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Preview: Playing at the Next Level: A History of American Sega Games

preview-playing-at-the-next-level-book-1It’s been no secret that I’ve been working on a book about Sega of America’s development history. For the past two years, I’ve interviewed almost 100 former Sega of America alumni and game developers, researched documents, magazines, and books, and basically worked feverishly to put the story of Sega’s American branch into a coherent form. Now that it’s finally ready for release, I thought I’d share exactly what it includes. I waited until now to be sure that the chapter list was final, and thankfully, almost every chapter made the cut. The two that were excluded were so by my decision, and they will find a place here on the site. One of them, the story of Chakan: The Forever Man, is already up, so readers can enjoy that article to get an idea of what to expect from the book.

Coming in at 281 pages, Playing at the Next Level includes a complete list of works cited and in-text references, providing a very clear resource to those who want to know more about how Sega became so successful in America, only to lose it all. Every effort has been made to present as objective an image of events as possible, and in many cases multiple development team members were interviewed. Every Sega of America president during Sega’s hardware period was interviewed, as well as multiple producers, technical directors, and senior executives. This is not a book about marketing or sales, as there is Blake Harris’ Console Wars for that. Instead, Playing at the Next Level specifically focuses on the game development side of Sega’s business. It’s a story that has never been told before and one that is both fascinating and complex.

The book provides comprehensive examinations of the following events in Sega of America’s game development history:

  • The founding of Sega of America
  • The relationship between Sega and Tonka
  • The tenures of both Michael Katz and Tom Kalinske
  • The creation and later reorganization of Sega of America’s Product Development Group
  • The creation of the “Genesis Does!” campaign
  • The introduction of the Sega CD
  • The Introduction of the 32X
  • Sega’s transition from the Genesis to the Saturn
  • The tenures of both Bernie Stolar and Peter Moore
  • The discontinuation of the Dreamcast

It also tells the story of all of Sega of America’s internal game development studios:

  • Sega Alpha Group
  • Sega Away Team (Tiger Team)
  • Sega Interactive Development Division
  • Sega Multimedia Studio
  • Sega Midwest Studio
  • Sega Omega Group
  • Sega Sports Group
  • Sega Studios LA
  • Sega Technical Institute
  • Visual Concepts

Full histories are provided for the following Sega of America projects and platforms:

  • GEMS Sound Driver Software
  • Sega Channel
  • SegaSoft

There is also information on the following game developers, told by them:

  • BlueSky Software
  • Clockwork Tortoise
  • HeadGames
  • Infogrames
  • Innerprise Software
  • Novotrade International
  • Realtime Associates
  • Realtime Games Software
  • Recreational Brainware
  • Technopop
  • ToeJam & Earl Studios
  • Western Technologies
  • Westwood Associates

Last but not least, there are complete development histories for almost 40 games. The following games are discussed:

  • Alf
  • Adventures of Batman & Robin (Genesis)
  • Bug!
  • Comix Zone
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun
  • Ecco the Dolphin (Genesis)
  • Ecco: Defender of the Future (Dreamcast)
  • Eternal Champions
  • Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Darkside
  • Fantasia
  • Geist Force (Dreamcast, unreleased)
  • Joe Montana Football
  • Joe Montana II: Sports Talk Football
  • Jurassic Park (Genesis)
  • Jurassic Park (Sega CD)
  • Kid Chameleon
  • M-1 Abrams Battle Tank
  • Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (Sega CD)
  • mr. Bones
  • Monopoly (Master System)
  • NBA 2K
  • Net Fighter
  • NFL 2K
  • The Ooze
  • Ratchet & Bolt (32X, unreleased)
  • Shadow of Atlantis (Sega CD, unreleased)
  • Shadowrun
  • Sonic Xtreme
  • Sonic Spinball
  • Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin (Genesis)
  • Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin (Sega CD)
  • Star Wars Arcade
  • Tomcat Alley
  • ToeJam & Earl
  • ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron
  • VectorMan
  • World Series Baseball
  • X-Men
  • X-Men 2: Clone Wars

Other games are discussed in depth, including:

  • Dick Tracy (Genesis)
  • Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (Genesis)
  • Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (Genesis)

After two years of exhaustive work, the stories of these games can finally be told. While this book is not meant to be the final word on these events and games, I do hope that it serves as a launch point for further research. Most of all, I hope that Sega fans and video game history fans in general, will enjoy it!

The book will be available in softcover for $39.99 and in several ebook forms. It can be purchased from Amazon.com using the link below or McFarland & Co.’s website.


  1. Pingback: Playing at the Next Level Book Review | The Essential Malady

  2. Just read the Chakan chapter you posted, why cut it out??? It was great!

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