To understand Sega’s web proposition, one should first seek to understand Sega.
A business with American roots that made it big in Japan, the company lost its shirt on the appallingly marketed Dreamcast games console—a product which, when launched in the US on 9/9/99, was deemed by many to be far superior to the Sony PlayStation or the Nintendo N64.
Despite receiving many plaudits, enjoying promising early sales, and being almost three years ahead of the Xbox, the Dreamcast failed to gain a sustainable hold on the market due to such issues as not being backwards compatible with its predecessor and an inability to play DVDs. Sony, upon recognizing the Dreamcast’s shortfalls, let rip with a tirade of guerrilla-style marketing ahead of the launch of its PS2 (PlayStation 2), whilst Nintendo and Microsoft pushed on with the GameCube and Xbox, respectively.
All of this commotion proved too much for Sega, who terminally retired the Dreamcast less than two years after its launch and rapidly ran for cover in the software market. Now, Sega specializes in making games for the consoles with which it once competed, and its subsequent web proposition is an apologetic attempt at covering its tracks.
Every one of the Sega sites lacks passion and energy, and they all have the feel of a third-rate games developer. With Sonic featuring heavily on both the Japanese and American homepages it would also be easy to brand Sega as a one-trick pony, although there are some positives if you look hard enough.
The game sites for “Condemned,” “OutRun,” and “Full Auto,” for example, come across very well, but they are just not prominent enough to have a real impact. Indeed, the depth and strength of technology within these areas are so good that the question has to be asked as to why the main Sega portals are displayed with such a lack of pith when the company is clearly capable of delivering so much more.
Similarly well executed is Sonic Central, a dedicated portal where fans of the rapid rodent can come together for an interactive functionality-fest of downloads, puzzles and games, provided they can find it via the inconspicuous links.
Outside of the abovementioned areas, Sega really is a non-event, and although each site possesses the standard “News,” “Support,” and “Corporate” sections, the presentation and content of each ensure that there is very little to get excited about.
If Sega is intent on marketing itself as a global concern going forward, it will need to sort out its disjointed web offering and start playing to its technological strengths. Despite the runaway success of Sonic, Sega can’t rely on him forever, and it is clear from visiting the game sites that the company has more than enough depth and capability in its portfolio to become a prevalent force in the market. Sega’s web presence could help with that—or not, as the case may be.