Most folks know of “SEGA”, the Japanese gaming titan that brought us classic video game titles like Sonic the Hedgehog, Outrun, and Shenmue….but did you know that didn’t Sega start out as a Japanese company? It’s true!
It’s a common misconception that Sega is a Japanese word. In fact, it actually stands for “Service Games”. Wikipedia sums up Sega’s origins best:
“Sega’s roots can be traced back to a company based in Honolulu, Hawaii named Service Games, which began operations in 1940. In 1951, Raymond Lemaire and Richard Stewart moved the company to Tokyo, Japan to develop and distribute coin-operated jukeboxes, games, and slot machines. Within a few years Service Games began importing these machines to American military bases throughout Japan.
In 1954, David Rosen, an American officer in the Air Force, launched a two-minute photo booth business in Tokyo. This company eventually became Rosen Enterprises, and in 1957 began importing coin-operated games to Japan. By 1965, Rosen Enterprises grew to a chain of over 200 arcades, with Service Games its only competitor. Rosen then orchestrated a merger between Rosen Enterprises and Service Games, who by then had their own factory facilities, becoming chief executive of the new company, Sega Enterprises, which derived its name from the first two letters of SErvice GAmes.
Within a year, Sega began the transition from importer to manufacturer, with the release of the Rosen designed submarine simulator game Periscope. The game at that time sported innovative light and sound effects, eventually becoming quite successful in Japan. It was soon exported to both Europe and the United States, becoming the first arcade game in America to cost 25¢ per play.
In 1969, Rosen sold Sega to Gulf+Western (whose media properties had since been absorbed by Viacom), remaining on however as CEO of the Sega division. Under Rosen’s leadership, Sega continued to grow and prosper, and in 1972 G&W made Sega Enterprises a subsidiary, and took the company public. Sega’s current logo dates back to 1976. In 1976, they released a large screen TV, Sega-Vision (not to be confused with their portable media player, Sega Vision). Sega prospered heavily from the arcade gaming boom of the late 1970s, with revenues climbing to over $100 million by 1979.”
Not long after, SEGA would move into the home console market, bringing us the Sega Genesis and Sonic the Hedgehog. The rest, as they say, is history!