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Would Sonic have become as popular if not for the westernization.


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This was something that got brought up in the movie thread, and I thought, why not make a giant topic all about it. 

 

Would Sonic have become as popular if it wasn't for SoA's americanization of the franchise? We all know the huge steps they took in the past to market Sonic in the west, going so far as to have deep input in the design of Sonic to make him pretty much the face of the 90s as a more recognizable character than Mickey Mouse. 

 

Would he have been as popular if he wasn't advertised as he was in the west vs his Japanese counterpart?

 

 

 

(P.S I'm too cold to add my own two cents, but I leave the question open to deep discussion and will add something later.)

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Love this topic, the timing of making this around Sonic Boom's pre-release hype is perfect.

 

You have to give credit to SOJ for creating Sonic the Hedgehog, and in terms of personal preference, I prefer Sonic's original Japanese design and backstory to his ugly as hell American counterpart (seriously, the mohawk does not hold up and is dated by 90's standards), but Sonic is definitely more of a mascot in the West. Platformers aren't nearly as popular in Japan as they are here.

 

Sonic always sold much better in the West, and we tend to give him more attention.  I think I recall Sonic being designed to appeal specifically for Western audiences. He's got that hip and cool timeless factor look to him that still endures over the years, but the West just happens to appreciate it more.

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Love this topic, the timing of making this around Sonic Boom's pre-release hype is perfect.

 

You have to give credit to SOJ for creating Sonic the Hedgehog, and in terms of personal preference, I prefer Sonic's original Japanese design and backstory to his ugly as hell American counterpart (seriously, the mohawk does not hold up and is dated by 90's standards), but Sonic is definitely more of a mascot in the West. Platformers aren't nearly as popular in Japan as they are here.

 

Sonic always sold much better in the West, and we tend to give him more attention.  I think I recall Sonic being designed to appeal specifically for Western audiences. He's got that hip and cool timeless factor look to him that still endures over the years, but the West just happens to appreciate it more.

 

For all the terribad assface Sonic gets, even classic Sonic was influenced by Americans. I believe it was said that Japanese Sonic was supposed to look like this until SoA had something to say.

 

S1concept-HEDGEHOG.png

 

And then we got the design we all know and love.

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The funny thing is that Sonic from the get-go was designed by the Japanese to appeal to Western audiences from his very conception. Yet Sega West thought he wasn't "cool" enough for Western audiences and decided to modify his design to make him "edgier" and emphasize / give him his "attitude" personality trait, which the two animated Western series based off of this approach (AoSTH and SatAM) followed suit with this mentality.

 

Honestly I don't really know how it would had went down, but going by the sheer popularity of the Adventure games with Western audiences (which was essentially a re-tool of the series to grab attention from past fans/gamers again after a no-show of mainstream games on the Saturn and a bunch of forgettable spinoff games), I'd like to assume it would had done fine. Though I guess Sonic's attitude would had nevertheless played up a lot more in marketing than Sega Japan would had done it.

 

In a sense I'd like to assume Sega Japan's Sonic, had Sega West kept him intact, would had been played up in marketing as a Sega equivalent to American Kirby (IS HARDCORE), that nevertheless is supposed act as Mario's rival.

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For all the terribad assface Sonic gets, even classic Sonic was influenced by Americans. I believe it was said that Japanese Sonic was supposed to look like this until SoA had something to say.

 

 

And then we got the design we all know and love.

Indeed, there definitely was a giant American influence when designing Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic's shoes were influenced by American Pop legend Michael Jackson. If that's not a major Western influence, I don't know what is.

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As much as I dislike the manner in which SoA shook-up Sonic for Western audiences, I won't hesitate for a second to admit that it was pretty responsible for scoring Sonic a foothold here.

 

I guess that the empathized 'tude and the marketing the series got contributed to the character's and series' popularity apart from the sheer greatness of the games themselves. He was touted as the cooler, smoother alternative to Mario and the games showcased it as well. Sonic's qualities in multiple areas shifted Mega Drives especially when games were packaged-in with the consoles, a suggestion made by SoA which was incredibly successful.

 

I despise stuff like the "Sonic Bible", "Assface Sonic" and the particular brand of cheesy mascot with attitude SoA portrayed Sonic as, find it extremely unappealing. But did the latter two things contribute to Sonic's reception? Yes. Yes it did.

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Honestly I don't really know how it would had went down, but going by the sheer popularity of the Adventure games with Western audiences (which was essentially a re-tool of the series to grab attention again after a no-show of mainstream games on the Saturn and a bunch of forgettable spinoff games), I'd like to assume it would had done fine. Though I assume Sonic's attitude would had nevertheless played up a lot more in marketing than Sega Japan would had done it.

