Retro Game Story: David Rosen and the Great Success of SEGA

David Rosen il successo e la storia di SEGA su

Perhaps not everyone knows that the great success of SEGA does not come from the East, but rather is largely the result of the entrepreneurial skills of an american mind, that of David Rosen.

David Rosen served the american army in the East between the 40s and 50s. At the end of his service, he decided to settle permanently in Japan, starting a family and a new business. In addition to acting as an intermediary for the sale of oriental artistic works in the West, he invested a lot of money in special instant photo booths called “Photorama” that developed passport photos in two minutes. Apparently this thing drove the Japanese crazy, they made so many passport photos to make Rosen very, very rich in a short time.

The new interest of the Rising Sun towards electromechanical products pushed Rosen to merge his company with a local one, Nihon Goraku Bussan – for friends (Se) rvice (Ga) mes – which dealt with the production and distribution of slot machines. After the merger, Rosen proposed and obtained to change the name to SEGA and was also appointed CEO in 1965.

Initially, SEGA was exclusively an importer of Flippers and electromechanical games to and from America. Later he decided to develop his own. The first successful game designed by Sega (based on ideas by Rosen himself) was PERISCOPE. The game, of monstrous dimensions, was in practice a mechanical shooting, where it was necessary to hit cardboard ships that moved on a drawn background aiming through, in fact, a periscope.

Periscope il primo arcade di SEGA su

In the 1970s, Rosen sold SEGA to an American multinational, the Gulf Western Group. He became a millionaire, remained at the head of the company and made the teenagers all over the world happy by publishing two great videogame successes: Frogger (1981) and Zaxxon (1982). In this period SEGA outsourced the production of video games to many Japanese shadow developers such as Coreland, who designed Pengo in 1982.

Zaxxon il primo successo di SEGA, David Rosen su
Frogger il primo successo di SEGA, David Rosen su

Even the much loved Sega modern logo is an original design by David Rosen.

Between the 80s and 90s SEGA, at the behest of Rosen and his partner Hayao Nakayama, became interested in the console market with mixed results and in constant competition with Nintendo. To concentrate also on the western market, David Rosen then moved to America administering Sega West until 1996, the year of his retirement.

In the picture we see it on the left, while on the right side, cheerful and a bit tipsy, there is a young Shinobu Toyoda, Sega America’s deputy and responsible for practically all the successful titles published from 1992 to 2005, including Sonic. At the center instead there is a less interesting Joe Montana, football player with the ugliest tie in the world who lent his face to “Joe Montana Football”, a sports simulation on Megadrive, tailor-made for the American audience.