Sega's developers speak

Sonic Team, Wow, Hitmaker, and AM2 speak at Sega's consumer conference.

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At Sega's recent Consumer Conference, the company turned the spotlight on four of its internal development teams. After a brief video that highlighted the company's 10 Japanese studios--Amusement Vision, Wavemaster, Overworks, Smilebit, AM2, Sega Rosso, Sonic Team, Hitmaker, United Game Artists, and Wow Entertainment--President and COO Tetsuo Kayama welcomed Yuji Naka from Sonic Team, Rikiya Nakagawa of Wow, Isao Oguchi of Hitmaker, and Yu Suzuki from AM2 to the stage and had them speak on their team's current plans.

Yuji Naka spoke on Sonic Team's plans for the Sega mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. He gave an overview of the Sonic titles for the GameCube and Game Boy Advance, explaining the link system between the two games. When discussing the Sonic titles, Naka presented a chart with market research illustrating that the age group of the consumer base for Sonic titles was much younger than the typical Sega user. Based on that, Naka stated he wanted the Sonic titles to appeal to a younger generation of gamers to better serve the game's audience. The next title discussed was Phantasy Star Online, Sonic Team's online RPG. Naka stated that the team would be focusing on developing extra features for the GC once it finished converting PSO Version 2 to Nintendo's system. Footage of new areas in the GameCube version was shown to illustrate what awaited gamers. To further complement the game, Naka also announced that ASCII was working on a keyboard controller for the GameCube. The design shown in an image of the peripheral featured a unique design that incorporated a small keyboard into what was essentially a wider GC controller. Finally, Naka announced Sonic Team's development of PSO for the Xbox. He stated the game would be unique in that it would be focused on broadband connectivity, unlike the DC and GC versions, which both worked through modem connections.

Next up was Rikiya Nakagawa of Wow Entertainment, who discussed his company's offerings. A provider of content for mobile phones, arcades, and home consoles, Wow's catalog is a diverse one. First up was Sega GT 2002 for the Xbox, which was playable on the show floor. Nakagawa stated that Wow intended to take advantage of the Xbox's hard drive and net connectivity by incorporating support for those features into the game. The plan is to let players download new cars and tracks into the game following its release. In addition, an add-on disc is being planned to further enhance the game. Wow's eclectic arcade lineup was shown next--it featured footage from the company's dog-walking game, the gun game Lupin the 3rd, and the company's joint arcade venture with Namco, Vampire Night. Finally, Nakagawa showed off a cell phone soccer game from Wow that would let cell users from around the world play with each other.

Isao Oguchi of Hitmaker gave those in attendance of his company's first PC network game, Derby Owners Club Online. A change of venue for the popular arcade series, DOC Online will let players become part of an online community. Featuring a mix of 2D and 3D graphics, the game will give players the opportunity to participate in real-time 3D races and training sequences and 2D player interaction. Hoping for a userbase of 100,000 in Japan when the game is released, Oguchi was hopeful the game would hit stores in the summer.

Finally, Yu Suzuki of AM2 spoke on his team's PlayStation 2 conversion of its current arcade fighter, Virtua Fighter 4. Stating that development was proceeding smoothly, Suzuki showed footage from the PS2 version of the game--footage that highlighted the new options for the home conversion. Following that demonstration, Suzuki discussed AM2's development of Shenmue 2 for the Xbox and announced the North American exclusivity for the title. Stating that the title would undergo improvements upon the Dreamcast version, Suzuki did not go into detail of what they would entail, although he did say the game would take advantage of the Xbox hardware. Suzuki then discussed AM2's partnership with Microsoft and development of an arcade motherboard using the Xbox hardware, citing Outrun 2 as one of many titles in development for it. Lastly, he announced the formation of Cry Baby, a music label.

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