What if Square joined forces with Sega?

Keep in mind that this is only one out of many possible scenarios.

As you all know, JRPG developer Square was in their prime during the late 1980s and pretty much all of the 90s. Back when they supported Nintendo, they put out great games such as Final Fantasy 1-6, Chrono Trigger, Front Mission, Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG, and more. It seemed that the status quo would continue, as Square had planned on supporting the Nintendo 64 as well. Then came 1996. The longtime tensions between Nintendo and Square had reached a boiling point, and eventually Square president Hisashi Suzuki had enough. Suzuki decided that it was time Square moved on, and thanks to the tensions between the two companies, as well as a $100 million advertising/3-film deal given to Square from Sony, Square joined forces with Sony and put all of their games on PlayStation platforms. And Square’s move to Sony triggered a domino effect. When Square moved over, most 3rd party developers followed them over as well, and Nintendo lost almost all of their 3rd party support in the process.

But…what if that scenario never happened?

What if Square joined that company that was, at the time, Nintendo’s biggest competitor,

Sega?

Well, it’s highly possible that the history of the 5th generation of gaming, as well as modern gaming history, could have been changed entirely.

And no, I’m not going to be doing a scenario where Square stayed with Nintendo regardless of their tense relationship. Square was going to leave Nintendo no matter what. Even if Nintendo didn’t use carts as the N64’s main format, Square still would have ditched them anyway because, again, their relationship was not good at all.

Like Square, Sega was also in their prime during the early-mid 90s. Sega, at that time, was a force to be reckoned with. Sega was Nintendo’s biggest competitor at that time as well. And thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign (Genesis does what Nintendon’t!, Blast Processing!), and a viable mascot in Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega finally had their big hit in the Sega Mega Drive, which came out in 1988 in Japan, and 1989 in the West (as the Genesis), and it was their answer to the aging NES.

The Mega Drive/Genesis overall did very well, and was Sega’s most successful console ever. Sega had a 2-year head start on Nintendo, who didn’t release the SNES until 1990, and all they had to do to keep their lead was nothing. But thanks to some poor business decisions, and some poorly timed add-ons like the Sega CD and 32X, they lost their lead to Nintendo in 1994, once Super Metroid and Donkey Kong Country came out on the SNES.

But even with those blunders, the Mega Drive/Genesis did very well, and there were high expectations for their next console, the Sega Saturn.

We all know about how Sega messed up the Saturn’s chances of being successful in the west, as well as the incompetent Bernie Stolar, so we don’t need to dive into that story again.

The Saturn made it’s debut in Japan on November 22, 1994, only a few weeks before Sony put out the PS1. And before 1997, the Saturn was doing very well in Japan, as Sega led the Japanese market for the first time. The Master System/Mark III and Mega Drive/Genesis never really took off in Japan, so the Saturn having the lead in the Japanese market was a pretty big deal for Sega.

One of it’s major flaws, however, was that it was painfully difficult to develop for. Sega had prioritized 2D games over 3D games for the Saturn, which is why it was so hard to code for. Not to mention that the Saturn also had 8 processors. But even so, it was still a more powerful system than the PS1. Plus, it somehow managed to get more 3rd party support than the N64 did despite the fact that it was hard to develop for.

So, what if Square ditched Nintendo for Sega? Of course, if this alternate timeline were to happen, it would have happened when the Saturn was still leading the Japanese market. So if I were to guess, the move to Sega would have happened sometime in 1995.

So, sometime in 1995, Square’s execs had decided that they have had enough with Nintendo and were ready for a change of pace. Their last two major releases for the SNES are Front Mission and Chrono Trigger. And in this scenario, let’s just assume that Sega doesn’t hire Bernie Stolar, and doesn’t botch the Saturn’s U.S. release at E3 1995. So, when E3 comes around, Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske announces on stage that they have a new partner – Square. And during the presentation, some of Square’s most anticipated titles are announced, such as Tobal No. 1 and Final Fantasy VII, which would be due for release around 1997.

Of course, this would create a domino effect, like the one that happened in our timeline when Nintendo lost most of their 3rd party support to Sony when Square ditched them. But instead, it’s Sega that’s getting all the 3rd party support now. Because, again, Square’s move swayed most 3rd parties to jump ship as well. Imagine that. That would have been Sega’s ultimate revenge. No longer would they play second fiddle to Nintendo. Sega, at last, after many years of being in the shadow of Nintendo, were on top of the gaming industry. They had the top JRPG developer in Square, and it would be highly likely that Enix would tag along as well, because again, in our timeline, Square had secret meetings with Enix to convince them to shift their N64 projects to the PS1. So Sega would have not just Square, but the developer of Dragon Quest by their side as well. Sega would have been the go-to game company for most gamers.

What would this do to the Saturn’s sales? Well, in our timeline, the Saturn only managed to sell less than 10 million units, the N64 sold around 32 million units, and the PS1 sold over 100 million units. Well, in this timeline, of course, with Square and the majority of other 3rd parties joining forces with Sega, Sega’s fortunes would have changed for the better, no doubt. Would the Saturn have been able to sell as much as the PS1 if this had happened? Probably not. Sega isn’t as big of a company as Sony is, and they don’t have as many resources as they do, but Sega would still have been able to put out an aggressive marketing campaign to advertise the Saturn. If I were to guess, I think the Saturn would have been able to sell around…70-80 million units, depending on if it would last longer than 6 years on the market.

But what about Sony? Would Sony have been able to remain a major player if this scenario happened? Absolutely. Sony was still a powerhouse in the electronics industry during this time, and due to the PS1 being easy to develop for, they would have been able to garner a good amount of 3rd party support as well. Would it have been as plentiful as it was in our timeline? Probably not, but I still think they would have been just fine.

As for Nintendo, well, they need no explanation. I still think that N64 would have sold around the same that it did in our timeline. They know how to stay afloat. Would they have been permanently scarred by their biggest competitor finally getting the best of them? Well, it’s possible, but who knows.

And how would this effect modern gaming history as a whole? I don’t know if Microsoft would have joined in as well. And would the PS2 still sell gangbusters like it did in our timeline? How long would the Dreamcast have lasted? Would we have seen an HD console from Sega? Would Nintendo still rebound like they did in our timeline with the Wii and DS? Would Sega still be making consoles today?

That, I leave for you to ask. Because, we’ll never really know what would have happened if Square joined Sega.

And remember, this is only one scenario. There are many other possible scenarios that could have happened if Square joined Sega. And it’s also fun to theorize it as well.

Well, what do you think? What do you think would have happened if Square joined Sega? Let me know.

Published by alex9234

A skeptical game writer who doesn't believe the gaming press.

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