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Sega Confirms Closure Of Internal  Iron Man ,  Golden Axe  Dev
Sega Confirms Closure Of Internal Iron Man, Golden Axe Dev
April 2, 2010 | By Chris Remo

April 2, 2010 | By Chris Remo
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Sega confirmed on Friday that it has closed its internal Sega Studios San Francisco development house, the group behind the development of both Iron Man movie tie-in games as well as 2008's Golden Axe: Beast Rider.

Rumors of the closure had been swirling in industry circles earlier this week. An official statement released today reads, "Sega of America is sad to announce the closure of Sega Studios San Francisco."

"It is an immensely talented studio and we wish all the best to all of the staff in all their future endeavors," the statement continues. "Moving forward, Sega will continue to pursue external development opportunities all over the world and will continue to grow the renowned Sega brand."

The language used in the statement suggests Sega does not have immediate plans to bolster its internal development, instead concentrating on expanding its scope as a third-party publisher.

Sega Studios San Francisco was known as Secret Level from its founding as an independent studio in 1999 through its acquisition by Sega in 2006, and that name is still displayed on its company website.

At some point following the Sega buyout, Secret Level's name was formally changed to reflect its new ownership. Along with that change, the group was significantly restructured, with the "Secret Level" entity being dissolved at a legal level and the "Sega Studios San Francisco" entity being organized with less studio autonomy.

Earlier in its life, Secret Level focused on porting and tools for other developers. After being acquired by Sega, the company released internally-developed games in 2008: the movie adaptation Iron Man and Golden Axe: Beast Rider, an update of the arcade classic.

The defunct developer's most recent project is Iron Man 2, set to be released next month in close proximity to its corresponding feature film. The game is thought to be essentially complete.


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Comments


Brian Canary
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Maybe somebody will be able to make a good Iron Man game now.

Andrew Dovichi
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You're welcome to try. Best of luck to everyone there.

Mike Lopez
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Ah, the 21st Century Game Publisher Mantra:



Assimilate. Destroy. Rinse. Repeat.

Tawna Evans
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I wonder if Atari will now pick up "Golden Axe" and "Iron Man?" Within the last year, the company has picked up properties dropped by other publishers...

Christian Nutt
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I seriously doubt Sega would get rid of the Golden Axe IP, which dates back to the early '90s, simply because the company closed the studio which did its most recent iteration. Especially as the company continues to market the retro versions on services like XBLA and Virtual Console.



As for Iron Man, nothing suggests that Sega's rights were contingent on having this studio develop the game. We'll find out if Sega's contract has been extended when the third film is inevitably announced, no doubt.

Josh Green
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Golden Axe is a property that's been owned by Sega since the 80's when they first developed it. Iron Man rights are the property of Marvel (aka Disney) and the game rights to that are contracted out to whichever developer or publisher Marvel (Disney) decides to do a contract deal with. I'm not sure who's contracted for Iron Man 2, but I know that Disney is looking to do the vast majority of their future games within their set of studios.

Chris Remo
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Josh,



Iron Man 2 was seemingly finished by Secret Level before the studio closed, and Sega will publish it next month.

Maurício Gomes
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@Mike Lopez.



All games coming from that studio were not successes (I cannot claim that they were a failure... but...) so, closing it makes all the sense, even if it is sad to see all those people fired, they (as a team, not individuals) deserved it.

Mike Lopez
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@ Mauricio, I agree they were not a stand out success. So why purchase a lackluster developer and expect things to change? How many other studios in the last 18 months were closed down that also had unimpressive track records at the time of their acquisition?

Amir Sharar
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Mauricio said: "All games coming from that studio were not successes..."



That may be the case but I really wonder (as I have no idea) how the quality of the first Iron Man title suffered due to it being a licensed movie title, which are so often faced with harsh deadlines and rushed delivery.



I just wanted to add, though perhaps a tad unrelated, that their first Iron Man game had some excellent visuals that were true to the movie. The gameplay was rough and unpolished but was on the right track. I wonder if such issues were addressed in this game, while retaining the same quality in visuals.

Josh Green
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@Michael: What about Valkyria Chronicles and Bayonetta? Those are great games too imo.

Alex K
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I just want to point out that the studio built the Golden Axe engine from the ground up, and despite all the troubles they had gone through to make Golden Axe, and its bad reviews, they had the means to make a better game once it was shipped.



Also, I think Iron Man and Golden Axe were being developed at the same time (or had to put one game on hold to make the other, I can't remember exactly) and were the studio's first next gen games. The point being: this studio had made it through the woods, and its a shame they won't be given a chance to show their true potential.

Chris Remo
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Michael,



Bugs aside, the Total War games are excellent.

Amir Sharar
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There are quite a few greatSEGA games that have came out within the past few years. Nothing near the amount they were able to produce back in the day, but still we get to see a great game every year from them. From publishing titles like Condemned to creating the SEGA Racing Team to create SEGA Rally: Revo (and unfortunately shutting down that team), to porting Virtual On to XBLA, they have done some very good stuff.



