Sega’s mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, is one of the most iconic characters in videogame history. In the 1990s, he helped move Sega’s 16-bit Genesis console with his game series – Sonic the Hedgehog, its three sequels including Sonic & Knuckles, plus several spinoffs. This helped Sega become a true challenger to Nintendo’s industry dominance, just as a Sonic became a challenger to Mario as the most beloved industry mascot.
Sonic has fallen on hard times though. Sega, now out of the hardware market and focusing solely on games and their relevant intellectual properties, has struggled to recreate Sonic’s early success in the modern era of gaming, In an interview with Marketing Week, Sega Europe’s marketing director Jon Rooke is surprisingly candid about the Sonic franchise.
“Sega has publically apologized to the fans as the quality of console games in the Sonic franchise hasn’t been acceptable over recent years,” he said. “It’s been tough translating that iconic side scrolling 2D experience from the 90s into 3D but Sonic is still huge for us so the new games will be more inspired by how it played in its heyday.”
Nintendo made the 2D to 3D transition look easy when it made the jump with its Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda franchises. The first 3D outings for those franchises became instant classics. Sonic, on the other hand, has struggled with the unique challenge of translating the signature sense of speed that is the basis of the series’ gameplay into 3D environments without sacrificing precision control.
Things aren’t all bad for Sonic though. The Sonic Dash smartphone game has been a big success for Sega, with over 100 million downloads, and the animated series Sonic Boom has revived interest in the character and was renewed for a second season. We’ll have to wait and see if Sega and parlay that enthusiasm for the franchise into a successful console release.