A recent story broke out on IGN in regards to talks Microsoft had with Sega when it was gearing up to enter the game console market. It goes into some detail over a plan to acquire Sega to help develop a new system using a stripped down version of Windows as the platform. These plans obviously never materialized. Instead, Microsoft pushed forward on their own and left Sega in the dust.
We are left wondering, though. What would a Microsoft/Sega alliance have looked like? How would Sony have responded? Let’s get hypothetical!
As history had it, the Sega Dreamcast fell to Sony’s hugely successful PlayStation 2 which resulted in “the company that Sonic built” to become a third-party developer. This left an opening for Microsoft to release their debut console, the Xbox.
Before a concept for the Xbox was even made, Microsoft was simply looking to be a part of the console market without being a major competitor. Behind closed doors, a potential deal was in the works to buy Sega and have them develop a console so as to alleviate manufacturing costs. Ultimately, a decision was made to move forward alone because of a lack of confidence that they would be able to take down Sony.
If this deal happened, Sega would have had another shot in the system wars. Although they wouldn’t have been their own entity, it sounds like a fate they were more willing to accept rather than dropping out entirely.
The lineup of IPs available from the get go is an instant strength. Microsoft would have been able to financially back quality titles from Sega’s diverse library of properties such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Ecco the Dolphin, and Nights. The financial strength of said franchises has to come into question, however, especially in an age where the first-person shooter started to grow in popularity. Who knows if Halo would have been an exclusive on this console as it was for the Xbox. Hell, who knows if it would have been made for consoles at all.
There’s also the consideration over what would happen if this console were to succeed or fail. If the former, Sega is instantly back to form and may experience their biggest success as a company. Microsoft will be happy also proving that they can hang with the likes of Sony and Nintendo although in a very different position. If the latter, Sega likely goes the route they did as a third-party developer or even bankrupt in a worst case scenario. In turn, we would likely have seen Microsoft turn away from console gaming licking their wounds as they focus on something else. This would likely just be a setback that they bounce back from and attempt again in roughly 8-10 years time.
In this alternate timeline, we would have also seen a major gap in console market. Without anyone else stepping in, Sony would monopolize HD console gaming. Nintendo will play by the beat of their own drum leading the way for motion controls with some beefier sales figures being the only real difference.
If we were to see another company try their luck, I believe it would be Apple. They have enough resources to make the risk be a drop in the bucket. To be competitive, they could potentially buy up a number of big name studios. One that comes to mind would be Valve. The infinite resources and financial backing of Apple combined with Valve’s creativity and Steam platform would be a living nightmare for both Sony and Nintendo. Having no Microsoft to compete against would make an aggressive move like this a no-brainer despite what the late Steve Jobs would have said.
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