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What do you think is the importance of names in the industry right now? Sega had a lot of its name developers in Japan go away. Right now, there's Toshihiro Nagoshi, and not a whole lot else, though you do have the Platinum guys to rely on for the time being. But is it important in this day and age, or is it not? It seems to be for some companies.
SJ: I think it is still important. We're still working with [Yuji] Naka. The Prope relationship exists. They're building content. Nothing's been released yet, but we still work with them. The Platinum relationship is definitely part of it. We want to work with big-name people.
But part of that is not just because they're a name. It's because we know they're going to build great games, and that's the most important part. [Ed. note: Prope is ex-Sonic Team head Yuji Naka's independent Tokyo studio. No titles have been announced since its formation in 2006.]
Can you give any more details on the Prope project? Does he have an actual studio now?
SJ: There's not much being talked about right now or announced on that yet, so we probably can't say anything, other than we're working with Naka-san still.
Speaking of names, what has happened to Yu Suzuki?
SJ: Last I heard, he was doing some online stuff in China.
He's spearheaded an arcade racing title. Is he just really off in his own world?
SJ: Yeah. He's kind of his own man right now. Every now and again, he'll come up with an idea, and I don't think anything has come out of that yet, but we're still working with him. He's not an employee anymore, but...
I wasn't sure if he was still actually a Sega employee.
SJ: Not as far as I know.
[UPDATE: Jeffrey followed up with Gamasutra after this interview debuted, revealing that Suzuki is in fact still working with the company as a 'Creative Officer'.]
I was amused to see the Phantasy Star Portable news, because it was like a lightbulb went off at Sega. "Maybe we should take our idea back from Monster Hunter!"
SJ: Right. (laughter) I think that's exactly what happened at Sega!
Sega/Alfa System's Phantasy Star Portable
Capcom has had difficulty putting that model forward in the west, but Phantasy Star has done okay. Maybe not as well as it should, but okay.
SJ: It's done okay, and there's still quite a lot of people out there playing it every month.
So do you think you can take that market here with that title?
SJ: I think that it's not going to be a blockbuster success, but I think it will be a niche success. I'm certainly hopeful that it's more of a success in the west than Monster Hunter has been. There is a built-in audience for it already there.
I think the crossover of the PSP ownership will work quite nicely, so we're fairly hopeful we can make something out of it. It's not going to be huge, but hopefully it'll be interesting.
How important do you think existing licenses are going to be? Obviously Golden Axe is coming back. That was a bit of a surprise, because I don't think anyone was expecting Golden Axe to need to come back. Do you think there's more from the past that will return?
SJ: Yeah, very much so. We've got a great, really rich catalog that people grew up with, and a lot of that old content is seeing a second life on the Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade. We're seeing rising demand and interest in some of those old IPs.
I think we're going to try and be a bit more strategic about which ones we bring back to life, but we'll continue to do it, absolutely.
Namco has been particularly successful with reviving its old licenses on Live Arcade and re-envisioning them. Is that something that Sega is interested in?
SJ: Yeah, very interested in it. Nothing we can talk about right now, but we're pretty impressed with what Namco has done with some of their catalog and contemporizing their IP and making it much more market-appropriate.
One thing I would say is that there's a lot of really excellent original content on the Game Gear that has not been revisited or rereleased. Is there any possibility for that kind of stuff?
SJ: Yeah. We're looking at arcade, and we're looking at Game Gear. The interest in digital delivery media and the iPhone has really caused us to look back to the past and the great golden days of Sega gaming in all formats, not just the Genesis. So absolutely we're looking back there.
Here's a ridiculous question that of course I must ask. Would Sega ever return to the console market?
SJ: No. A categorical no.
SJ: And you're not the first person to ask that type of question.
I was just organizing all of my stuff in my basement this week, and putting all the consoles into piles by maker, so that I could organize them. And Sega is just the biggest pile... yeah, anyway. (laughter)
SJ: Yeah, sadly it's going to stay in the basement.