Gamers have wondered for years just how a successful company like Sega (circa 1994) could manage to make one bad decision after another. Consider the 32X debacle, the under-performance of the Saturn, and the eventual all-eggs-in-one-basket console that was Dreamcast. We're talking about the company that canned the Eternal Champions series on the eve of its killer app debut for the Saturn, forgot it owned the rights to Streets of Rage when a fourth installment was pitched, and waffled on Sonic X-Treme for so long that the game withered on the vine. Now Sega of America's former president, Tom Kalinske, is speaking out to confirm some old rumors and reveal startling new information about Sega's management decisions.
Based on Kalinske's comments, it seems that the success of the Genesis in North America and Europe was a lucky accident. New information (at least, new to me) is that not only did Sega turn down Sony's proposal to co-develop a new console together (Sega PlayStation, anyone?), but also twice turned down the chipset that eventually wound up powering the Nintendo 64 (say what you will about third-party software on the N64, but the hardware itself was amazing for the time). Beyond that is the revelation that Sega of Japan was against including the original Sonic the Hedgehog as a pack-in with the Genesis and instead envisioned Altered Beast as a perennial favorite to move units in the American Midwest.
This interview is the most intriguing piece I've read about Sega in quite some time. Kalinske seems to be speaking honestly here, burning bridges and assigning blame where appropriate. After learning a little more about Sega of Japan's management decisions and poor ideas for the then-future, I'm amazed that the company was ever able to produce anything successful at all. How can a single company make so many major mistakes and yet still succeed for so long? Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but it really seems like Sega managed to fail upwards somehow. Kudos to Kalinske for keeping the hedgehog running for as long as he did.