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Sega's Naoya Tsurumi on Mario & Sonic, Vanquish and 3DS

Company expected more from its highest selling game of 2009.

Mario and Sonic crossovers have become an Olympic tradition.

Sega's Naoya Tsurumi is the latest exec to feature in Nikkei Trendy's ongoing "keyman" series, where the site speaks to the top brass at the biggest Japanese game companies about the year that was and the year to come.

Following a recap of sales (click here for a look at Sega's 2009 earnings) Tsurumi delivered some mixed views on Mario & Sonic's Vancouver Olympics outing. Taken together, the Wii and DS versions of the crossover title shipped 6.53 million units worldwide and was easily Sega's biggest IP of the year. However, Sega had actually been aiming for 7 million units.

What happened to the missing sales? According to Tsurumi, sales were lower-than-expected in the North American market. Even outside of Mario & Sonic, there were hardly any games that topped the sales expectations the company had planned for North America.

So why did North America fail Sega? Tsurumi has a simple answer -- it's because players went with titles from other makers. Games like Assassin's Creed II and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 had strong sales in North America. They ate into Sega's own titles, said Tsurumi.

Tsurumi feels that games of the above form with Hollywood-style production values can sell well in the North American market. He brought up Final Fantasy XIII as evidence of this. The market for "movie-like games" in Europe and North America is expanding, he said.

"We won't be focusing just on this market, but we are developing this type of title," said Tsurumi. "Vanquish, being developed with Shinji Mikami, is a title that targets the North American and European market trend."

While not naming names, Tsurumi also said that a number of other games sold less than their initially targeted quantities. However, he did mention some successes. Bayonetta, with 1.35 million units worldwide, and Resonance of Fate had solid sales records, he said. Games like Football Manager and Aliens VS Predator sold according to expectations.

For the Japanese market, Tsurumi pointed to Yakuza 4's 560,000 units along with strong sales of Phantasy Star Portable 2 and Hatsune Miku Project Diva. The latter shipped 200,000 units -- far greater than Sega had expected.

Looking forward to things to come, Nikkei asked Tsurmi the expected question about 3D gaming. Said Tsurumi, "I believe 3D will become a big wave. The Nintendo 3DS is a landmark hardware. We'd like to invest heavily in it."

Outside of 3DS, Tsurumi also said Sega would "definitely" like to support 3D console games, although he believes success here will depend on the spread of 3D televisions. He also echoed comments from other execs that making games compatible with 3D viewing is not difficult on a technical level.

For the current year, Tsurumi said that Sega plans to release between 12 and 15 titles, including new IPs. In comparison, 2009 saw 17 titles.

Among the releases is Vanquish, which Tsurumi said would see worldwide simultaneous release this Winter.

Sega seems to be planning a big push for Vanquish this year.

He also mentioned the PSP Yakuza game, which is due for Fall 2010 release. Sega will also be putting effort into music games along the lines of Hatsune Miku. Additionally, Sega is working on a game conversion of the anime Keion.

While it wouldn't be of concern for 2010, Nikkei asked Tsurumi if Sega will be making a Mario & Sonic game for the London Olympics. "No comment on that," he replied with a laugh.

Outside of these package games, Tsurumi said that Sega will be giving download games a big push. This includes Virtual Console-style releases of past titles as well games developed from scratch.

Regarding package and download sales, he added, "Just so there's no mistake, our core is in package games. This is an area that's packed with high-end technology and knowhow. We cannot lose that strength. I don't believe we can do away with that and focus on titles with simple technology."

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