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Sega on Target Audience


Badnik Zero
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Sega's spoken out about Sonic again, and I really can't find anything I like about what they're saying.

"Impossible to please all fans with one Sonic game" - from Kotaku

Hayes is less satisfied with Sega's execution of those Sonic games that have been on the more powerful Xbox 360 and PS3 platforms. "I think we've had challenges with [the 2006] Sonic the Hedgehog and Unleashed," he said. "[The 2006 game] Sonic the Hedgehog sells extremely well at a budget price. So clearly it's very popular with a young audience. But first and foremost is: We've got to make a quality game for that audience. Does quality mean it's got to be a Metacritic 90 percent? Well not necessarily. It's just got to be quality that's appropriate for them. Then we've got our core fans, and what we need to do is now and then produce a Sonic that will appeal to those fans specifically."

The way I read this was that since you're trying to sell to kids, quality is less important. With fan service now and then.

"But in its day, Sonic was the Modern Warfare," Hayes said. It was, in other words, the edgier thing, the game series that was cooler, more grown up, than Mario." Hayes admired that, even when he worked for five years at Nintendo. "Mario was very much the toy brand," he recalled. "Although it was hugely successful, sometimes we looked enviously at Sega with this cutting edge. Now the world has moved on since Sonic achieved that. Sonic can't compete with Modern Warfare 2. It can't. Whereas, Mario I don't think has ever been anything other than appealing to that demographic."

The difference, Hayes, explained, is that even as Sonic could no longer be the edgiest thing in console video games, Mario could always target his same cheerful crowd. A New Super Mario Bros. wasn't, in Hayes' mind, as much a return to the series' roots as a continuation of a franchise style that was always relevant to Mario's original kind of audience. "They've had a consistent strategy," he said. "Whereas, with Sonic, I think you have to take it … to a different target audience. Sonic has to go through a metamorphosis as to the type of game you would design."

Comparing Sonic to Modern Warfare because it's edgy? I don't think there's a comparison, and can't see why Sonic isn't more comparable to Mario, who he admits has always been consistently popular with a wide audience. Because Sonic can't be Modern Warfare, he can't appeal to adults as well as children? Maybe it was a poor choice of words, but this is a plain stupid statement.

I think this is what happens when business people start talking about games, but these people are in charge of the franchise. I liked some parts of Unleashed and I'm really hopeful about All Stars Racing, so I won't freak. But the quality comment seriously bugs me.

Edited by Badnikz
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I never saw the earlier Sonic games as "edgy" in the least. They were bright, happy, and very comparable to the Mario series that these quotes claim were incredibly different.

Sure, American marketting- along with the cartoons and comics- presented a darker image, but the games themselves were a happy colorful fun land not unlike Mario's own!

I mean, the Super Mario Bros. movie can be considered Mario's "SatAM" in a sense, but no one associates that with Mario's mainstream image.

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The way I read this was that since you're trying to sell to kids, quality is less important.
They're saying what a kid likes and what a reviewer likes aren't necessarily the same thing. If they make a game for younger kids, and the kids love it, but the reviewers (who are looking at it more from the older fan point of view) don't, then it's still a good game, as it's entertaining the people who it was designed for.

Comparing Sonic to Modern Warfare because it's edgy? I don't think there's a comparison, and can't see why Sonic isn't more comparable to Mario, who he admits has always been consistently popular with a wide audience. Because Sonic can't be Modern Warfare, he can't appeal to adults as well as children? Maybe it was a poor choice of words, but this is a plain stupid statement.
Sonic was designed to be "cool" but now "cool" has moved beyond what Sonic can get away with (it's now occupied by games like Modern Warfare). Mario, on the other hand, started out as a family friendly all ages series, and it's remained that way throughout its existence; it's never needed to find a new niche.

In other words, the environment that birthed Sonic is now dead (and quite likely has been for a while now). The longtime fans are really all that's left of it, and that isn't enough to support him. If he's going to survive, he's got to evolve and find somewhere new to live, and no matter what direction he goes, he won't be the same as he started.