 

But the Adventure games still were riding on many of the memories of the old games, despite being a reboot in a stylistic sense, they were still part of the franchise and got attention for that in the first place.

 

Would they have gotten as popular with such a wide number of people if they weren't attached to this franchise, or would they have been just cult classics?

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But the Adventure games still were riding on many of the memories of the old games, despite being a reboot in a stylistic sense, they were still part of the franchise and got attention for that in the first place.

 

Would they have gotten as popular with such a wide number of people if they weren't attached to this franchise, or would they have been just cult classics?

 

That's precisely why I said retool. Still the same substance from the past games, despite a new coat of paint and (a) new goals/direction so they can still keep old fans interested while bringing in new ones. I'd consider the Adventure games (or at least Adventure 1 anyway...) to be that to the Genesis games.

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There's no doubt that the westernization worked to make Sonic more popular, but it definitely had the opposite effect on me personally. In the 90s, I could not stand how obnoxious Sonic was, which is why I steadfastly stood by Mario, who I always saw as a lot more likable and relatable.

 

I eventually gave the series a chance again with Adventure 2 on Gamecube (which was well past the point of the "extreeeeme" marketing), and discovered what a great franchise Sonic was. This is probably a big part of the reason creepy eyeless western Robotnik has just never gelled with me.

 

I'm definitely more of the exception than the rule though. When I was a kid, everyone was crazy about Sonic (and frequently reminded me of how lame they thought Mario was), and I have no doubt at all that the edgy 90s marketing played a huge role in how the kids perceived him. In short, absolutely, Sonic's westernization was a smart business decision, no matter how off-putting I found it personally.

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I have to agree that Platformers like Mario and Sonic aren't really so popular and well known in Japan but only in Western and European areas.

 

I really liked the classic Sonic games because they were fun and what's got me interested in this franchise is the fact that SEGA had made the character the fastest than any other character even Falcon. Players got interested in what it's like to play the fastest character in the world and so they got glued to it and they loved it (maybe for a different reason I don't know).

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If anything, Sonic was popular because of westernization.

 

When Sonic was first created Sega was trying to get a foothold into things with their product, and the Japanese division weren't even thinking of challenging Nintendo's Mario. Meanwhile, Americans were wanting the opposite. They wanted to challenge Nintendo, they wanted to be far more successful than what the Japanese had envisioned at the time. Of note, I'm primarily referring to this source right here, and it doesn't entirely deal with Sonic than it does Sega as a whole and how Sonic's success is partially because of the company as a whole. (and I probably botched up a lot of what the original interview was saying, so read if your interested and feel free to correct me)

 

Plus, the Japanese division has been a lot more controlling and jealous of the American division. Might explain a lot of things as they are now, but I'm not entirely sure...

 

It should also be noted that Japanese tastes are much different from that in the west. Have any of you noticed that many of their works tend to be human-centric while the west is more accepting of greater variety of either humans or non-human looking characters with human features? Hence why Sonic, an anthropomorphic hedgehog, is much more popular here than he is in his home country. Seriously, count how many mainstream Japanese works  have a main character that is anthropomorphic compared to the west, be it cartoons, video games, anything you can think of, and they need to be anthropomorphic (i.e. catgirls that are actually humanoid or talking cats, not humans with cat ears and tails). In Japan, there's things like:

  • Hamtaro
  • Hello Kitty,
  • not sure if I should add, but Kimba the White Lion
  • and if you want to stretch you can include Klonoa (My information on that franchise is severely lacking, those of you who want to pick this up)
  • StarFox EDIT: (apparently this franchise is more complicated than that)
  • Franchises like Pokemon and Digimon are debatable, as they're centered a lot on human's capturing, training, or controlling these creatures than they are these creatures on their own. (although Digimon has more room to wiggle out of this, if you ask me)

There might be more, but these are the ones just off the top of my head, so feel free to add to that list. Now in America or the West in general, that number is multiplied. We have:

  • Animaniacs,
  • Mickey Mouse and his cast,
  • Lion King,
  • Sly Cooper,
  • Ratchet and Clank,
  • Crash Bandicoot,
  • Spyro,
  • Bugs Bunny and the whole Looney Tunes cast,
  • Tom and Jerry,
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,
  • Yogi Bear,
  • SpongeBob SquarePants (forgot this one...yeah, I'm wondering how myself)
  • Regular Show
  • and even stretching for more you can find TONS of different works like:
    • Top Cat,
    • The Mighty Ducks cartoon,
    • The Rescuers,
    • Swat Cats,
    • Secret Squirrel,
    • All Dogs go to Heaven
    • Maurice Sendak's Little Bear
    • Rupert
    • Fox and the Hound,
    • 101 Dalmations,
    • Disney's Robin Hood (the version with nothing but anthropomorphic animals)
    • Rocko's Modern Life
    • Ren and Stimpy
    • and many more (I've been adding a few more to the list).

