An Open Letter to SEGA This letter will

An Open Letter to SEGA

This letter will be to express my extreme discontent with SEGA’s nationalistic and preferential treatment, biased towards the Japanese, and hopelessly against devoted and loving foreign (to Japan) fans. It will also be to communicate my bad experience with SEGA’s Phantasy Star Online 2 (PSO2) service and as an outline of why other non-Japanese people should avoid paying to use such services from SEGA in future.

This letter concerns a general disrespect SEGA has for those outside of Japan. This isn’t imagined or exaggerated and has become a widely known fact of life within the global SEGA fan community.

Let’s start with my own anecdotal experience and extrapolate the problems facing a non-Japanese customer of SEGA.

My Phantasy Star Online 2 account had over 3000 hours on the clock and perhaps around $5000 USD worth of virtual property accrued (estimated by taking the number of costumes available and multiplying by a median of silver and gold scratch pricing). I had meticulously ensured that I had every single accessory, outfit, voice, hairstyle, lobby action and weapon (Nacht and otherwise) that was released.

My virtual room, for which I paid a monthly fee to rent, was one of the most visited on any ship (server), and my equipment was perhaps amongst the best possessed by any player. What I’m trying to hammer in is that I was heavily invested in PSO2, and I poured my heart into it. I was contributing to the community and the health of the service through my utter dedication.

When I logged in one day to see that my account had been banned from further use, one can only imagine how they would feel in a similar situation. It was completely devastating. That which was mine had been locked away from me, and an entire world into which I had been enticed, had been denied to me in future. No reason was presented, I was banned and that was it.

I had heard about random bannings of foreigners based on a minority of racist Japanese customers reporting any gaijin (charged epithet for foreigner) they saw as a matter of course, and SEGA playing along to appease them, but I never thought it could happen to me. Surely that had to be a silly rumor; except now it wasn’t, now I was the victim, and that rumor was all that I could think of to justify SEGA’s actions.

Almost my entire virtual life had been scrapped. The countless friends from all over the world, many of which were Japanese people, were all now cruelly locked away from me. They didn’t share SEGA’s views, they didn’t mind playing with gaijin – they were open minded and friendly people. And now, SEGA had stolen them from me along with thousands of hours of my time and hundreds of dollars.

But, I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too:

If I write to SEGA and ask them to explain themselves, they’ll help, or at very least explain why I was banned in the first place. They’ll care about my situation and offer me guidance at this time! After all, I’ve given them hundreds of dollars in this game alone in this year alone, and thousands of dollars over the course of my lifetime.

Both I, at the time, and you now, would be wrong. SEGA ignored my letters.

Speaking to others in the community, this seems to be policy. Not one foreign person I spoke with had received a response from SEGA, not even those who were not banned and were only writing to ask a basic question.

For all my devotion and money, SEGA wouldn’t even respond to an email (which I wrote out in brief and plain Japanese script, checked by a Japanese friend). I gave them numerous weeks, and re-sent the message through several of the PSO2 website’s forms. No response.

Japanese customers describe getting responses within three days, but I’m not Japanese and I haven’t gotten a single reply. I can only assume that in SEGA’s eyes, due to being a foreigner, I’m a lower customer – a lesser being who is not worthy of being tended to when he asks ‘what happened to that service I’m paying monthly to receive?

As a matter of fact, I still had 3 months of premium fees paid up – some $75USD after all considerations – all of which was taken from me with no compensation. That is how little SEGA thinks of foreigners. We are to be mugged of our money, used and then ignored.

There’s already English code within the program, we PSO2 players had known that since Open Beta for PSO2. SEGA could have and could still, at any time, turn on English, Italian .etc support, but they choose not to. They’re in an awkward situation in which they want to repeat the abusive treatment towards their fans in their administration of so many other online services; they want to release things years late and minus Japan-exclusive content. This is how they say ‘We love you’ to their own countrymen – by flipping the bird to everyone else.

The problem they have now is that foreign fans are on their Japanese servers, because the entire community knows that the Japanese servers are the only ones SEGA will look after properly. SEGA doesn’t want to destroy their foreign sales numbers on a NA/PAL localized release, so instead they appease their nationalist leanings by abusing foreigners on their Japanese servers, denying them support and banning them whenever any unsubstantiated report comes in about their activities.

SEGA would no doubt argue that their Terms of Service (ToS) as it stands today (they changed it in recent months) stipulates no foreign connections. But, the company invited us in when no such stipulation was in place, and then when it was added, PSO2’s producer stated that SEGA would not be enforcing that section of the contract.

Any court in the free world will strike that section down under the concept of estoppel (which essentially stops people from presenting evidence they will act in a certain manner in regards to their legal rights and then doing something different, often leading to negative consequences for other contracting parties). This section of the ToS is essentially moot.

PSO2 producer, Satoshi Sakai, has been aware of the foreign community for nearly a full year and has expressed that these players will be allowed to continue, contravening the section of the ToS which denies foreign access. This is not some act of kindness, but as previously stated, an attempt to not poison a potential secondary-market for the game; they hope that dedicated foreign fans will give up their full-service Japanese server playtime in exchange for an ersatz and delayed North American/European server – which, if true to precedent, will close down a year before the Japanese server.