The good* news is that, if this is to be believed, they don't want to just leave us behind. We'll never get our Glorious Oldschool Revival, but they will still make some games for us. And that's a compromise I'd be willing to accept.

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I never saw the earlier Sonic games as "edgy" in the least. They were bright, happy, and very comparable to the Mario series that these quotes claim were incredibly different.

Sure, American marketting- along with the cartoons and comics- presented a darker image, but the games themselves were a happy colorful fun land not unlike Mario's own!

I mean, the Super Mario Bros. movie can be considered Mario's "SatAM" in a sense, but no one associates that with Mario's mainstream image.

Mario was happy-go-lucky, Sonic was different. He had an attitude. Everyone loved him because he was so freakin' cool. However, the the criteria of cool changes as time goes by, meaning that Sonic must adapt to retain his cool image to newer audiences. What was cool in our day won't very often be perceived as such now, and will be so even less in the future.

EDIT: Diogenes always beats me to everything, and words it so much better without sounding all stuck-up and patronising. +10 points for that guy.

Edited by Blue Blood
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Aside from what American marketing tried to push upon us, I never noticed any sort of "attitude" in the games proper. Sonic tapping his foot? Rebellious, indeed! If the marketing hadn't pushed Sonic upon having to maintain his perceived coolness, he would be considered as timeless of a character as Mario and Mega Man still do to this day. Sonic didn't need to be cool to be cool - his appeal was universal in the truest sense, marketing and "coolness" be damned.

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Mario was happy-go-lucky, Sonic was different. He had an attitude. Everyone loved him because he was so freakin' cool. However, the the criteria of cool changes as time goes by, meaning that Sonic must adapt to retain his cool image to newer audiences. What was cool in our day won't very often be perceived as such now, and will be so even less in the future.

The extent of Sonic's "attitude" was tapping his foot impatiently at you. Well, that and jumping off the stage in Sonic CD with a mangled "I'm outta here!" as a variant of this, if you really took too long to move.

I dunno. I just feel like most of the things fans perceived about Sonic's personality were adopted from the cartoons and comics- Game Sonic, the silent protagonist that he was, only displayed the faintest signs of personality. And simply displaying impatience at the gamer for not moving doesn't really indicate the "attitude" he was so hyped up to have in the 90s, at least to me it doesn't.

This isn't a slam against the cartoons- I personally greatly enjoyed AoStH in fact. But I'm just saying that the Sonic of the games is a very different character than the Sonics of the cartoons/comics/other things, but for most kids in the 90s, it all sorta bled together, creating one uniform image of Sonic. Things like separate canons and continuities didn't mean anything to most children, so what Sonic did in the cartoons was assumed to be true of the Sonic in the games. This is where I believe most of Sonic's alleged "attitude" is cited from.

EDIT: Jake beat me to it!

Edited by El Gran Gordo
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The naive and hopeful part of me wants to believe that his statements should not be taken to mean that they need to sacrifice technical quality for the sake of their audience, but that what they're planning on doing is naturally going to come under scrutiny anyways because indeed, it is impossible to fully please every fan at the same time nowadays. I find this exemplified with his assessment of the Werehog. All things considered, it was one of the more polished gimmicks we had to date as was Unleashed as a whole, and yet despite the crucifixion the game received, it was still popular with the kids.

And despite how odd the CoD4 comparison was (I mean, is it really considered an 'edgy' FPS?), I think the point still stands: Trends have changed, and the likelihood of Sonic competing successfully against the new cool kid on the block is probably a lot more minimal than we'd like to imagine, especially given that the better platformers on the PS3 and 360 have done squat to really revive interest in the genre or solidify themselves in these consoles' library like Gears or Resistance have. As for Mario, he's never wanted or even needed to seek such competition because, well, he's Mario, always has been and always will be. Sonic is different and rightfully should be, especially considering he is definitely a product of the 90s.

