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What if Sonic had only been created now?


Indigo Rush
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Now hear me out on this one.

 

Sonic is a gaming icon. He made a massive impact in the platforming genre and gaming as a whole. He was the first real threat against Nintendo in the early 90s and even despite having a spotty track record and a period of lukewarm games, he's still out on top. Much of it has to do with the brand identity of the character, the strength of the gameplay itself, a strong fan base and a dedicated development team. Even when many are crying for Sonic to put his sneakers away for good, there are twice as many people cheering for more high-speed ring-grabbing action that only SEGA can deliver.

 

But let's imagine another world scenario.

 

What if Sonic, what if SEGA never existed... until now?

 

It's E3 2013. Nintendo is up against Sony and Microsoft with their Nintendo Direct. People are cheering Sony, jeering Microsoft, and waiting to see what Nintendo has next in store. So they hit it off with some Pokemon news, a new 3D Mario platformer, Wind Waker HD, a new Donkey Kong game, Mario Kart 8, Pikmin 3, Wonderful 101, Smash 4, and the like. But somewhere in there they tease a brand new character developed by a new indie game development team called the "Sonic Team." They bring out a colorful blue hedgehog with red sneakers in a 2D game with colorful high-def visuals running through a beautiful green hill level, complete with golden rings to collect, bonus levels, and a silly but deadly villain named Dr Eggman. It's called "Sonic the Hedgehog," and it's the newest platformer to hit the market, and it plans on reinventing the wheel for games everywhere.

 

Okay, maybe it isn't Nintendo. How about... Sony picks this team up and makes it a PS4 exclusive title. Or even Xbox One. Or it's a cross-platform title. Point being, it's 2013, and there is a brand new character out named Sonic.

 

...how would that sit with people nowadays, who had never even heard of such a platformer? What would the reaction be? Would Sonic have the same kind of impact now that he did in 1991?

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People would care about it as much as they care about Knack. People only care about Knack if they harken back to the age of mascot platformers. If Sonic never existed, the only iconic mascot platformers that are still well known would be like.. Mario and Crash, that's it, people would probably put less importance on the whole existence of mascot platformers than they already do.

 

I.e. not much because he's not a game about white men with guns forcing American ideologies down the throats of anyone who objects biggrin.png and that's what sells!

Edited by SuperLink
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I don't want to sound mean but does even Crash hold any relevancy still? 

He's iconic, a legacy character. If people have interest in making or buying mascot platformers now, Crash is very likely to be one of the influences in that choice. Same goes for Sonic and Mario, though those 2 are obv a lot more relevant than Crash is, Crash was a lot of peoples' childhoods.

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He's iconic, a legacy character. If people have interest in making or buying mascot platformers now, Crash is very likely to be one of the influences in that choice. Same goes for Sonic and Mario, though those 2 are obv a lot more relevant than Crash is, Crash was a lot of peoples' childhoods.

 

That goes without saying for Sonic and Mario. And I don't doubt that Crash is a legacy character and that he'd be a choice for buying a mascot platformer.

 

But I'm having my doubts as to how his relevancy is holding up as time goes on. Than again, i only own one Crash game and it was one that I never beat so what do I know?

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Would Sonic have the same kind of impact now that he did in 1991?

Oh, no, definitely not. Even if the graphics, engine, etc were upgraded to contemporary levels it wouldn't have any major hook. Graphics have gotten close to plateauing; to stand out you generally need not just technical excellence but a really strong style as well, and while this hypothetical modern-day Sonic 1 would probably look good...just "good" wouldn't be enough. The gameplay might get a bit more attention for being more creative than the average Mario knockoff but the speed and physics are pretty trivial from a modern perspective.

