Sega Studios San Francisco
|Type||Subsidiary of Sega|
|Founded||San Francisco, California|
|Headquarters||San Francisco, California|
|Key people||Studio Director: Constantine Hantzopolous, Founders: Jeremy Gordon, Josh Adams, and Otavio Good, Directors: Reeve Thompson, Christopher Bretz, Jeffrey Tseng, Angus Chassels, Paul Forest|
|Products||Golden Axe: Beast Rider, Iron Man (video game), America's Army: Rise of a Soldier, Karaoke Revolution, Magic: The Gathering Battlegrounds, Star Wars: Starfighter, Unreal Tournament for Dreamcast|
Before being purchased by Sega, Secret Level was a small boutique studio who created original video games such as Magic: The Gathering - Battlegrounds, ported titles like Star Wars: Starfighter and Unreal Tournament, and expanded games for console such as America's Army: Rise of a Soldier. Secret Level also worked on the Xbox port of Final Fight: Streetwise and Karaoke Revolution. Secret Level also created numerous tools and technologies for the console entertainment industry, working with LucasArts, Sony, and others, and participated in numerous work-for-hire art projects. Founded in late 1999 in San Francisco, the company was originally located near Powell and Market Street, later moving to near AT&T Park. At their largest they had nearly 200 employees.
Secret Level was purchased in early 2006 during the development of Golden Axe: Beast Rider for Sega. Simon Jeffery, former SOA president, was impressed with Secret Level's progress and technology and directed Sega of America to acquire the studio.
After the takeover, Secret Level evolved from a small startup to a large, nearly 200 person studio. Two years of growth and development produced Iron Man (video game) and Golden Axe: Beast Rider for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Some might have said it was too much too soon.
Iron Man & Golden Axe
According to Metacritic, an online compiler of video game review scores, the PlayStation 3 version of Iron Man received an average rating of 42 (on a 100 point scale) from video game critics, and the Xbox 360 version received an average rating of 45. Metacritic states that average scores below 50 indicate "generally unfavorable reviews." Secret Level did not develop the Iron Man movie tie-in games for the Nintendo DS, Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable or Windows platforms, which instead were developed by the studio Artificial Mind.
Beast Rider on the other hand received a 3.2/10 rating from IGN with a closing comment, "This is a game worth avoiding like the plague, even if the classic remains deep and warm within your heart." GamePro called it "poorly designed and utterly mediocre," "a terrible game that feels like a slap in the face to fans of the original franchise."  TeamXbox gave the game a 6.8 rating. Gametrailers' sister site ScrewAttack.com's editor High School Ben told people to "F' it" due to strange controls, lack of music, and high difficulty. G4tv's X-Play gave the game a 2/5 stars during their Oct.22.08 review.
On a positive note Play Magazine scored it a 9/10. Play also delivered a comment that "certain online reviewers" couldn't have played through it and released a decent review in the time-frame they did.
Sega Studios San Francisco
With the critical and commercial failure of both games, Sega disbanded Secret Level and absorbed a selected few to restart the studio under a new name, Sega Studios San Francisco. The new studio didn't have the autonomy the previous studio with Sega directly controlling all of its ventures.
Sega hoped with the restructuring that Iron Man 2 and the sequel to Beast Rider would deliver what the original games were intended to do. However, on April 2, 2010, Sega announced that Sega Studios San Francisco would be closed with the release of Iron Man 2. Sega did not say anything about the sequel to Beast Rider, which lead several websites to believe the game was not up to expectations
Sega West president Mike Hayes was interviewed by 1UP.com and in the interview he discussed the studios disbandonment. 1UP: Was the closing of Secret Level because of the shift to digital?'
'MH: It was a broader thing. We're pleased with Iron Man 2 that they worked on, but the truth of the matter is that we couldn't find another appropriate project to give them. It was something you may recall we did with our racing studio here in London, about three years ago. It was a good team, but we were unable to find them their next project.
- Iron Man 2: The Video Game Behind the Scenes
- http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/920/920770p1.html Golden Axe: Beast Rider Review
- http://web.archive.org/web/20110607121954/http://www.gamepro.com/article/reviews/207452/golden-axe-beast-rider-360/ Golden Axe: Beast Rider (360)
- Sega Closes Iron Man 2 Developer