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Peter Moore recalls the last straw that convinced him to leave Sega

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“So I said to the translator, ‘Tell him to fuck off’”

Peter Moore speaking at E3 2012
Peter Moore, then the chief operating officer of Electronic Arts, speaking during the company’s E3 2012 press briefing.
Eric Thayer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Peter Moore’s time as the head of Sega of America turned sour with the death of the Dreamcast, but it wasn’t until a later meeting with the company’s Japanese brain trust — and a heated argument with Sonic the Hedgehog developer Yuji Naka — that he realized the gaming industry was leaving Sega behind.

In a wide-ranging interview with Glixel, Moore looked back on his career — including nearly two decades in the game industry — as he prepares for a new challenge: the dream job of running his favorite sports team. Liverpool FC announced in late February that Moore will become the club’s CEO this summer; he is currently the chief competition officer at Electronic Arts, heading up the company’s esports efforts.

Moore entered the games business in late 1998, leaving Reebok to run marketing for Sega of America. Although the Dreamcast’s U.S. launch in September 1999 went very well, the console eventually failed, and Moore was given the unenviable task of hosting the conference call on which Sega announced in January 2001 that it was exiting the console business.

As a software-only company, Sega had to turn around and work with the platform holders that Moore’s marketing team had spent years competing against. Microsoft was particularly friendly, especially since the company was about to launch the Xbox and “needed content” for it, Moore told Glixel. Building a relationship with Microsoft gave Moore a look at a vision for games that contrasted sharply with Sega’s.

“I was going back and forth to Japan and I was just so angry with Sega that they didn’t see the stormclouds of what was happening in the industry,” said Moore, crediting turn-of-the-millennium technological advancements with enabling Hollywood-style cinematic production values — and more “mature” games like Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto 3.

Moore recounted to Glixel his futile efforts to demonstrate to Sega of Japan that the company’s relevance was declining. Sega’s American division filmed a focus group in late 2001 or early 2002 to get opinions from “a bunch of 18-, 19-year-olds” on how they saw gaming companies. The teens characterized Sega as “your grandad,” said Moore. “Used to be cool, but even he can’t remember why anymore.”

Next, Moore flew to Sega’s Japanese headquarters to present the data to executives and lead developers. As you might imagine, they were less than receptive:

Yuji Naka, Naka-san, maker of Sonic, is in the room. Now, he and I have a love/hate relationship on a good day. And we show him this, and it’s subtitled in Japanese, and when it comes to that piece he just [slams his hand on the table], ‘This is ridiculous. You have made them say this. Sega is the great brand, nobody would ever say this, you have falsified!’ He just gets in my face. So I said to the translator, ‘Tell him to fuck off.’ And the poor guy looks at me and says, ‘There's no expression in Japanese.’ I said, ‘I know there is.’ And that was it. That was the last time I ever set foot in there.

The accusation of falsifying footage didn’t sit well with Moore, and illustrated Sega’s ignorance of trends in the game industry. In his eyes, the development heads at Sega — including Naka and Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki — were holding the company back.

“The world was changing around them, and we were desperate,” Moore told Glixel. “I said that we’ve got to get content that is mature. It’s ironic to me that one of their best-selling games, subsequent to all of that, is now Yakuza.”

That meeting took place in December 2002. By mid-January 2003, Moore had left Sega for Microsoft, where he helped launch the Xbox 360.

For much more on Moore’s career, check out Glixel’s full interview.