident of the quality.
CNBC: So back in the 90s Sonic the Hedgehog was one of the most successful and well-known franchises of Sega. Now fans of Sega are wondering when Sonic is going to make a successful comeback. What are you telling them?
Satomi: “One of the answers I gave was the latest two titles which we launched last year, Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces, especially Sonic Mania which got a 80s, 85ish Meta-critic score and fans are excited about this game and people really love it, actual sales was very strong, and we introduced a Sonic animation series over the last two years. We recently announced the new partnership with Paramount for a Sonic movie project that’s going to be available November 15th to December 19th so it’s a little more than one year but it’s coming soon and we’re really excited about it. We can bring Sonic to the next level and not only bring the Sonic game to existing fans but we try to grow our fan base worldwide.”
CNBC: Well these days Sega which is now under your entertainment contents business, pulls in something like more than half of overall sales. Sales of packaged games have been going up, but digital sales have been going down because of a slowdown in the Japanese smartphone market. You see a pickup in digital sales soon? What are you doing to beef up your digital titles?
Satomi: “Simply the competition in the smartphone game has been very high and higher and higher so we decided not to release too many titles over the last two years; instead we developed more quality games to be more competitive in the market, then since this year we will keep these new titles so our digital sales will grow again.”
CNBC: How many titles are you hoping to release this year?
Satomi: “More than 10. When we try to launch our game, typically Japanese developers focus only on the Japanese market but we keep asking them to see the global market and we agreed with them to at least launch the game simultaneously in Asia and Japan, and then we’ll bring it to the West as soon as we can.”
CNBC: What are your favorite games, just out of curiosity?
Satomi: “One of my favorite is the Yakuza Series or the Valkyria Chronicle Series.”