There's much more to this point I'm trying to make, but the summary is that, in my opinion, Sonic probably wouldn't be as popular if not for westernization. A lot of stuff about Sonic is primarily why he appeals to the west in the first place, and if he weren't westernized, then he might have risked falling off the radar instead of becoming the powerhouse of an icon that allowed him to stay afloat and be strongly remembered even to this day.

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ChaosSupremeSonic raises an excellent point I never thought about - that cartoon animals are ultimately more popular in the West than in Japan. This is important to consider when we look at the waves Sonic made - Sonic looks fairly similar to Mickey Mouse in some aspects, but Mickey didn't really cause a lot of inspired works despite his popularity. Sonic on the other hand, soon had tons of other games trying to emulate him with varied success. Mickey Mouse might be the first really big cartoon animal, but it looks like Sonic was the one who REALLY made it a widespread phenomenon in games and to a lesser extent cartoons.

 

Overall I don't think Sonic would have been as popular without SEGA America's design choices, though. While SEGA Japan kept the West in mind while making Sonic, the fact SEGA America felt the need to change it even more implies it still wasn't that Western. This is understandable - I have a basic grasp of a lot of other cultures and could design characters with them in mind, but someone native to the culture will likely create a character that's far superior in appealing to them.

 

Beyond designs, you have SEGA America's idea of packaged games and a war with Nintendo that really made Sonic a force - if not for the packaged game, I doubt Sonic 2 would be the best-selling game (given that it cashed in on the hype Sonic generated when he was new, which is primarily because everyone with a Genesis also had Sonic). The war with Nintendo can be seen as a positive on their part since it also inspired them to perform, they had someone they NEEDED to try and beat. Competition is good for that reason. SEGA was already being sloppy after the classic trilogy to begin with, but I think their calling off the war with the end of the Dreamcast could have been part of their decline as well; they no longer felt that pressure to perform since they were third party.

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ChaosSupremeSonic raises an excellent point I never thought about - that cartoon animals are ultimately more popular in the West than in Japan. This is important to consider when we look at the waves Sonic made - Sonic looks fairly similar to Mickey Mouse in some aspects, but Mickey didn't really cause a lot of inspired works despite his popularity. Sonic on the other hand, soon had tons of other games trying to emulate him with varied success. Mickey Mouse might be the first really big cartoon animal, but it looks like Sonic was the one who REALLY made it a widespread phenomenon in games and to a lesser extent cartoons.

 

Overall I don't think Sonic would have been as popular without SEGA America's design choices, though. While SEGA Japan kept the West in mind while making Sonic, the fact SEGA America felt the need to change it even more implies it still wasn't that Western. This is understandable - I have a basic grasp of a lot of other cultures and could design characters with them in mind, but someone native to the culture will likely create a character that's far superior in appealing to them.

 

Beyond designs, you have SEGA America's idea of packaged games and a war with Nintendo that really made Sonic a force - if not for the packaged game, I doubt Sonic 2 would be the best-selling game (given that it cashed in on the hype Sonic generated when he was new, which is primarily because everyone with a Genesis also had Sonic). The war with Nintendo can be seen as a positive on their part since it also inspired them to perform, they had someone they NEEDED to try and beat. Competition is good for that reason. SEGA was already being sloppy after the classic trilogy to begin with, but I think their calling off the war with the end of the Dreamcast could have been part of their decline as well; they no longer felt that pressure to perform since they were third party.

But they have more pressure now because being third party you need good products to survive

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In theory, but even in a competitive system companies can make poor decisions.

 

I think SEGA became complacent with its stature once it went third party. It figured they more or less had a persistent customer base that they could tap into and so there was no real need to really make quality products. No longer having to make consoles was a huge boon as well to profits.

 

Brand loyalty is easily a huge poison in any market. Many people will buy Sonic because it's Sonic rather than because it's good. There's no real competitive drive if you have a ton of guaranteed customers already; why bother making a product that's the cheapest or highest quality if there's no risk of the rug being pulled out from underneath you?

 

Having an archnemesis in business is thus a really sound idea for that reason alone; even with brand loyalty you still (probably) feel the need to one-up them at every turn and corner.

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Nope, but I certainly think it could have done without official websites and the occasional manual deliberately tying in with the cartoons and comics, how they expected that to work I'll never know. The western advertising and the presence of the cartoons and comics themselves I think were important

 

As for the series conception, the original 'premise' of Sonic's character in the Japanese side doesn't actually seem much better when it comes to being faux-edgy; a rockstar with messy quills that flirts with groupies and has a busty human girlfriend that is intended to be a 'male fantasy'? Uuuh...no.