As far as characterization and storytelling, even if you could synthesize all the best examples throughout the series into one, it still wouldn't be much more than ok. Even less if we're keeping it more towards just Sonic 1-ish. There are games with much stronger characterization, story, themes, etc etc etc. What's Sonic got? Mascot platformers in general don't pull a whole lot of weight these days, and Sonic wouldn't get a boost by being more edgy than Mario when there's tons of M-rated games out now. The story wouldn't be much more than a decent but forgettable cartoon, something with some alright action and maybe touching briefly on some more significant themes but nothing that's going to stand out.

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I think this question further depends on which Sonic would we be seeing in this day and age: Would Sonic 1 on Genesis be his first game? Or would Lost World be his first game?

 

If it's the former, it would go straight to the indie or mobile pile. The classic pixel art alone not being used in a really robust, technically impressive, or unique way for 2013 is straight nostalgia fodder and nothing more, and frankly I'm not sure that its level design and physics would hold a candle in terms of impressiveness to the platformers and other games coming out now. It would still be good, but the time for its level of craftsmanship to have been impressive enough to shift the industry completely would've long since passed.

 

If it was Lost World, it would be a nice distraction that wouldn't last for a decade, or even half that. It's a 3D platformer, which is novel only because it's a dying breed. There's simply less demand for them in a technological and cultural environment that favors shooters and action games instead. The character design would forever be appealing, so it would have that going in its favor (although current dialogue and delivery would not), but how does your Parkour system- the main sell- even begin to compete without the context of an entire series to compare to in order to boost its appeal as a Sonic game, as well as stack up alongside Mirror's Edge coming back, which is one of the standards for this kind of thing and the more-demanded game?

 

Either way, Sonic came out exactly when he needed to in order to secure his continued relevancy. He's a veritable lightning strike. Push the reveal back that far and he would not be as successful as he is.

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Ignoring everything else...

 

 

 

2013 isn't 1990. Sonic was purposely cultivated to be as great for the 90s as possible. The right character at the right place at the right time; with the right marketing push. If he came out today, assuming all else was the same, he would be viewed as almost a parody of late-80s cartoon characters.

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Wanted to contribute more the topic myself but I'm afraid Diogenes, Nepenthe, and Tornado pretty much stated it best.

 

Sad as it may be, platformers are dying breed.  The only platformers aside from Mario that I can think of to have a lasting relevance in the past five or six years would have to be the Lego series, and that is probably attributed largely to its use of already iconic IP's. (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc.)  Other than that, Mario is probably the only mascot platformer that actually sells well anymore, and even that probably has a lot to do with his iconic nature.  2-D platformers in particular only have a market in the "cult" fandom and usually make their way to Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and mobile app stores in the insignificant $5 or less category.

 

If Sonic were released today, I'd probably think of him the same way I think of Knack and a lot of recent platformers:  Tried and true, but not worth a purchase when you have other companies doing the same thing a thousand times better, and I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one.

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Mascot platformers in general are a very niche genre that appeal to a select audience nowadays with the general gaming media being focused on realistic, cinematic experiences. If Sonic had come out in this day and age, he'd be probably just be a nice little indie title that you'd play for a week or two before moving onto the next AAA title.

 

 

Like Akito said, platformers are a dying breed with the only ones that are still guaranteed to sell are Sonic & Mario, and that's only on account of the legacy they've had from years ago. Sonic is damn lucky he came out when he did otherwise his fanbase would be nowhere near as large, and even then he's still struggling to remain relevant in some people's eyes.

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The fact that 2013 is dominated by shooters makes it impossible for him to have that same impact as he did in the 90s. There's no way Sonic could survive anywhere near the way he is now.