EDIT: Dio summed up my thoughts perfectly. You guys reply fast. ='(

Edited by Nepenthe
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I dunno, Sonic seemed 'cooler' than Mario even back in the day, on character and level design alone (as well as visual and musical style).

The only problem with playing the 'cool' card in a franchise aimed (at least primarily) at children in the long run is that children's' concept of 'cool' is constantly changing and evolving. By almost stubbornly sticking to his guns and refusing to change, Mario has sort of built himself into a nice little box of immunity in that he doesn't have to concern himself with what's 'cool' or 'trendy'.

Admittedly, the classic games never exactly went out of their way to be cool, although I suppose even from the brief instruction manual character introductions you could tell that Sonic was aiming for a slightly 'cooler' demographic than Mario.

Edited by Mahzes
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Stuff

As Mahzes said, Sonic was cool in in ways other than just his foot tapping. He was this fast moving bi-pedal animal with spiky 'hair' who could run upside-down and was essentially a living buzz-saw. Not every kid watched the cartoons (like me, cause I had my first experience with SU at the age of 8) so the cool had to come from somewhere.

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What confuses me is that, as a business, they must be making money. They'd try harder if they weren't making sufficient money. But WHO is providing that money? Why aren't they loosing money? Or is it just that they spend so little on making Sonic games now that there is nothing to loose?

It does all seem retarded, but they must know what they are doing, surely?

I always thought kids were the toughest critics?

I think what they are still managing to survive on is the benefit of previous success. I think there are people who haven't bought Sonic games for years who pick up a new one in a game shop every now and again, and go "OH remember Sonic? I used to love Sonic the Hedgehog on the Mega Drive!" And people who played it when they were younger are now beginning to buy it for their own kids after having forgotten Sonic for over a decade. I don't think the same people are buying the same failing games over and over. For the time being, there are just enough people in the world.

Edited by Arrow
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What that man said is no excuse for not having sonic and friends running through a world from start to finish and polishing that simple idea to perfection so ALL AUDIENCES WILL LIKE IT.

Is "because kids like it" really the best reason to throw in some stupid mechanic putting off half the potential audience?

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Sonic was cool to me, but not in the way that most people would think. He was cool in the same way Mega Man was (is) cool. Mega Man was never advertised as a hip funky robot who was "in" on the times - he was, is, and always will be a boy (unless you want to count shitty localized box art and that one cartoon nobody likes) robot who busts other robots' butts.

Sonic was cool to me not just because of the way he busts robots, but also the style it was presented. American media aside, the games themselves felt reserved in nature - Sonic never broke out in dance, spouted cool phrases, or tried hard to be one particular thing. Take a look at Sonic CD's animation sequences - Sonic does all sorts of awesome stuff, but he probably isn't even aware of just how awesome he is.

Sonic had all the makings of a timeless character - Sega let those makings go to waste from the very beginning. It's not to say that Sonic can't be likable to this day, but in order to appeal, he will forever have to maintain that "cool" image, a curse that was put on him ever since his original release. Mega Man and Mario don't need to try to be likable by the audience - Sonic does.

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What confuses me is that, as a business, they must be making money. They'd try harder if they weren't making sufficient money. But WHO is providing that money? Why aren't they loosing money? Or is it just that they spend so little on making Sonic games now that there is nothing to loose?

Sega do do other things besides making Sonic games ya know. And not all of those things have lead to ''making money''. So while Sonic games on the whole stil sell well, it doesn't neseraily mean that the company is swimming in riches.

............

I actually don't see much wrong with what Mike has said and I'm actually very impressed with the way he comes across in recent interviews that he has undergone (the other one being more hardcore games for the wii etc). The COD analogy makes sense, when you realsie how much the likes of COD and Halo 3 sell. The kiddy platformer that is for ''everyone'' market is not as appealing or big as it once was back in the day (and I still stand by this). I guess it does depend on were you are and who you associate with. I personally do not hear much interest in any of the recent platformers from the people I assocaite with. Wheras something like COD, Halo 3, Mario kKart Wii, Sports and M@S all ring bells. Super Mario Galaxy? Sonic Unleashed? What is that? The attitude and nature of the market certainly has changed and Mike knows this.

