Sega is showcasing a pair of brand new games at E3 featuring the company’s mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic Forces is a 3D platform game created by Sonic Team that will ship this fall across Windows 10, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Sonic Mania is the first new side-scrolling game in the franchise in some time. Developed by Headcannon and Pagoda West Games, it ships across Windows 10, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on August 15.
Takashi Iizuka, vice president of product development for Sega of America, told AListDaily that the Sonic brand has been able to continue its momentum for a quarter century because of the support Sega gets from its fans.
“It’s really positive to hear all the comments from the fans, but from a developer’s standpoint that feedback has helped keep Sonic relevant all this time,” Iizuka said. “Our teams are constantly looking for new ways to innovate and do new things with the hardware, with the technology, and with the gameplay experience for each of these 25 years. It’s constantly being challenged and bringing something new to the Sonic gameplay, iterating on old gameplay to make it even better that has kept Sonic relevant all these years.”
Even after Sega officially exited the console video game business in Iizuka, Sonic has flourished across platforms. The advent of mobile gaming has played a big role in introducing the blue Sega mascot to new generations of fans.
“A lot of people have mobile devices worldwide, which is a much larger audience than we have with consoles,” Iizuka said. “So having a mobile game out there like Sonic Dash, which has over 200 million downloads worldwide, is really good for us because we get to show our character to people who don’t have consoles and would never have played a Sonic the Hedgehog game. They’re now able to play our game, associate with our characters, and really have a good time.”
Sega was also one of the early game companies to capitalize on merchandising, as well as television shows, to increase Sonic’s brand awareness and reach throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s and through to the current age.
Iizuka said all of the licensed and merchandising content, the TV show, comic books, and other business is now controlled through the new Sonic pillar in Los Angeles that he’s a part of.
“Being able to look at all of our content and really approve and give guidance on things helps support the brand,” Iizuka explained. “And it’s that authenticity that helps support the Sonic character.”
With a new game launching at the end of summer and a second debuting in time for Christmas, Iizuka said Sega is finding ways to have everything tie-in together, whether it’s a licensed product, whether it’s a YouTube video or some social media content.
“We’re finding ways of engaging the fans with the world that they experience in our video games and give them additional content or additional items that they can purchase to further extend the fun times that they have played our games,” Iizuka said.
Just as Kellogg’s has used retro Nintendo games to market to parents who grew up playing Super Mario Bros. games, Sega is also tapping into nostalgia with its newest Sonic games.
“We realize Sonic Mania is a very nostalgic game for a lot of people and we want to make sure we’re marketing to that crowd,” Iizuka said. “Similarly for Sonic Forces we realize that this may be not so much of a hardcore gamers’ game, but rather it appeals to a broad spectrum of all gamers on all platforms. We’re making sure we market to them so that they understand that this content is out there.”
After partnering with its one-time rival Nintendo for several Sonic exclusives, these two new games will be available across all platforms, including Windows 10.
“We realize that going multiplatform means you get to target more people across a variety of platforms, but it’s really going even beyond that,” Iizuka explained. “We have the Asian territories, the Americas and the European market that already has a lot of consoles, but because we’re including PC in our lineup we now get to reach out and go to other countries where the console market doesn’t really exist all that much. Now we can introduce Sonic the Hedgehog to this audience.”
After a pre-E3 event last month in Los Angeles, Sega’s two new Sonic games have been garnering critical accolades. The 2D game brings all the challenges of the classic Sega Genesis franchise with characters like Sonic, Tails and Knuckles complete with the same graphical style. Sonic Forces features a modern Sonic with completely three-dimensional stages and a classic Sonic for side-scrolling stages that have a modern-day 3D feel. And for the first time in the franchise, players can create their own custom hero and take on Dr. Eggman and his army of bosses and henchmen using special gadgets like a grappling hook and flamethrower.