Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Sonic Improvement Strategy

Sonic the Hedgehog is a gaming icon. Sega knows this, so over the past decade or so, multiple Sonic games have been released, usually to a very poor critical reception. Sega could just never quite get things right, but the games still sold well. Sega's recent statements suggest that they intend to reduce their production of those games in order to keep the focus on their newer, hopefully better, Sonic games.

There are two parts to this plan, and the first is to reduce older, and poorly reviewed Sonic games. The interesting thing is that Sega is using the review aggregation site Metacritic as a guide instead of sales. This means that even if a game has sold well, it could still be pulled because of a low Metacritic score. Sega seems to have very noble intentions, they are potentially reducing their profits in order to focus on bringing better Sonic games to the market. This will cut down on the shovelware Sonic games, allowing better Sonic games to receive more attention.

The second part of the plan is increasing the quality of newer Sonic games. This seems to be going well already with Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 being released last week to great reviews, and the highly-anticipated Sonic Colors coming soon. Sega seems to finally have a handle on what to do with the blue hedgehog. Whenever a low quality Sonic game was released, a part of the fandom gave up on the series, I know I did. Such mediocre titles as Sonic Heroes, and Sonic the Hedgehog (the next-gen one for the Xbox 360 and PS3) only took attention away from the series. These games were far from fun, and often suffered from numerous glitches and bugs.

The games themselves seem to reflect this shift in focus. Instead of including multiple, and often annoying, side characters, Sonic himself has returned to the spotlight. Also, the games are trying to return to their roots, for instance Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is a 2D side-scrolling platformer, like the original games. In Sonic Colors you can only play as Sonic, and it too has a focus on speed.

I hope Sega's strategy works for their once beloved mascot. This shift in focus from selling games to making good games could return Sonic to his star status.

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