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On the subject of Sonic not really having an attitude:

tude.png

Most characters barely even had personality, much less attitude, back in those days. Sonic may not have been exuding Duke Nukem-esque attitude every second of gameplay, but it definitely exists, and it's definitely intentional.

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I think perhaps the difference was in the way Sonic was marketed in the East and in the West.

The general impression I get is that Sonic was "cool" in Japan because he was a pure-hearted boy who won his battles through sheer faith and determination, while in the West, Sonic was "cool" because he made lots of wisecracks and was a daredevil who was constantly looking for danger.

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I would honestly hardly call those sprites an example of "attitude," myself.

Style, definitely (see yet again: Sonic CD animation sequences), but not attitude. Would you say that Spike Spiegel has an attitude because of the way he moves and fights? What about

Goto

from Oldboy?

Yes, Sonic had style, and plenty of it. But I differentiate between this and the American imagery that was so prominent at the time, and it certainly did not give me any vibes of Sonic's persona in the American cartoons.

And I wouldn't even put Sonic's foot-tapping in either attitude or style, foot-tapping sounds as mundane as one can get. Oh yeah, and for that second sprite from the left... that just looks awkward, haha.

As for Sonic's finger-waving, that just seems to me to be a general mannerism that cartoon characters tend to have.

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Very interesting...

I think a major problem with Sonic is that 'cool' changes all the time. What was cool say... in about 2005 (Naruto was the thing then), now people wouldn't like to be seen touching it!

I think that SEGA might be slightly more successful with their brand if they went back to Gorilla marketing. Picture this:

*Big gun video game war, complete with explosions, Sonic runs in takes out every one of the people with a stylish spin attack (similar to the 06 opening). Sonic looks at the camera with his trademark smile and finger wave saying "Heh, wimps! You're lousy guns are WAY to slow to beat me on these fast feet!" and then runs off. Ad for whatever Sonic game starts*

(...of course far less cheesey)

That would show Sonic as 'too cool' for guns (just like the 90s commercials showed Sonic cooler than Mario).

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It just determines about a person's taste whether or not Sonic is 'cool' yet the word is ever so changing every time. IMO, the reason why Sonic was cool back in those days b/c of his design, fast paced platforming, and that he doesn't need any complicated story, just jump right into the action and go along with the ride. Point is that he was enjoyable for everyone to play as for great gameplay and concept, and Sonic was just cool being his muted self that speaks with actions and not words.

Sonic doesn't really need gimmicks to be cool, just let him be himself with hopefully great gameplay and a simple to follow story, so most gamers or anyone could have fun with it. A game that can be enjoyed by and for everyone can be a cool concept itself.

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Sonic doesn't really need gimmicks to be cool, just let him be himself with hopefully great gameplay and a simple to follow story, so most gamers or anyone could have fun with it. A game that can be enjoyed by and for everyone can be a cool concept itself.

^ This.

Couldn't find the words for it myself, but this.

Edited by VirgoTheCougar
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I like how everyone and their mother on NeoGAF are ripping on what Sega said right there, most notabely using excuses such as Mario pleases everyone

(which is a load of balls since Mario Galaxy was overly hyped tripe)

and trying to deny that what the rep said up there is actually true because everyone's here already gone across this. No one knows what makes Sonic good. In his first 3D days it was being too slow. Halfway through it was sidekicks. After that it was slow and sidekicks and now its too fast and sidekicks. Everyone has their own ideas to fix Sonic.

Just cause lesser than half of Sonic's fanbase on the internet can rant on about how Sonic goes through a downfall right now and that he's shit, Sonic isnt dead. Surely he died in 2006 but only got resurrected again. But these rant people need to realize that they hardly pick up half of Sonic's current fanbase.

