Sega's history as a console manufacturer came to an end with the death of the Dreamcast in 2001, but it didn't necessarily have to end that way.
An interview with the former president of Sega of America, Tom Kalinske, who helmed the upstart US division of the company during the mid-1990s, has revealed that he wanted the company to codevelop a game console with Sony--but was denied by higher-ups.
The first discussions of that partnership dated back to the days of the Genesis, Kalinske said. During Sega's development of the Sega CD, "one of our strongest partners in developing for that platform was Sony," he said.
"[T]here was really this wonderful collaborative effort," he said. "We each benefited from each other's work, and I think that's one of the things that has been forgotten in video game industry lore or history: that this very strong bond existed back then between the two companies."
He said he then proposed a joint console, to be developed by Sega and Sony, to the executives at Sega of Japan. Both companies would have expected to lose money initially on the console, he said, but Sega--the more experienced of the two in game development--vetoed the idea.
"Sega said 'Not a chance,'" Kalinske recalled. "Why would it want to share a platform with Sony? Sega would be much better off just developing its own platform."
"Sega knew how to develop software a hell of a lot better than Sony did," he continued. "They were just coming up the learning curve, so we would have benefited much more greatly--at least in my opinion--than Sony would have, at least initially, at least for a year or two. But Sega of Japan didn't want any of that."
More than a decade after the release of the Sega CD, why didn't we hear about the collaboration between Sony and Sega earlier?
"I don't think it ever came up; I don't think I was ever asked by anybody [for an interview]," said Kalinske, who is now the CEO of LeapFrog, which released the educational game handheld Leapster. "I mean, I don't think that's particularly abnormal. In the United States, once you move from one position to another, they don't generally call and ask you about past stuff."
As it turns out, Sony had the last laugh. After the Sega Dreamcast ceased production, Sony's PlayStation 2 eventually became the best-selling console on the planet, with more than 100 million units sold. Sega, however, wasn't the only console-maker that Sony tried to partner with before going out on its own. The company had approached Nintendo to develop a CD-based console, but after a now-infamous falling out between the two companies at the 1991 Consumer Electronics Show, Sony went on to develop its own system, the PlayStation.