The Sega Arcade Revolution: A History in 62 Games

By Smith, Alexander | American Journal of Play, Winter 2019 | Go to article overview

The Sega Arcade Revolution: A History in 62 Games


Smith, Alexander, American Journal of Play


The Sega Arcade Revolution: A History in 62 Games Ken Horowitz New York: McFarland, 2018. 43 photos, bibliography, and index. 310 pp. $39.95 Paper. ISBN: 9781476672250

Few scholars have studied Sega longer than Ken Horowitz. Since 2003, Horowitz has administered the Sega-16 website while interviewing dozens of programmers, designers, producers, and executives who created games for Sega-console platforms. The culmination of this research arrived in 2016 in the form of Playing at the Next Level: A History of American Sega Games, which covered the exploits of Sega of America from its founding in 1986 to the conclusion of the Dreamcast era. In 2018 Horowitz returns to tell the other side of the Sega story-the thriving arcade game development divisions that redefined the medium on numerous occasions. The result is a book remarkably broad in its coverage but uneven in its depth and focus.

In the preface, Horowitz indicates that, although he intends to create a comprehensive history of Sega's arcade exploits around the world from its inception to its merger with Sammy Corporation in 2003, he will not attempt to chronicle completely the origins of the company. This decision feels eminently reasonable, because these origins are a particularly tangled mess. The company we know today as Sega had its genesis in an international, coin-operated distribution network called Service Games, originally founded in Hawaii, headquartered in Panama, and masterminded by two men-early pinball distribution magnate Irving Bromberg and his son Marty Bromley (née Martin Jerome Bromberg). Japan Service Games was just one of several distribution companies the duo established across Asia, Europe, and North America to bring slot machines, jukeboxes, and coin-operated amusements to U.S. military bases. In 1960 the company was terminated and replaced by two new firms, Nihon Goraku Bussan and Nihon Kikai Seizo, which inherited their predecessor's distribution and nascent manufacturing operations respectively. Recombined in 1964, the company became Sega Enterprises, Ltd., upon the purchase of Rosen Enterprises a year later and turned its focus away from slot machines and military bases to jukeboxes and game centers under David Rosen.

Sega's twists and turns continued over the next decade as it was acquired by Gulf & Western in 1969 and subsequently transformed into an American company under the control of a former cosmetics subsidiary renamed Sega Enterprises, Inc. in 1974. This arrangement persisted until 1984, when following the divestiture of the majority of Sega Inc.'s North American operations, Gulf & Western sold the Sega Enterprises, Ltd. Japanese subsidiary to a consortium led by Isao Okawa of the CSK Corporation, which became Sega's new parent company. Sega then re-entered the North American arcade market in 1985 and remained relatively stable until the end of the millennium.

Although Horowitz does not devote extensive time to these various corporate reshuffles, he has produced what currently stands as the best and most coherent overview of Sega's early history. …

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