The music is triumphant, catchy and filled with the sort of fanfare you might expect in a national anthem.
But it isn’t until more than a minute in that it’s clear what you’re listening to.
“Sega! Sega! Sega!”
This is the perhaps never released official company song of Sega.
In and out of vogue over the decades, company songs have long been a Japanese tradition. The songs are meant to express company spirit and to help increase the bond between employee and employer, and have at times been sung daily at major companies ranging from massive electronics firms to local construction companies.
In the early 1970s, the New York Times wrote of the Japanese company’s songs as a “source of wonder for foreign visitors.”
“They can never quite believe the spectacle of hundreds of workers at, say, the Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, whose sales exceed $2‐billion, bursting into song.”
In 2004, the BBC commented on how one small demolition company was leading the charge for company song revival.
But it was the early 1990s that saw the birth of Sega’s own company song.
Born in Hawaii of American businessmen saturating military bases with slot machines, Sega didn’t become a video game company until the 1960s and wasn’t a Japanese company until the early 1980s.
The company started out in 1940 as Service Games, evolving by 1960 into SEGA (SErvice GAmes) and becoming by the mid-’60s an arcade operator. By the ’70s, the company was making hundreds of millions of dollars off arcade machines in Japan and the U.S. and was creating its own titles like Zaxxon.
The video game crash of the early 1980s led to a Japanese takeover of the company. By 1989, it was so well-established as a game maker that it got into the business of creating home consoles.
But it was the early ideas behind the creation of Sonic the Hedgehog that would lead to Sega getting its own theme song, Mike Fischer tells Polygon.
Fischer, a veteran game industry executive, was the CEO of Square Enix America and former head of U.S. marketing for several different companies including Xbox, Namco and Sega. He got his start in the industry as an entry-level hire at the Japanese headquarters of Sega Enterprises Ltd. in 1990.
“Right after I joined Sega in 1990, the company's business really started taking off — especially in the international (non-Japanese) markets with the launch of the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive console,” he said. “The company started to expand rapidly, and as most large companies in Japan had a company song, the decision was made that Sega should have one, too.”
Fischer said that Sonic the Hedgehog had just been created internally.
“Sonic the Hedgehog was created through a company-wide invitation for all employees to submit ideas for a company mascot that could rival Mario,” he said. “An employee named Naoto Ohshima came up with the idea for Sonic, and it was such a success that the company took a similar approach for the company song — crowdsourcing it from the employees.”
The song selected as the winner was “Young Force,” created by Eiichi Takahashi, Fischer said.
“I got to know him a little while after the song was recorded, when I volunteered to help out at an English-language study club at the company, and he was a member,” Fischer said. “I remember he told me that he received some shares of Sega stock as a prize for winning the song competition.
“I asked Takahashi once where the inspiration came from, and he just said he thought the company mottos just seemed like a natural fit. One of the funny things was that Takahashi wasn’t from any of the creative teams at all — he worked in the parts procurement department.”
Most of the song’s lyrics are based on Sega’s many slogans and mottos, although Fischer said he’s not sure where the name “Young Force” came from.
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“These mottos were part of the Monday morning ritual long before the song was ever created, and we would recite them together at the start of the meeting,” Fischer said. “The main slogan was ‘Creativity is Life’ but there were several other company values and slogans we'd recite. Some of them made it into the song, some that didn't. There were phrases like ‘advance society with intellectual property’ and ‘work together to achieve our objectives.’ (They sound just as clunky in Japanese).”
After the lyrics were chosen, the company had a professional composer arrange the music; then the song was recorded and every employee received a commemorative CD.
From then on, the song was played every Monday morning at the start of the workday.
“Once a year, Sega would host an all-employee company meeting at an offsite venue, and everyone would sing the song to recorded background music (sort of a group karaoke),” Fischer added. “It looks like the song was later released in some collections of Sega game music, but I've never seen any of them.”
We’ve contacted Sega for comment and will update this story when they do.
“The slogans, company song, and the ritualistic Monday morning meetings may seem pretty strange, and I don’t think many Japanese companies today do this sort of thing so much (certainly not game companies),” Fischer said. “But it was fairly common at the time, and I wouldn't be surprised if most of the other Japanese game companies in the ’90s did similar things.”
Do you have a copy of a game company’s song? Send it our way or post it in the comments below. In the meantime, enjoy listening to Sega’s “Young Force” as your start your day.
Update: Sonic fan CyberLink420 points out the song was covered in the ending theme of "Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girls," as seen above. Catchy!