Looking back at your first quarter, what would you say were the highlights for Sega?
Alan Pritchard: Without a doubt Empire: Total War. The sell-through in the first weekend made this the fastest selling Total War game to date and consequentially took it to No.1 of the All Formats Charts.
We have also seen good solid performances from Sega Mega Drive Collection on PS3 and Xbox 360 and House of the Dead: Overkill on Wii.
John Clark: Our performance has been great. We’re in the top six publishers without launching a multi-format title. Maintaining catalogue sales and delivering strong new releases continues to provide a healthy platform for us.
Why did you release your latest software in the first quarter as opposed to the traditional key periods of Easter and Christmas?
AP: Sometimes it can be advantageous to avoid the cluster of titles pre-Christmas and going head-to-head against so many triple-A annualised releases that account for so much of the pre-Christmas sales.
The cost of media can also be less in February and March, which can also help gain an increase in awareness and mindshare.
JC: The first quarter allows a solid release schedule to breathe. Christmas and Easter are not only high footfall periods but are campaign heavy. February and March releases allow for improved shelf visibility.
Empire: Total War was a big hit upon release. Why do you feel the game has managed to be such a success when other PC titles have struggled?
AP: It is a fact that the PC market is in decline. In 2008 there were a number of triple-A PC titles that didn’t materialise. When games like The Sims, Total War and Football Manager do hit the shelves they are still able to command strong sales compared to the previous iterations.
With regards to Empire we should also not discount the appeal of the franchise, the depth and quality of the game (review scores averaging 95 per cent) plus the additional content that was available to drive pre-orders.
JC: There are a very small number of ‘event’-style PC titles. Critical acclaim and commercial success doesn’t always go hand-in-hand but, when you have a strong franchise coupled with compelling content the chances of success are increased.
The success of House of the Dead shows that there is an adult contingent on Wii. And with so many adult titles on the horizon, do you feel this market could grow during the latter half of 2009?
AP: There is certainly a reasonably healthy proportion of the Wii market that has an appetite for more mature titles. We will need to see the outcome of further releases to ascertain if the growth continues or whether it is the same consumers purchasing these titles.
JC: It’s more about having the right game on the right platform at the right time. We’re committed to offering broad choice to consumers and our portfolio reflects this.
Looking ahead at your upcoming line-up, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is the clear headliner. How key has this franchise become for Sega?
AP: We are aiming for this to be the No.1 Christmas title for 2009.
JC: Thankfully we’re not a ‘one game’ publisher but, if we were it’s a great game to have.
New IP has been a risky business for publishers. How vital are titles like Bayonetta to the continued growth of the games industry?
AP: Many publishers including ourselves have had issues with the performance of new IP with high cost development budgets. The development team behind Bayonetta at Platinum Games formerly worked on the Devil May Cry series, so ensuring awareness is high with the Devil May Cry fanbase will be key to Bayonetta’s initial success.
JC: New IP will always be risky, and as technology develops and costs increase, the risk does not reduce. Bayonetta as a new IP is underpinned by a proven, successful developer and a proven, successful publisher. If the content succeeds it’ll be great for the industry as it should inspire developers to drive creativity and for publishers to support it.
Aliens Vs. Predator is a big name next-gen FPS. Could this be Sega’s answer to Halo or Call of Duty?
AP: We are really excited about this product. It’s a superb licence and we are working with a world class developer, so watch this space.
JC: There has been a great level of coverage in the press so far for this title since its initial announcement, which is really encouraging. Obviously we will be supporting Alien vs. Predator with a triple-A campaign.
The retail landscape is evolving all the time, with retailers coming and going and buyers moving around. What are your thoughts on games retail in 2009, and what developments most interest you?
JC: There is virtually no area of retail or distribution untouched by change: supply routes, ownership, personnel and structures, new initiatives, new retailers and so on.
Add to this the current economy and you’d be pushed to find comparable periods over the last ten years. What is Sega most interested in? There is no single entity, our commitment to release games with broad appeal continues and so our approach to support wide availability at retail will continue. What is happening at retail means that we too must evolve. It is a great challenge.