You’ve been senior vice president of EMEA sales since last May. How are you settling in?
Pretty well, actually. Officially I started on May 1st, but I was already pretty much into the job on April 1st, so it’s almost been a year now. It’s been a tough time for all of us but we’re managing okay.
What has been the biggest challenge since you stepped into this role?
It’s been a tough year. We had a slow start: Iron Man 2 wasn’t fantastic, Alpha Protocol didn’t perform as well as we would have hoped and then we had a quiet summer. That was quite a tough time to go through.
At the moment, we have Sonic Colours, Sonic Free Riders on Kinect, Football Manager – all of a sudden you have these titles that are selling through, and that’s a much easier place to work in.
It’s still tough, you’ve still got to hit your numbers but at least you’ve got something to fight back with.
According to Sega’s financials, the firm sold more games in Europe than the US. Is that normal?
No, in fact, we’re pretty even sales-wise. Of course it depends on the title, but as ever we are fortunate because we have Football Manager, which is not a big title over there.
If the US had a hit title like Football Manager, then they would have enjoyed the same sales as us. We’re about even with things like Sonic Colours and Vanquish.
Sometimes the US sells a few more copies of a game than Europe, and sometimes they don’t. There’s always a bit of friendly competition between us.
What parts of Europe have performed strongly for you?
The importance of mainland Europe has increased over the last couple of years. In most of the territories where we are direct with retailers – like France, Germany, Benelux and Spain – we’ve managed to increase our market share.
In its latest financials, Electronic Arts said that the digital space is moving slower in Europe than in the US. Is this something you have noticed?
Again, it differs a lot between the territories. Digital is quite a big thing in Scandinavia, for example, while in some other countries it’s only just starting.
Sometimes it’s surprising: in little countries like the Netherlands, I would assume that digital would be bigger, but for us it’s not. It’s a bit of a mixture, and the UK is the biggest market. Australia’s another one that’s surprising, as we do good digital business the re.
Football Manager was highlighted as one of your biggest selling titles. How did that perform compared to previous FM titles?
It’s doing similar numbers, but if you include the downloads, it’s slightly going up. It’s one of those IPs that is so strong. PC sales are declining but this is one of those titles that is an all-time seller.
Sega tried some new IP last year to mixed results and you’re still investing in that space. How much of a challenge is launching new properties proving to be?
New IP is struggling as we know, and Vanquish is another example of that. It’s a great title, it’s doing okay, but you can’t expect massive results from a new IP at the moment. But you do have to invest in this area.
Vanquish came out at the same time as Enslaved, which was another great new IP that didn’t quite perform as well at retail as it deserved.
That’s right and that’s a good example. It’s not easy at the moment, and it’s polarising a bit towards the big IPs. Fortunately, we’re benefiting from that with titles like Football Manager, Shogun 2: Total War, Sonic – you need a couple of those IPs to be successful.
So what’s your overall aim for Sega Europe? Where would you like to sit in the publishing rankings?
We’re not really into that to be honest. For us, it’s pretty much about hitting our profit target that’s the most important thing.
Market share is important – you don’t want to drop out of the Top 10 all of a sudden – but it’s not like we need to be No.5 or No.6.
This busines is about keeping your market share at a reasonable level, but it’s more important to hit your profit targets.
What would you say is your key product for the year?
There’s quite a few I can’t talk about at the moment, but Virtua Tennis is one of the big games.
Quality-wise, it’s great on Move, great on Kinect, it’s fantastic on normal controllers. It’s one of those titles you can be really proud of and Sony in particular is really embracing it, so we’re happy to have Virtua Tennis at the start of our year.
You’ve a 3DS launch title, too. What are your hopes for Super Monkey Ball?
Super Monkey Ball is a title that has always performed well at the time of launch. We’ve seen that happen before with the Wii and DS, and even with the iPhone.
What are your thoughts on NGP?
It’s one of those products we love and we will embrace. We will release titles as soon as we can and it will be in the launch period. It’s a fantastic product and it’s very important for the whole industry to have these new systems.
Are you confident there is still a market for dedicated console handhelds considering the popularity of smartphones? Sega, after all, has been very active on iPhone.
Yeah, I think you will have different worlds next to each other and they will all find their own space, and I’m pretty positive about it.
Will it be as big as it’s been in the past? I don’t know, but I’m sure they can all co-exist.
One of the key examples from us is Football Manager on the iPhone. We released it last year, and we’ve just released a new version. We also released a PSP version.
The funny thing is the iPhone version is £4.99 and it’s selling well, but the PSP version is much more expensive– and yet we’re doing similar numbers to what we did with previous versions.
You would expect that a lot of people would play it on the iPhone and not the PSP, but that’s not the case. We released an identical version on iPhone and that’s doing huge numbers, but it’s not cannibalising the PSP sales. It shows you can have different worlds next to one another.
Titles like this really prove that smartphones and dedicated handheld gaming systems can co-exist next to each other.