Despite SEGA fans worldwide expressing a vocal demand to be allowed to stay on the Japanese servers (officially; including proper language support and services), and for those servers to be expanded to accommodate all nationalities, Sakai and SEGA have denied this request, with no legitimate reasoning.

Why might this be? Well, let us look at what PSO2 Producer Satoshi Sakai has had to say to and about foreigners!

One of the only times he’s said anything about them is when he decided foreigners were to blame for the hacking epidemic in the game. Nope, it surely couldn’t have been SEGA’s poor security and Game Guard’s futile attempts to plug the holes – it was those pesky foreigners! Foreigners have to be the ones who are hacking, because cheating is just not Japanese. If Sakai, SEGA and the PSO2 team were to play their own game they’d quickly realise that most hackers are Japanese, operating in team groups, with locked MPAs (Multi-Party Areas/maps) which regularly are left open by mistake, allowing one to see their actions.

A quick look over the Team Rare Drop Ranking will quickly show you which teams these are; but no, they’re Japanese, so they’re beyond questioning.

If Phantasy Star Online 2 were to come out in the West and in other regions, at this point, SEGA is likely to attempt a heavily delayed and diminished release (they’d almost have to, given how the premium gatcha scratch programs work). This is supported by their similar pathetic efforts with Phantasy Star Online Episodes 1-2, Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst, Phantasy Star Universe and the many portable iterations in the series.

For all of these games, when it came to fans outside of Japan, SEGA released the games very late, without Japanese-only content included, with bare-bones moderation (often non-existent) and a content rotation six months to one year delayed. In summation, the Japanese get everything and they get it first, and everywhere else is thrown the crumbs from their table.

Being a non-Japanese MMO customer of SEGA is like volunteering to pay for a company to abuse you and belittle your continued support for their business.

SEGA’s gaijin shaming continues further however; they implicitly encourage a culture which blames SEGA of America for shortfalls. SEGA of Japan is the parent company, and if their subsidiaries are not performing well, then they are vicariously responsible, as it is within their scope of power to iron out inefficiencies and mismanagement.

The bottom line is that SEGA has demonstrated over and over that they’re not just a Japanese company, but they are Japanese nationalists who value and prioritize Japanese clients over those from elsewhere.

I, like many others outside of Japan, owned a Master System, a Genesis/MD, Sega Saturn (!) and a Dreamcast. I was brand loyal. Even when SEGA was facing financial ruin and in the school yard, others kids would make fun of my poor choice game companies, I supported SEGA. I didn’t support them because they were Japanese, I supported them because I loved their games and felt like part of their community.

It would only be a few years after the playground that I would find out how little SEGA cared for me and their foreign fans.

I invested thousands of dollars into Dreamcast hardware and software, believing SEGA’s flagrant misrepresentations that they wouldn’t scrap the likes of Shenmue and Virtua Fighter 4 amongst others for US release (although SEGA shafted ALL Dreamcast fans on VF4 eventually). Basically all of the late-era Dreamcast games were sold to Microsoft as Xbox exclusives. How foolish I was – SEGA had my money now, so they didn’t care that they were leaving us and many tens of thousands of other families high and dry. They would be software developers now, and I, we, their supporters, could go screw ourselves.

Japanese fans certainly got screwed over by the Dreamcast as well, but no one got screwed as hard as American Dreamcast fans. To double the insult, it’s worth noting that SEGA owes its founding to American sales.

To SEGA, I say that there is a growing resentment from your foreign fans, and with the neglect you show them and the favoritism you show towards your Japanese clientele, it’s no wonder that SEGA isn’t doing so well in the modern age, and that western sales are not as desired. At a time in which Japanese game companies are struggling, SEGA actively pushes their foreign fans away.

To everyone else who reads this, I say:

While my exact circumstances with PSO2 may not befall you, it is important to remember that as a foreigner, Sega’s past and current attitudes should lead you to believe that they see you as an expendable and unimportant secondary market. I will never buy a SEGA product again, and if you’re not Japanese, then for the reasons above, I strongly advise you to consider your options.

If you have to try the latest awful Sonic game or the newest abortion that calls itself a Shining Force title, I recommend buying second hand and denying SEGA corporate your money. If that’s too much of a hassle, I have no doubt there are more inventive methods of attaining games while still achieving the same result.

Once your biggest fan,

Just another PSO2 Gaijin

Feel free to leave a comment below

Update: 5/6/13 – Since writing the Open Letter and sending SEGA a link, they have responded to my request for answers on why I was banned with a statement about the rule against foreign connections. I don’t allege SEGA is doing anything illegal in regards to PSO2, they’re just not being very good to foreign fans.

Please view my about page (on the menu at the top of the page) to view the offer I make to take this site down if SEGA decides to step up and do the right thing. E3 is close – good opportunity, me thinks.