Is Sega still in the arcade business?
That’s a hard question to answer. Walk around cities in Japan, and you can still spot Sega-brand arcades, with the video game company’s instantly recognizable logo above the entranceway doors. However, at the start of last year Sega’s parent company Sega Sammy Holdings sold off over 85 percent of the stock for Sega Entertainment, the subsidiary in charge of managing the company’s arcades. That stock was bought up by Tokyo-based amusement management company Genda, making them the new owners/operators of the nearly 200 Sega arcades in Japan.
Sega is still a name that carries a lot of goodwill with gamers, though, and Genda seemed eager to connect itself with the brand, mildly renaming Sega Entertainment to Genda Sega Entertainment last January. A year later, though, things have changed, and the company has announced that it’s changing its name again, this time to Genda GiGo Entertainment, and that the Sega name will be scrubbed from its arcades.
Genda director Sho Kataoka tweeted the announcement, saying:
“We will be changing the names of all Sega arcades nationwide to GiGO. We thank Sega for its 56 years of history in the arcade industry, and hope to be an oasis that quenches people’s thirst for real entertainment. GiGO is an acronym for Get into the Gaming Oasis!
The first arcades to be renamed will be those in [Tokyo’s] Ikebukuro, Akihabara, and Shinjuku [neighborhoods], followed by arcades in the rest of the country.”
GiGO was actually one of a number of sub-brands for Sega’s arcades, including now-closed game centers in Akihabara and Osaka’s Shinsaibashi district. Sega’s iconic Ikebukuro arcade continued using the GiGO name up until its closing last September, although it said GiGO was a combination of “gimmick” (generally used in Japan to mean “unique trait,” without any pejorative connotation) and “god.”
However, Sega was still part of those arcades’ names. The Ikebukuro branch, for example, was “Sega Ikebukuro GiGO.” That won’t be the case anymore, though, as Kataoka explained that the arcades will be renamed using GiGO only. For example, the Sega arcade in the town of Abishiko, Chiba Prefecture will have its name changed from Sega Abishiko to GiGO Abishiko. Even the Sega Taiyaki shops attached to some arcades, which sell taiyaki sweet bean cakes produced by Yokohama confectioner Kurikoan, will be renamed.
Sega may not have as many fans as it did in its glory days of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, but the fanbase it does still have is extremely loyal, and none too pleased with the name change, if Twitter reactions are anything to go by:
“What?!? The new name sounds really lame.”
“’Sega’ sounds way cooler.”
“So this means the Sega Arena and Club Sega arcade names are going to disappear too.”
“End of an era.”
“And now Sega is completely gone from the arcade industry.”
“If you’ve got money to blow changing the signs, how about upgrading the cabinets?”
“If gamers are your target audience, is a smart move to just throw the Sega name away like that?”
“Arcade culture is done. They’re not gonna be able to keep fleecing people with their rip-off crane games forever.”
Dropping the Sega name is surprising, considering a new Sega-branded arcade just opened in Ikebukuro three months ago. And as mentioned by one of the commenters, GiGO isn’t the only sub-brand name that’s been used for Sega arcades. If picking a unified name to build a stronger brand identity were the objective, Club Sega has a much stronger association with the game centers’ history, so selecting GiGO instead feels like a deliberate attempt to distance the arcades from their original owner.
Genda hasn’t publicly said why it’s trying to disassociate its arcades from Sega, but it’s likely a decision that’s been made to avoid confusing consumers, especially since Sega itself is still making games. Yes, Sega arcades always have games from other publishers as well, and if you walk into one you’ll see cabinets for, for example, Bandai Namco’s Tekken and Gundam games. There’s an understandable expectation, though, that they’ll have a good selection of whatever Sega’s recent releases are.
Genda GiGO doesn’t have any of the cross-promotional responsibilities or preferential treatment that likely existed between Sega Entertainment and Sega, though, and odds are neither Sega nor Genda GiGO wants to be mistaken for corporate siblings and have one’s actions reflect on the other. They’re completely separate entities, and GiGO might decide it’s in its best interest to have a branch with few, if any, Sega games, and Sega might be looking for an arcade to act as a promotional partner and decide that the best choice is a chain other than one operated by Genda GiGO. The timing of the name change announcement, coming almost exactly one year after Genda took over the arcades, even feels like an eventual rebrand might have been baked into the deal.
That said, it’s still a bittersweet moment for Sega fans, and we can expect a lot of them to be snapping memorial pictures of their local branches before the signs are changed.
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