Sega needed to reinvent itself as a third party publisher following disappointing Dreamcast sales. The success of the PlayStation 2 (PS2) offered them a chance to rebuild their reputation and get back to the top table of gaming. There was plenty of Sega on PlayStation 2 with over 150 releases over the console’s lifecycle. We take a brief look at the history of Sega on PlayStation 2 and the impact the of the games.
By 2001 Sega had begun bringing their flagship releases to Xbox. Many games originally scheduled for a Dreamcast release started to be ported to the new platform. The powerful system enabled Sega to produce some visually stunning titles and Microsoft’s machine saw many of Sega’s best sixth generation games. Sega backed the newcomer after initially collaborating with Microsoft on the Dreamcast hardware.
For Nintendo’s Gamecube there were remasters of both Sonic Adventure games and new titles such as Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. This resulted in strong sales for Sega as these family friendly titles suited Nintendo’s audience. Sega were picking their battles during this transition period and had carefully focused exclusive releases for Sony’s rivals.
Sleeping with the enemy
Initially it seemed the PS2 was being left behind by Sega. However, they were humble enough to recognise that the console that helped end their status as a hardware manufacturer was not to be ignored. Early ports of Dreamcast titles, such as Space Channel 5 and Rez, breathed new life into several of Sega’s properties. These titles have the signature Sega style with bold, bright visuals and thumping soundtracks that hit the senses with little apology.
Sega were taking full advantage of the opportunity to bring alienated fans back into the fold. Many were left despondent after Sega’s demise in the console race and the PS2 was the unlikely saviour in reviving franchises that had fallen by the wayside. The release of the Virtua Fighter 4 exclusively for the PS2 in 2002 was a key highlight. It was critically acclaimed and paved the way for Sega to bring its arcade hit to home gamers.
With the Dreamcast slowly becoming a distant memory Sega’s reinvention was sealed. As an established third party publisher, with the freedom to develop a wide variety of games, they entered a period of distributing a large library of multi-platform titles. As the Xbox and GameCube exclusives started to dry up, the focus was centred on casting the net far and wide.
The draw of bolstering sales by developing titles for all platforms began to pay off. Guaranteed sellers such as Sonic Heroes were high profile games on the PS2. They complemented the handful of titles Sega had already released for the system up to that point.
Sonic Mega Collection and Super Monkey Ball were given the deluxe treatment for their releases on PS2 and Xbox following their initial GameCube success. Shadow the Hedgehog was Sega’s attempt to give some edge to their flagship series while Spartan: Total Warrior was a traditional Sega arcade action title.
This cross platform approach resulted in strong sales for Sega who were starting to get back to their best. The titles released during this multi-platform period may not be Sega’s best work. But they started to evolve into a publisher capable of producing steady releases. Covering all genres including action, platforming, racing and sports, Sega were in a creative zone and everyone was benefiting.
Twilight years of the sixth generation
It soon became clear that for all Microsoft and Nintendo’s efforts, Sony were winning the console race. PS2 sales were heading into the stratosphere and it has since become the biggest selling home console in history. Sega were not going to rest on their laurels though. They had been strong supporters of both Xbox and GameCube but switched their focus to the PS2 as the sixth generation started drawing to a close.
The cash Sega generated from spreading their releases across all platforms put them in a good position financially. Resources were now available for new projects and the PS2 was the perfect fit to allow Sega to begin expanding.
Starting in late 2003 Sega starting ramping up its delivery of PS2 exclusives. Budget titles from their Sega Ages 2500 range were popular in Japan. These near arcade perfect and home console conversions from Sega’s back catalogue would pave the way for quality emulation from Sega. They had found success with Sonic Mega Collection and it was an easy step to bring further classics to a huge PS2 user base.
In the west Sega released a compilation of Mega Drive games that included unlockable titles and several interviews with Sega staff. Although there is a few problems with the emulation, this package brings together many classic Sega games on one disc. These retro releases opened the door for fans to reconnect and for new gamers to experience times when Sega was at its peak.
Setting up a legacy
Towards the end of the PS2’s life Sega slowed down their output in favour of the next generation. But there was one more crucial element that meant Sega left the PS2 era on a high. The last time they were at the height of the industry was with the release of the Shenmue series. The critically acclaimed RPG series was the Dreamcast’s swansong and many consider the franchise Sega’s finest work.
In late 2005 the first Yakuza game was released for the PS2. This series is often referred to as the spiritual successor to Shenmue and shares many gameplay elements. The deep story and immersive, real world locations draw players into a living breathing city. Although the original game was not an immediate success in the west its sequels are well regarded and they continue to be PlayStation exclusives to this day.
Sega become a major distributor again and owe a lot to the success of the PS2. They produced a steady stream of hits and established several new game series during its lifecycle. Sega games hold up well against the best the system has to offer and Sega won back fans by getting back to their best. The console responsible for its downfall ultimately become its saviour in a sweet, ironic twist of fate.