A new CNBC interview was published today. Surprisingly, it was the President of SEGA Sammy Holdings, Haruki Satomi, who was interviewed. This is our first insight from Satomi, outside of official SEGA Sammy reports. The highlights are below, including some very interesting Sonic discussion. As always, it is highly recommended you check out the full interview here.
CT: 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: 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…
CT: Disappointed fans?
Haruki 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.
CT: So what are some of the lessons learnt during that time, those difficult times that you take with you today to make Sega successful, to turn Sega around?
Haruki Satomi: Sega is very known company, many people on the website emails or Facebook messages asking me to make this kind of game, or please bring back this title again, or please improve the quality of this title again, so I try to answer those questions and requests.
CT: 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?
Haruki 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.
CT: So you think this movie is going to be a big thing when it comes to reviving Sonic the Hedgehog, making a successful comeback?
Haruki Satomi: Yes, one of it, one of our efforts to do so.
CT: So do you think Sonic can beat Super Mario?
Haruki Satomi: I think there is a possibility of beating Mario, but you know, Mario and Sonic used to be big rivals who competed against each other but now we have become friends. As you may know we have this Mario and Sonic Olympic Games since Beijing Olympics 2008 and 2012 we did the other game and recently 2016 we launched the Mario & Sonic Rio Olympics games so now we are friends.
CT: So you’re teaming up to fight the enemy?
Haruki Satomi: Yeah. Not the enemy but we’re teaming up to entertain our fans.
CT: How many titles are you hoping to release this year?
Haruki 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.
CT: I’m curious how much work is involved, launching a gaming title? What is involved and how involved are you in these games yourself?
Haruki Satomi: Actually I try not to get too involved in the game content or the design itself.
CT: Do you test them out?
Haruki Satomi: A little bit, but I try not to see the details because I’m not a creative video game type. Of course I see if something is affected in the game itself but instead of me saying so, our trusted man, trusted producer should be responsible for the specific title. But I decide the direction of the game, like I said we should prioritize the quality not schedule and we should listen to the consumers or fans opinions.
CT: What are your favorite games, just out of curiosity?
Haruki Satomi: One of my favorite is the Yakuza Series or the Valkyria Chronicle Series.