 

The 'assface Sonic' phenomenon seems to stem largely from illustrator Greg Martin, who had a knack for making poor Sonic and co look rather ugly. Illustrations that didn't use him as heavy reference, like those drawn by Spaziante in the classic era, didn't suffer the same fate.

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I have to agree that Platformers like Mario and Sonic aren't really so popular and well known in Japan but only in Western and European areas.

Why would you include Mario in there...? Mario is a more Japanese based series and Sonic is more Western one, saying Mario isn't so popular in Japan is just wrong.

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Why would you include Mario in there...? Mario is a more Japanese based series and Sonic is more Western one, saying Mario isn't so popular in Japan is just wrong.

 

Ah. I think I have just phrased it wrong. What I mean to say is that Mario and Sonic aren't more popular in Japan than they were in Western countries. I did not say anything about Mario not being popular in Japan because the fact that Mario was still well known in Japan now.

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Indeed, there definitely was a giant American influence when designing Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic's shoes were influenced by American Pop legend Michael Jackson. If that's not a major Western influence, I don't know what is.

^This. 

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In theory, but even in a competitive system companies can make poor decisions.

 

I think SEGA became complacent with its stature once it went third party. It figured they more or less had a persistent customer base that they could tap into and so there was no real need to really make quality products. No longer having to make consoles was a huge boon as well to profits.

 

Brand loyalty is easily a huge poison in any market. Many people will buy Sonic because it's Sonic rather than because it's good. There's no real competitive drive if you have a ton of guaranteed customers already; why bother making a product that's the cheapest or highest quality if there's no risk of the rug being pulled out from underneath you?

 

Having an archnemesis in business is thus a really sound idea for that reason alone; even with brand loyalty you still (probably) feel the need to one-up them at every turn and corner.

 

Yeah, Brand Loyalty can both be good and bad at the same time. It is good in that you get people that will buy you no matter what as long as you maintain at least some form of quality, but bad in that this can both turn off others that think these people are only buying it just for name alone and have no taste, but it also gives that effect yes of, if people will buy it no matter what, we dont have to put as much into it to make the sale. I think Sega has learned about this more over time though and know that it can't do this and still survive. This is why the quality, at least in my opinion has improved over the last half a dozen years from where it was mid naughties.

 

But yeah, as other have mentioned, if Sonic wasn't made to appeal more to the western audience by making him into that 90's cool stereotype with an attitude the way he was, I doubt he would still be around or as popular as he is now still after so many years. It definitely had an effect. Also, yes, having a rival and someone to compete with and compare yourself to is always good in business. As much as some companies don't like competition, without it, there is no incentive to improve and do good things for the customer because you have no one to compete against and try to be better than. Having Sonic be the competitive rival to Mario back then was definitely a good call. That's why it is so ironic and odd to some people to see them sharing games now with how big that rivalry was back then.

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StarFox

Starfox was actually created by Americans who moved to Japan to work for Nintendo. It's a weird story involving polygons running on the NES and the Super FX chip (which they also developed). I recall the creators of Star Fox had a falling out with Miyamoto over his reluctance to just make a Star Fox game instead of saddling it with some stupid gimmick. That's more or less why we got the rather strange "command" and the lamentably bad on foot portions of Assault.

But I'm going to say that no Americanization took place. Sonic was predominantly western inspired.

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Starfox was actually created by Americans who moved to Japan to work for Nintendo. It's a weird story involving polygons running on the NES and the Super FX chip (which they also developed). I recall the creators of Star Fox had a falling out with Miyamoto over his reluctance to just make a Star Fox game instead of saddling it with some stupid gimmick. That's more or less why we got the rather strange "command" and the lamentably bad on foot portions of Assault.

Actualy, they were british, but yes they were from the west, Argonaut software if I remember correctly

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I am not shore where this came from , but back in the 90s
As a kid there was always this thing about it being cool to be mean to other people. If you were the older cool kid you had to be mean to the younger uncool kids. If you were the younger uncool kid and wanted to hangout with the cool kids they would be jerks to you.
And I was always the younger uncool kid
OK that is probably still happening now.
Any way in AOSTH. Sonic is the older cool kid.
and Tails is the younger uncool kid. But Sonic is nice to Tails.
You would think Sonic would not want Tails around, but Sonic actually thinks Tails is Cool. And this is one of the things I like about Sonic and Tails.

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Starfox was actually created by Americans who moved to Japan to work for Nintendo. It's a weird story involving polygons running on the NES and the Super FX chip (which they also developed). I recall the creators of Star Fox had a falling out with Miyamoto over his reluctance to just make a Star Fox game instead of saddling it with some stupid gimmick. That's more or less why we got the rather strange "command" and the lamentably bad on foot portions of Assault.

Really?

 

Well, that's some interesting news to know. Hell, explains a lot of things about the franchise, but that's for another topic.

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