MCV sat down to speak with Darren Macbeth, former MD of Sega and now MD of Five Star Games, to talk about the future of Sega down under.
Macbeth is forming Five Star Games, which will be comprised of himself and three other ex-Sega staff (out of seven), which will be taking the Sega distribution business and aims to keep the continuity alive with familiar faces for the local industry.
So how does Sega’s new digital strategy fit into all this from a retail and package good perspective?
Sega as a business isn’t going anywhere. Their commitment to packaged goods is still there, it’s just to the lines of that profitable part of the business. We tried the new IPs, the Binary Domains, the Vanquish’s, the Bayonettas, and unfortunately while some were critically successful (and some weren’t), they commercially just didn’t work. And you just can’t throw that kind of money at those kind of things without them working.
The view was, really, to focus on these four main properties, and get more out of each individual one. So the Sonic Team has to push the Sonic thread even further and see what else can be done. Then the Total War guys – what else can they do? There was Total War Battles that came out on iOS. So when they’ve got those brands, it’s about trying to maximise as much as they can out of those.
What you’ll see is more coming out of those brands, as opposed to new ones. Where you will see new ones, however, is in the digital space, such as The Cave, such as Hell Yeah!, so that’s where you’ll see new IPs and hopefully we can expand on that area.
In the packaged goods space, with $30-50 million budgets (and $30-50 million marketing budgets), it’s less feasible.
Would you see any new IPs developed in the digital space branching out into the boxed good market? Or perhaps a sub-brand of an existing franchise carving out its own space?
The thing is that now, all the individual IP silos now have to try and grow their brands, so they’ll now be looking at all those things. It’s fair to say there isn’t anything which is not on the table for discussion. It could be merchandise for Total War, free-to-play games - whatever it is, the people inside those brands have to grow those businesses.
They [Sega] see that as a better way to move forward than to invest in Bayonetta 2 or something like that, which I think will be great, but is there going to be a return on it? That’s the key part of it.
When you’re part of a $5 billion group, which the Sega Sammy Group is, your part has to return its profit, because every other part of the business is. If you’re not returning your profit, the money can be put elsewhere. It’s really about making sure it’s a profitable business, and that’ll make sure there’s a future for Sega.
There aren’t a huge amount of companies in this space which are profitable unfortunately.
So start with the continuity of the same old team with Five Star Games, and plan any future developments after you've hit the ground running, is that the plan?
Yeah, so we’ve got a fair bit of product coming up. You’ve got Football Manager. When? We’ll let you know, but you can bet there will be, and there’ll just as likely be another one coming out next year, I’d say.
There’s Sonic Racing Transformed coming out in November, which differs from the first one in that as you’re racing through the track, the track will change and as it does, the car will transform into a boat, plane, jets or other different things. The flying was probably the hardest thing to get done – the boats racing across water is just really cool.
You’ve got that, you’ve got Aliens coming in February, which, again, is looking great. It’s just incredible. When you get to see what the story is…
…yeah, only multiplayer was on display at E3.
Yes, and that’s because we don’t want to give too much away. I spent time with Randy [Pitchford] when he was out here. He spoke to me about the story, and it blew my mind. When they say it’s the true sequel to Aliens, it is.
You can’t just take something that exists in Fox’s universe which was written by those amazing guys and just do what we want. It’s got to have the right storyline.
At E3, we had the xenos versus the marines, and the public played as marines with the Gearbox people playing as the xenos. The reason for that was that it takes a little getting used to, and we couldn’t have people pick up the xenos and expect to just get is straight away.
The guys from Gearbox only lost one game in that entire two and a half days at E3. I would’ve thought the marines would’ve outpowered the aliens something fierce. It’s down to the different ways they do it, the different types of aliens they’re bringing in – people are going to love the different sides of it.
So you’ve got that, and then obviously we announced Total War: Rome 2.
My first response to that was to check on whether the Aussie guys had anything to do with it.
Yeah, the local guys are done with the Olympics, but they’ve got other unannounced projects they’re working on.
They’ve got some great ideas, and from my perspective the team at Sega Studios Australia has a really good road map – I don’t doubt them at all. Marcus [Fielding] and the guys are really switched on, so I can’t wait to see how their next projects go.
They’ve got things to be working on. People will be really happy with what’s going on.
So other than Rome, we’ve also got another Aliens (which we’ve announced), which is being done at Creative Assembly [UK] as well. When they opened up their new extension to their studio in Horsham and put their console team together, they announced it then. So there’s another Aliens console property which is due later on.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where Macbeth talks Five Star Games and the distribution market in Australia / New Zealand.
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