What I find odd is the decision making that occurs at SEGA. They are sitting on goldmines, IPs that have been extremely popular, and are either ignoring them or releasing half hearted sequels for them. Secondly, they are moving towards publishing licensed games like the Golden Compass, Iron Man, Aliens vs. Predator and are just not executing on them. There is no need to go out and license games when they are sitting on top of extremely popular IPs. Obtaining licensed games would have made perfect sense if they still had their own console (ie. having an exclusive movie videogame on their console that no other console will ever have), but it makes less sense here (other than it being a safe bet in terms of generating revenue).



This point ties into the article because if SEGA can't sustain the team developing these licensed titles, it tells us that "movie based games" aren't the safe bet they used to be.

Thomas Grove
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Iron Man 1 was a financial success for Sega. Iron Man 2 will probably also be a financial success. With the recent Disney acquisition of Marvel, and with both Disney and Marvel bringing more stuff internal in the past year, I'd say there's a good chance that future Marvel movie tie in will be done in house at Disney. I also suspect that Sega noticed that their internal team in San Francisco was costing a lot more money than the work for hire arrangement they have with studios like High Voltage. Made total sense to shut the studio down, but I have a bunch of friends there so I hope they'll get a nice severance, enjoy funemployment, and find new work within the year.

Maurício Gomes
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@Amir



Let's hope that SEGA will not screw-up with Sonic 4...

They indeed have LOTS of unused IPs, specially the old arcade ones, using Bayonetta engine on a new Altered Beast anyone?

A new single-player Phantasy Star for PS3 on par of FF? (well, that one is hard... but if well done, it would kick-ass...)

Comix Zone remake? (or just, a "enhanced port" ... because that game is awesome the way that it is...)



@Michael



I like Virtua Fighter series... (it is the only fighting game that I like, actually...)

Mark Harris
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+1 for a new Altered Beast and Phantasy Star. I had some great times with both back in the day.



On topic, best of luck to all those who lost their jobs.

Mark DeLoura
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This is a sad end for what was once a really technically excellent studio. Best of luck to all those who rode it out to the finish!

Rodney Brett
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I liked Beast Rider with the exception of the "parry" system. It was an example of how one bad design decision killed the flow of that game. I don't know what was wrong with just a simple "block" button. Kind of reminds me of when Factor 5 went with SixAxis for Lair.



I agree with Mark, technically, they were a really awesome studio. The fact that they could even build that whole game completely from scratch is a testament in itself.

Kevin Fishburne
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The problem with great intellectual property is that unless the original team develops the sequel with similar technology and similar mindset all you get is a modern remake of an old movie (read "fail"). The lead designer may strive to reproduce what made the original a success (in as much as he/she understands it) using the latest hardware platforms, tools, languages, libraries and examples set forth by other marketable successes in comparable genres, but in the end they're trying to reverse the equation.



Golden Axe may have started as the happy coincidence of a+b+c=badass, yet any modern studio under the knife would try to produce badass=a+b+c, praying it would generate the same kind of pleasure as the original. That's a seriously doomed-from-the-start philosophy that's difficult to avoid if all you know is, "I have some great IP, let's see what it can do these days."



I'm not surprised that Sega closed that studio, or any studio, as Sega's already in a bad position. There is a distinct lack of generally-unchecked creative drive across the board and Sega is cutting a perceived (and real in this case) financial loss. No great one in my opinion.



On that note why not develop an IP-free (but instantly-recognizable) open source Golden Axe sequel using SDL or something? Once the engine's developed, allow contributed levels to expand it and make it multiplayer. Hell, enough fans with free time could put it together and defy the Sega gods if they wanted to. I'm joking (unless popular demand proves otherwise), but the same engine could be applied to any number of awesome games including Double Dragon, Bad Dudes, Contra, Rygar or what-have-you. To hell with Sega, let the bone crushing begin.

Amir Sharar
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Mauricio said: "Let's hope that SEGA will not screw-up with Sonic 4..."



I began writing a blog about how the game was missing the point, and around 3 weeks ago I ran it by fellow Sonic fans and will be splitting the blog into two parts and posting it here hopefully around the 20th. Not too long ago some footage of the game has leaked, confirming my worst fears. It does look like a screw-up, one that SEGA is largely responsible for.



Though Sonic 4 may seem unrelated to the topic at hand (the closure of Secret Level) it does have a bit to do with how SEGA as a publisher has been making very odd decisions in some cases (in fairness they have made many good decisions, I applaud their effort in bringing Afterburner Climax to PSN/XBLA, as they did with OutRun XBLA and Virtual On XBLA). SEGA may have mishandled the Iron Man license (if they did rush the first title) that is a possibility, but what is clear is that they are definitely mishandling their biggest IP, Sonic. So it is not outside the realm for me that they may have directly affected the quality of the Golden Axe remake, as they are negatively affecting Sonic 4 which is being created by a largely competent developer, Dimps.



Kevin Fishburne, your sentiments in regards to Golden Axe is mirrored on Sonic fan sites, we have already seen dozens of fangames for that IP due to it's mishandling over the years. I am inclined to agree about the lack of drive and some have noted that it may have to do much with the SEGA/Sammy merger that occurred years ago.



Good luck to the former staff of Secret Level, I wish you guys all the best.


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