 

Not fully true. Super meat boy is still alive. Along with random shit like Angry birds and the random mobile games. Sonic, while may not be stable at the moment, would eventually either be a hit or miss depending on the MOTHER company Sonic Team went with. If it were Nintendo, I'm sure the NES boys would find a way to make him live. Look at Pit? Before Brawl, no one has actually seen him since the late 80s early 90s. And many of us did not know about him. When he appeared in Brawl, he was an instant lover. Later he gain his own game on the 3DS and is now returning to the Smash bros series as a playable character. Now say Sony or Micro picked him up. One we know it would be a rushed game, because well.......it just happens like that. Or two, it would start off as an arcade like game. Kinda like how Splosion man and Meat boy are. IF it were lucky and had a really good 1st game, he would return to one of the 2 consoles. If now, he'd fall off. And if their first game would have been something along the lines of Sonic LW, Sonic 3 or Sonic Rush? I could see him returning. Even with Sony or Micro. 

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And none of that would be the same as what Sonic had back in the 90s, nor would any of what you said be a guarantee of what would actually happen. It would be entirely different right down to the advertising and the audience that would pick him up, and this is on top of shooters being the current fad in the industry and nevermind how mismanaged the industry is as far as making games go.

 

This ambiguity and the degree of doubt of how Sonic would manage if he began to rise in this period are a stark contrast to things in the 90s before gaming became as big as it has now.

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A platformer that isn't an icon coming out in this day and age? I don't particularly know but my money's not on it being all too successful.

 

Sackboy.jpg

 

I disagree. Little Big Planet came out just a few years ago and it's one of the biggest hits on the PS3. New platformers can become successful if they try to push the boat.

Edited by Stritix
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Without Sonic being where he started, anthropomorphic mascots as characters wouldn't have been a thing, platformers with any uniqueness outside of being a Mario copy wouldn't have existed, the wider acceptance of really surreal / strange and Japanese-y concepts wouldn't have happened in a more western territory for anything outside random arcade and RPG games, and a lack of ambition to try to compete against Nintendo would've been the mindset, unless some other random game came along, but even then it would've had to have been as impressive/beautiful/innovative/fun as Sonic 1 to be that successful.

 

In other words...

 

Without Sonic, I doubt we'd even be in the position we are now regarding the games industry, so how would the series ever come into conception in modern day if no mark the Sonic series made would be left on games? :v

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The thing is I can't actually see characters like Crash Bandicoot even becoming successful in the first place without Sonic leading the way. WAY more important than Sonic influencing other game characters however is how SEGA would have coped without the Blue Blur. He was second only to Mario when it came to selling game consoles and for a short time from 1991-1993 arguably was as big as Mario! Without him kickstarting the Mega Drive/Genesis and giving SEGA the upper hand on Nintendo (for a while at least) who knows where the gaming industry would have gone? It's likely that due to lackluster sales they might have gone 3rd party much sooner and other companies would have taken their place.

Edit: Or basically what the guy above me said.

Edited by Fourth Doctor
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It would not thrive. It would probably end up like Ty the Tasmanian Tiger - a few million copies sold with a small cult following but hardly anything earthshaking. Especially in an era which is pretty much officially dominated by more mature franchises instead of kiddy platformers as it once was. Only a handful of the classic platformer titles still manage to keep up in this era.

 

Plus I imagine a lot of Sonic's success was relative. Bundled with a console that was cheaper than Nintendo's, for one; bear in mind Nintendo usually enjoys great console success not just because of its many exclusives, but the fact it's usually cheaper than its competitors. In addition, Sonic's early success was because he was so innovative, with better use of the Genesis' lower number of colors and geometry that had not been played with by Nintendo, such as the famous loops, which really exist for no reason other than to highlight the speed and demonstrate the different use of polygons.

 

With the much higher barrier to entry there is today, I doubt Sonic would have been able to make as big a splash as he was back in an era where practically anyone could make a game, whether indie or professional. While we still get some successful indie titles today, overall small-scale gaming has been pushed out of the market. Sonic would be a low budget project and attain very little when everyone's going gaga over graphics. To see how budgets and games work, try a new franchise. Any new franchise, doesn't matter. Now, play the sequel. Chances are high the sequel is superior in every possible way; companies don't like taking big risks so give much smaller budgets to new titles. Many of these new titles do not get off the ground (especially the ones that arrogantly decree themselves the "new thing") and fade into obscurity, while others do well and get bigger and bigger budgets.

