Former Xbox and EA exec Peter Moore has recounted the opposition he faced in trying to make Sega come to terms with its declining relevance during the Dreamcast era. In the midst of his battles he even went as far as telling Yuji Naka, the creator of Sonic, to “f**k off” when evidence that Sega’s brand was fading was refuted.
At the time, Moore was Sega of America’s chief operating officer and, in an interview with Glixel, he described the challenges he faced in trying to make the company understand it was seen as the “grandad” of the industry.
“We did a focus group here in San Francisco, I’m trying to think what year this would be, probably late 2001, early 2002, because I needed to prove to the Japanese that our brand was starting just to fade away,” he explained. “And so we asked [a] focus group, a bunch of 18-, 19-year-olds, a classic question, ‘If a video game publisher was a relative or a friend, who would they be?'”
Rival company EA was described by the focus group as the “arrogant quarterback” and Rockstar was the “drunken uncle” that is “the life of the party for a little while, and then he disappears for a long time.” Sega, however, was perceived as “your grandad,” who “used to be cool, but even he can’t remember why anymore.”
Moore filmed the focus groups where these discussions were had and presented them to the Japanese side of the company, which included Naka and Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki.
“[Naka] and I have a love/hate relationship on a good day. And we show him this, and it’s subtitled in Japanese, and when it comes to that piece he just [slams his hand on the table], ‘This is ridiculous. You have made them say this. Sega is the great brand, nobody would ever say this, you have falsified!’ He just gets in my face.
“So I said to the translator, ‘Tell him to f**k off.’ And the poor guy looks at me and says, ‘There’s no expression in Japanese.’ I said, ‘I know there is.’ And that was it. That was the last time I ever set foot in there.”
Moore noted that he loved, and “still loves” Sega, but added that its most prominent developers weren’t able to see “the world was changing around them,” and therefore instigating a change in identity was difficult.
“I rarely get upset, but to be accused of doctoring a video, because there’s none so blind as those who will not see, right? I loved Sega, still love Sega, but it was dominated by the developers to the extent where Sega as a company couldn’t move if Suzuki, [Nights: Into Dreams developer] Nakagawa-san, [and Jet Set Radio developer, Kazuma] Iguchi weren’t into it.”
Moore’s desire to transform Sega’s identity came in light of shifting trends within the industry, which were steered by games like Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto 3 and Sony’s PlayStation, which courted maturer gamers.
“That was, to me, this inflection point. Once the tech started to get more powerful, the creative elements that would come over from Hollywood and from television all of a sudden–that was what gave us Rockstar, and what the Houser brothers, to their credit, did for games. I mean, you look back on the history of this industry, you can point to these moments and say, ‘That’s when everything started to change.'”
Shortly after his meeting with Sega, Moore was approached by Microsoft, which was looking into challenging Sony’s living room dominance. At the time, Microsoft had been working on Xenon, which would go on to become the Xbox 360. Moore agreed to join the company and was instrumental in the success of the Xbox 360.
Glixel’s interview with Moore is fascinating and well worth reading.
After his time at Microsoft, Moore joined EA, most recently serving as its chief competition officer. However, in February he announced he would be leaving the company, and the games industry, to take up the role of chief executive officer for Liverpool FC, the English football team that Moore has been a lifelong fan of.