Sega has been focusing on mobile publishing lately, and it's not just because of the wider audience available on tablets and smartphones. The goal, Sega officials told Polygon at New York Comic Con, is to eventually deliver games that are connected across all platforms.
"We want to be where games are, basically. I think the powerful thing for mobile, for us as a company, is just the potential audience," said Chris Olson, vice president of digital business at Sega, in an interview with Polygon yesterday. "It's an opportunity to introduce new players to Sega games and Sega characters."
More than 40 different Sega games are available on mobile devices, and most of them are ports of existing titles, whether they're retro games such as Golden Axe or newer titles like Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. But the company has also published mobile games that are smaller versions of its existing brands, including Hell Yeah! Pocket Inferno, and original titles such as Owlchemy Labs' Jack Lumber. According to Olson, another factor that makes the mobile space attractive is that the games are smaller, which means the developers can be more creative.
"It's powerful as an experiment ground [...] mostly because of the speed to market," said Olson. "On the mobile side of things, we can put something out in six to eight months; we can test it and see if it works, and we can conceivably bring it to console if it's something that resonates really strongly with our audience."
the mobile market is "powerful as an experiment ground"
Sega sees that strategy — the delivery of the same game across platforms, with different experiences depending on the platform in question — as the future. Convergence is the idea: Having the same game playable in some fashion at home on a console or computer, as well as outside the home on a handheld system, tablet or smartphone.
"The platforms are really kind of just dumb terminals, right? So all of the game experience is out there in the cloud or whatever, on servers, so I just happen to want to play my game on my phone on the bus on the way," said Olson. "The experience might differ on your console or your PC — a little more deep or engaging — but it's connected to the same world."
"It's not just PSN, it's not just XBLA, it's not just mobile; it's an experience that can be shared everywhere," he told Polygon through a translator. "I think [that] would be something that's a challenge, but something that we aim to do."
"it's an experience that can be shared everywhere"
However, even with digital storefronts like Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network and the iTunes App Store allowing for the near-simultaneous global delivery of a single game, it's important to ensure that the games are relevant to their audience. For example, Yakuza 4 included hostess minigames that were fine for the Japanese market, but were viewed with a more critical eye when the game was released in North America.
"Some of the inherent challenges [are] bringing something like a really Japanese game to the West," said Kikuchi. "I mean, there is the localization piece but also the culturalization piece; there's considerations for different tastes."