Those of you old enough to have lived through the 16-bit war of the '90s will almost certainly know the name Tom Kalinske. He served as Sega of America's CEO during this incredible period and is often credited with overturning Nintendo's dominance of the US console arena. When he took over the company was little more than an also-ran, but under his guidance the Genesis overtook the NES in sales and transformed Sega into a market leader. If you've not done so already, then we'd recommend you read Console Wars, a book which covers the period superbly.
Kalinske would step down as Sega CEO in 1996 following the disappointing commercial performance of the Sega CD, 32X and Saturn, signalling his exit from the video game arena but not interactive entertainment, as he would later securing roles at LeapFrog and Knowledge Universe. However, he's now back in games as the chairman of Gazillion, which develops free-to-play online title Marvel Heroes.
Speaking to Gamesindustry.biz, Kalinske spoke about the incredible changes that have occurred in gaming in the past two decades:
You can imagine being out of the industry for 20 years and then coming back in, the changes are unbelievable. I've got so much learning to do. I didn't even know about things like Steam and Valve. But the great thing is a lot of this was started so long ago. Remember, we had mobile games long, long ago. We did mess around with VR, but never successfully. I cancelled the introduction of VR when I was at Sega because it made everyone sick, basically. I love what's going on in AR. I've been a little bit part of eSports. So I've seen these things develop, and I'm so excited about what's going on.
While the game may have changed, Kalinske claims that the setup at Gazillion is very familiar:
It reminded me a lot of when I joined Sega in the 1990s... They didn't have that many products and we had to develop a lot quickly. We did so, and we had a unique strategy to go up against Nintendo. If I have any strength at all, it's that I like unique strategies, and I'm hoping to help the company by helping them develop some unique strategies.
Given that Gazillion currently relies quite heavily on Marvel Heroes for its revenue, you'd be forgiven for questioning Kalinske's move and pondering if the former Sega heavyweight can really mix it up with the big boys these days. However, he's adamant that big things are on the way for the studio:
I wouldn't have done this if I thought it was only going to be a small company. I believe there's an opportunity to build Gazillion into a very large company.
While Kalinske isn't currently involved in anything Nintendo (or Sega) related, we wish him the very best of luck in his new role. Now you'll have to excuse us while we hook up the Mega Drive and attempt to relive the awesome playground arguments of the 1990s.