The good news of former Sega superstars Yuji Naka and Naoto Oshima joining forces to bring us an entirely new IP comes with some bad. As of July 31st, Sega Group Corporation’s president and chief publishing officer Kenji Matsubara left the company with the only concrete rationale being “personal reasons.” Matsubara joined the company in 2014, shortly becoming president as well as a chief publishing officer in a few years.
It’s not at all uncommon for major figures to leave their seats behind. There has usually been a trail of events leading up to some of Sega’s leading figures packing their bags. Perhaps the best example of this would be Tom Kalinske, who served as President and CEO for Sega of America from 1990 to 1996. Kalinske played a huge role in helping Sega establish a presence in North America. It was his idea, after all, to have Sonic the Hedgehog appear as a pack-in title for the Sega Genesis in favor of 1989’s Altered Beast. A move that his Japanese colleagues thought was insane but paid off handsomely in the long run. Furthermore, he was responsible for all of those edgy, aggressive advertisements attacking direct competitor Nintendo throughout the ’90s.
As highlighted by Service Games- The Rise and Fall of Sega, however, difficulties arose throughout the development cycle of the Sega CD and 32X. Communications between Sega of America and Sega of Japan became shaky, with Sega of America often being left out of things until the last minute. This, of course, made marketing the company’s latest peripherals and consoles tough in the West. Following the failure of the Sega Saturn and further tensions with the company’s Japanese division, Kalinske decided it was time to go in 1996.
You’re probably asking what any of this has to do with the present. I’ve brought up this bit of history because, although we may not know what these personal reasons entail. History may have repeated itself and Mastubara left due to the direction Sega is taking now. Admittedly, Famitsu’s big tease of a Sega-related announcement that could put the company back into the spotlight back in June was a bit of a bust. I honestly don’t believe that “fog gaming” and the announcement of the Game Gear Micro was what the public was expecting. This is especially true after being told that Sega had something monumental in store. These things coupled with the fact that it’s a rough time for the gaming industry (as well as most other industries) due to the pandemic. Certainly could have very well been an underlying reason for Mastubara’s departure.
Again, I should stress that it’s all merely speculation at this point. It could have been the moves the company is making, it could have been the inevitable strain COVID-19 has put on many workplaces. Maybe it could have been a sick family…the list goes on. It’s plausible that he could’ve seen the next Sonic game and decided to bolt out the door, as some have joked. Whatever the reason, I just hope that Mastubara was able to leave on good terms and that Sega continues to take steps in the right direction.