Again its been said, what Sonic was cool for back then isnt cool at all right now. He's had to adapt to appeal to the youth masses, which was mostly what he did back in the day. Now its monster of the week shit and such that matters between the kids, and if its mostly kids that Sonic tries to appeal and since they're the majority who'll end up getting and enjoying the game, I dont see the point to why Sega should quit. Sonic's been Sega's endless cashcow since Sonic Heroes, and that's what every developer strives for, to make money. Even Nintendo. If we'd get a 2D Sonic game as the "hardcore fans" want, that'd just be a fancy bonus for us.

Ofcourse a large quantity of that could be summed up as Sonic just doesnt work in 3D and Mario does because Mario works on a more simple formula where as Sonic needs to use Homing Attacks to hit his enemies and dash through the stages as fast as possible. Stopping to aim at the enemy with a bounce attack or normal jump attack breaks the flow of Sonic and he's not Mario to begin with.

Edited by Ego
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I think a major problem with Sonic is that 'cool' changes all the time. What was cool say... in about 2005 (Naruto was the thing then), now people wouldn't like to be seen touching it!

That's hardly the case, especially in terms of American kids. Naruto is still selling by the shedload over there.

I do see your point (hell, I mentioned it earlier on as well), but there's difference, really. Things like Naruto aren't especially trying to be hip or trendy, whereas Sonic seems to 'try' to be cool these days, is what I think people are getting at. Naruto's hardly stylish, is it? Even for those who did lose interest, there's a difference between something passing and going as a fad for what it is, or something trying and constantly evolve and change to keep in line with today's definition of 'cool' sort of thing.

Edit: And personally, I think the only reason Mario arguably 'works' more in 3D than Sonic does is because, aside from Galaxy, the 3D Marios bear little resemblance in gameplay to the 2D Mario games, or even, dare I say, platformers at all. The old NES and SNES Mario games are absolutely littered with bottomless pits due to lots of actual platforming, but 64 and Sunshine chose a more boxed-in, mission-based approach. Galaxy has a lot more bottomless-pit deaths due to actually playing more like a platformer for once. Mario worked better in 3D because it strayed from being an actual 'platformer', so to speak, and then perhaps due to the slower-paced nature of the game.

Edited by Mahzes
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That's hardly the case, especially in terms of American kids. Naruto is still selling by the shedload over there.

A better example would be say: Bart Simpson. Sonic and Bart were both made around the sametime and had attributes of ''cool'' that were depicted to the american audience. Now like Sonic, Bart ''coolness'' in recent times has pretty much faded away and whats left is either a really stupid dick or and annoying not funny individual.

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Galaxy was the first 3D Mario game I liked.

Ofcourse a large quantity of that could be summed up as Sonic just doesnt work in 3D and Mario does because Mario works on a more simple formula where as Sonic needs to use Homing Attacks to hit his enemies and dash through the stages as fast as possible. Stopping to aim at the enemy with a bounce attack or normal jump attack breaks the flow of Sonic and he's not Mario to begin with.

It can work just fine. It was almost working in Sonic Adventure. Elaborating on this is beyond what I feel like going into right now.

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Galaxy was the first 3D Mario game I liked.

It can work just fine. It was almost working in Sonic Adventure. Elaborating on this is beyond what I feel like going into right now.

It was never that in my opinion that Sonic can't work in 3D because imo the Sonic levels in 360 Unleashed had almost nailed it completely for me and was the only 3D Sonic game that I loved, only brought down by a Werehog which had adequate mechanics but horrible structure and execution. It's just what seems as a general conscience by people, and who can argue? Sonic's flawless 2D mechanics are really hard to adapt to a 3D environment, especially since youre working with the fastest thing alive here. In fact if it weren't for the homing attack, I doubt that half of the 3D games qualities would be anywhere near as good as they are now, close anywhere to actually be fully playable and with flow.

Sonic Adventure was also a pretty good Sonic game, although looking back at it, it's a bit dated, and imo better back then. For me only half of the game made everything justice, and by that I mean Sonic, Tails and Knuckles levels. Amy and Big were just... dull. Gamma is hard to grade since it falls inbetween the stuff.

Edited by Ego
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