 

Let us finally look at another huge success factor in games: seniority. I don't think Mario's so big just because of his games' quality, but also because he has had the home field advantage since the mid-1980s. By the time Sonic came around, Nintendo had consolidated themselves around several icons, and only a handful of people would have been left to try out Sonic. People after all, prefer to stick with what they know than venture into the unknown when armed with a limited supply of money for gaming. While Sonic was a "rival" he was never able to surpass Mario; he was basically like the British economy (what a perfect choice) to the United States' - certainly a noticeable competitor, but hardly able to claim he had come out on top.

 

Had Sonic been created first and Mario second, it's very possible the situations would have been reversed. Mario continues to do better than Sonic because nostalgia tints an adult's glasses as much as a kid's - you will raise your children on the same franchise you grew up with, just as you will raise them with the same politics and religion as you. Parents like to indoctrinate their kids, sad but true. Seniority is a crucial factor. Financial well-being is multigenerational as well; with that same home field advantage Nintendo can rake in higher profits and spend much more producing its games than SEGA can. It compounds and reinforces itself.

 

Were he introduced in this day and age, I see Sonic not as a platforming icon, but as a popular series of apps or something. And even then I doubt he'd beat Angry Birds.

Edited by Ogilvie Maurice
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If it was a Nintendo game, it would most likely succeed.

 

PS4, it might do well (LBP) or it might fail, that's a hard one to decide.

 

It would fail on the XBone, it wouldn't fit in with all the 'hardcore games'.

 

Multi-Platform: It would do a Ty The Tasmanian Tiger, get a million or so copies sold but not go any further after a couple of years.

 

Those are my thoughts, at least.

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Going back to the 90s, Sonic was not only highly successful, he made a freaking impact on the gaming industry. Not as much as Mario of course, but Sonic was a big player way back when. Would he make the impact if he was released in this day and age? Absolutely not. Sonic 1 might be some nice little indie game, but there's no way it would be as successful as it was back in the 90s.

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Yes, but that would've also meant no Rocket Knight Adventures, no Crash Bandicoot, no Klonoa, no Spyro, no Rayman (whatever he is), and (maybe, just maybe) no Starfox. tongue.png Not even mentioning some of the PS2-era characters.

 

Regardless of the "attitude" bit, Sonic brought in a lot of anthropomorphic heroes with unique abilities.

Edited by Azookara
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Multi-Platform: It would do a Ty The Tasmanian Tiger, get a million or so copies sold but not go any further after a couple of years.

 

Good to see I'm not the only one who thought of this as a comparison!

 

Yes, but that would've also meant no Rocket Knight Adventures, no Crash Bandicoot, no Klonoa, no Spyro, no Rayman (whatever he is), and (maybe, just maybe) no Starfox. tongue.png Not even mentioning some of the PS2-era characters.

 

Regardless of the "attitude" bit, Sonic brought in a lot of anthropomorphic heroes with unique abilities.

 

Technically Sonic only popularised the cartoon animal protagonist; they date back to Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse. Especially Mickey as he's got the same "barely wears any clothes besides shoes and gloves" thing going on. Hell if you want to go really crazy with it, the Ancient Egyptians were toying around with human-animal things.

 

These characters would not exist as we know them, certainly. But I predict we'd still have ended up with a cartoon animal protagonist inevitably... although many would likely be unrecognizable. That butterfly effect is some strong stuff. 

 

Let us also note the prevalence of cartoon animal protagonists in animation. The leap to gaming was just a matter of time... whoever replaces Sonic in this timeline would have done it. Heck, it's very possible Star Fox, rather than Sonic, would have been the franchise that popularised the theme.

 

Which is good, as otherwise I'd be fearful the furry fandom's growth would have been enormously hindered by this different setup.

Edited by Ogilvie Maurice
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