For your Sega world view going forward, where do you see the balance between those original, triple-A titles and the work-for-hire or license-based titles? Where's the balance for you?
SJ: I think it's a real blend. The Marvel business is going to be fairly significant for us for a few years, but we're going to grow out the kids and family part of the market again. It's where Sega has always been traditionally strong and a large part of the market is in that space right now, so we're building that out very consciously with products like Samba de Amigo and that kind of stuff coming along.
But we're also striving to improve on the original content. Our relationship with PlatinumGames is a big part of that. We really want to focus on... when we build original content, we know, in the market now, it's got to be good to be successful. It's got to be really good to be successful and be competitive, so we've got to spend more money building original content.
I think the balance has probably been to even out to one-third licensed product, one-third original product, and one-third Sega IP.
With the Platinum announcement, that was made here in the west first, as far as I understand.
SJ: It was made in the west first. Yes, that's right.
How is the Japanese side thinking of the western market right now? Because to me, that was a big deal, that PlatinumGames would announce in the western market first.
SJ: Well, Sega as a company is very profitable in the western markets, and the Japanese gaming market is very difficult right now. So Sega in the west is looked on very favorably. We're doing well, we're growing, every year our market share increases, we're putting out more product, and we're making strides to improve quality. So we're checking a lot of the right boxes for a big, important Japanese developer like PlatinumGames. They're extremely willing.
One of the reasons why they split from Clover and the various Capcom studios in the first place was to have more influence on how their games were brought to market around the world. I think they've often felt that apart from perhaps Devil May Cry, a lot of their output hasn't really gotten quite the commercial success in the west...
It's got the critical success, but maybe not the commercial success it deserved, and they want to be a big part of making sure that their products going forward are big sellers, so they've been really active in working with our marketing teams in the west on building plans out. All of their consumer research they've done in the west. They haven't done any consumer research on their games in Japan. It's all being done in the west because they really want to make sure their games resonate over here.
And the games that all of those creators have worked on have traditionally done better here, actually.
SJ: But not as well as they should have.
How big is your U.S. development staff?
SJ: Secret Level is 120 people, then we probably have about 60 full-time people in the product development group. Then several thousand QA people.
How important do you think U.S.-side internal development is going to be for you, going forward?
SJ: I think that whilst we're still looking and are always open to further studio acquisitions, we're probably not going to grow out the internal development more than it is now. We're establishing a pipeline that we're pretty happy with, and Secret Level is going to be building out some different kind of content which we'll be talking about quite soon -- not just next-gen stuff.
I don't think we'll be looking to grow internal development much more than that. However, if a potential studio acquisition came along that made sense, then we would absolutely look at that.
How do you feel you can maintain quality when including the Japan side and what sort of titles you can bring over from there? They're sort of on a different wavelength.
SJ: Because of what's happened in the Japanese market recently and how fast it's differentiated and fractured from the western market, we're able to be selective about what products we bring over from Japan.
We actually have a lot of say in the origination in some of the products now, so something like Valkyria Chronicles on the PlayStation 3, we had a lot of involvement in building that game, so it doesn't feel quite as niche-y as it would've if it was built a couple of years ago, for instance.
Sega's Valkyria Chronicles
How can you foster the creativity on the Japan side? I don't know if the western side is able to advise the Japan side, but it sounds like they're looking to the west for a bit of assistance. So how can you assure that something like Valkyria Chronicles is going to be the rule rather than the exception?
SJ: All the Japanese games that ship in the west now have to go through a greenlight process in the west, so they have regular reviews. We have an advisory board of people across the organization -- sales, marketing, and creative -- who have qualitative input into the stuff that's being built in Japan.
Valkyria Chronicles and Sonic Unleashed have had a lot of input from the west on the kind of games they were. If Valkyria Chronicles had been built three years ago, it would be a very different product.
What sort of things are you doing as part of the quality initiative? Who is overseeing these sorts of things?
SJ: We recently split our product development department into two, so we have a production silo and a content silo. Now we're about to appoint a VP of content, and on the way we're putting in an art director. We've got a creative director already.
So we're setting up a team specifically around qualitative analysis, measurement, and input on all the games we're doing, both internal and external games. This team will work with the producers hand-in-hand.
Before, we measured things by milestone, date, and budget schedule, not so much qualitatively. That's something which we're now doing. We're bringing in industry veterans to do that -- people who have done that before and know what they're doing.
Excellent. Do you want to say who any of them are?
SJ: Not yet.