Monday, April 8, 2019

Gaming Ads: Sega of America (Part 1)

There are slight variations in the dates and names of when Sega was founded; I'm using Sega Retro as my primary source for company history because I cannot locate any history on Sega of America's website. Sega might have the most convoluted history of any video game company but I'll try to summarize it as best I can. Standard Games was founded in 1934 by Irving Bromberg and managed with his son Martin out of Los Angeles. In 1945 they formed a partnership with James Humpert with an objective to provide coin-operated games to military bases which led to the establishment of Honolulu-based Service Games. In the '50s the business expanded to Japan and Europe, and then it gets a bit complicated. The Japanese branch was liquidated and split into two companies, one was known as Nihon Goraku Bussan and the other Nihon Kikai Seizo which traded as Sega, Inc. The Sega name is an abbreviation of Service Games and while what I'm looking at doesn't mention this, I recall once reading that the abbreviation is what appeared on shipping labels and that's where the Sega name came from. However, we aren't quite at the start of today's Sega yet.

Former Air Force officer David Rosen founded his own company Rosen Enterprises in Japan in 1954. Rosen Enterprises initially imported coin-operated photo booths before getting into the games business through importing and then developing its own machines. In 1965 Rosen merged his company with Nihon Goraku Bussan (which at some point had acquired Nihon Kikai Seizo) and thus Sega Enterprises was born. Service Games had been a big jukebox producer and that continued for a while with Sega Enterprises though it also released the arcade game Periscope in 1966 which itself is a variation on Namco's Periscope game released a year earlier. Gulf+Western acquired Sega in 1969 and it then entered the pinball business. In 1974 Sega became an American company with the Japanese branch acting as a subsidiary. It would work with and later acquire Gremlin Industries in 1978, and Gremlin was renamed Sega Electronics in 1982. Sega was producing arcade games by this point but Gulf+Western had some financial difficulties and sold Sega Electronics to Bally Midway in 1983, the same year Japan's Sega entered the video game console market with the SG-1000 along with a microcomputer dubbed the SC-3000. In 1984 David Rosen teamed up with Hayao Nakayama and CSK chairman Isao Okawa to purchase the Japanese subsidiary of Sega from Gulf+Western.

The SG-1000 evolved into the Mark III and was released in North America as the Sega Master System (SMS) in 1986 (all dates going forward are for North America). Sega of America was set up to handle localization and customer service but the 8-bit system was marketed and distributed by Tonka Corporation. You can read more about the SMS in an earlier post I put together when I unboxed my system in a video. The quick version is the Nintendo Entertainment System dominated North America and mostly Japan too, though the SMS was quite popular in Europe thanks to Nintendo's lack of focus in that region. Sega released a lot of popular arcade games in the '80s too, such as Hang-On, Out Run, Space Harrier, After Burner, and Shinobi, and those games were ported to the SMS. Sega followed up the SMS with the 16-bit Sega Genesis (Mega Drive in other regions) in 1989 and Sega became a household name in the United States quickly thereafter thanks in large part to a great software lineup that included Sonic the Hedgehog. Sega also released the Game Gear (1991) portable system to compete with Nintendo's Game Boy, the Sega CD (1992) and Sega 32X (1994) Genesis add-ons, and the Saturn (1995) 32-bit console. The Genesis was a huge hit but the add-ons didn't do well and a surprise launch in the U.S. of the Saturn didn't help as most U.S. retailers were left out for many months. Nintendo wasn't the only competitor at this time either with Sony launching the PlayStation in 1995.

Of course, Sega made one last attempt at staying in the video game console market with the Dreamcast that hit North American store shelves on September 9, 1999. Although many gamers love the Dreamcast, it didn't perform well enough at retail as some third-party publishers, like Electronic Arts, did not support the console and the PlayStation 2 was right around the corner. Support for the Dreamcast ended in 2001 and Sega would go on to become a third-party software developer and publisher. Sega did struggle financially after the Saturn and Dreamcast, and pachinko/slots maker Sammy purchased controlling interest of Sega in 2004. Sammy purchased Index Coporation (owner of Atlus) in 2013 and within the last two weeks Atlus U.S.A. was completely folded into Sega (in North America Atlus is now just a brand). There is plenty more that could be said, such as its involvement in PC and mobile games, but I'll end the post here. Although the Dreamcast does fall slightly into my ad range which is pre-2000, there won't be any Dreamcast ads as I'm going to do something separate with Dreamcast later this year for its North American 20th anniversary. Also, I'm splitting the ads upload into two parts (single game ads today, everything else in a couple days) and then SegaSoft ads after that. By the way, you can see a couple Sega PC game ads under Mindscape as it handled distribution on some titles.

Sega of America albums: Facebook - Google Photos

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