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TheOcelot

Interview with Haruki Satomi (President & COO of SEGA Sammy Holdings)

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CNBC interview with Haruki Satomi, President of Sega Sammy Holdings

I think this is worth making a topic for because it provides the following insight:

Part 1; How he became president and COO of Sega Sammy. Talks briefly about Sonic; mentions the upcoming movie and Mania having sold well and received a good metacritic score. Also mentions a Sonic game (he's referring to Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric despite not mentioning by name) having received a poor score.

Part 2; Talks about the pachinko and integrated resorts business. 

Part 3; Talks a bit about his father, Hajime Satomi who is the Chairman and CEO of Sega Sammy.

 

This is the section where he talks about Sonic and also about smart phones:

Quote

CT: You joined Sega immediately after the merger. The company had a huge fan base, but it was bleeding. Turning the company around was difficult and you had issued a statement to say you betrayed the trust of fans and you were working very hard to improve the quality of games. What actually happened?

Haruki Satomi: Simply that several years ago when we launched a Sonic game, the reception was very bad, there was a site called Meta-critic that aggregates the critics and scores games from 1-100, and at that time the Sonic game got 30 out of 100 so I felt like we…

CT: Disappointed fans?

Haruki Satomi: Yeah disappointed, did not meet those expectations for the big fan base we have. So after I took the lead it will never happen again and I told our development team or even sales team that we should not release a game unless we 100 percent agree with and are confident of the quality.

CT: So what are some of the lessons learnt during that time, those difficult times that you take with you today to make Sega successful, to turn Sega around?

Haruki Satomi: Sega is very known company, many people on the website emails or Facebook messages asking me to make this kind of game, or please bring back this title again, or please improve the quality of this title again, so I try to answer those questions and requests.

CT: So back in the 90s Sonic the Hedgehog was one of the most successful and well-known franchises of Sega. Now fans of Sega are wondering when Sonic is going to make a successful comeback. What are you telling them?

Haruki Satomi: One of the answers I gave was the latest two titles which we launched last year, Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces, especially Sonic Mania which got a 80s, 85ish Meta-critic score and fans are excited about this game and people really love it, actual sales was very strong, and we introduced a Sonic animation series over the last two years. We recently announced the new partnership with Paramount for a Sonic movie project that's going to be available November 15th to December 19th so it's a little more than one year but it's coming soon and we're really excited about it. We can bring Sonic to the next level and not only bring the Sonic game to existing fans but we try to grow our fan base worldwide.

CT: So you think this movie is going to be a big thing when it comes to reviving Sonic the Hedgehog, making a successful comeback?

Haruki Satomi: Yes, one of it, one of our efforts to do so.

CT: Well these days Sega which is now under your entertainment contents business, pulls in something like more than half of overall sales. Sales of packaged games have been going up, but digital sales have been going down because of a slowdown in the Japanese smartphone market. You see a pickup in digital sales soon? What are you doing to beef up your digital titles?

Haruki Satomi: Simply the competition in the smartphone game has been very high and higher and higher so we decided not to release too many titles over the last two years; instead we developed more quality games to be more competitive in the market, then since this year we will keep these new titles so our digital sales will grow again.

CT: How many titles are you hoping to release this year?

Haruki Satomi: More than 10. When we try to launch our game, typically Japanese developers focus only on the Japanese market but we keep asking them to see the global market and we agreed with them to at least launch the game simultaneously in Asia and Japan, and then we'll bring it to the West as soon as we can.

 

 

 

Full interview:

Quote

Part 1

Christine Tan (CT): Where do you see Sega Sammy in the next five years? What will the company look like?

Haruki Satomi: At least we'd like to be the number one entertainment company in Japan, and we try to be a game changer. Our 2020 March target is available and that is about 500 billion yen, 75 billion operating profit yen but at least this number we would like to achieve in five years as well.

CT: Can it happen sooner?

Haruki Satomi: We hope so, yes, depending on the hit title, we can easily achieve those numbers.

CT: Haruki, your father founded Pachinko machine maker Sammy in 1975. What was it like as a young boy watching him as you grew up, building up his Pachinko Business?

Haruki Satomi: When I was young actually the company was next door, it's a one minute walk from my house to the office so I actually grew up with my father's employees. It feels like a part of the family.

CT: So you spent a lot of time in the arcades playing games?

Haruki Satomi: Yes.

CT: What did you play? Do you remember?

Haruki Satomi: Yeah, I remember, some mahjong game that was available in the office, Nintendo games or the pachinko and slot machines available and I was playing for test.

CT: You were testing the games for him?

Haruki Satomi: When I was young, yeah.

CT: You initially worked for a securities firm in Japan then you joined Sammy in 2004. As his son were you always expected to join the family business?

Haruki Satomi: Actually I was not. That's one of the reasons why I started my business from the investment bank first. I did not want to join my father's company at that time.

CT: Why?

Haruki Satomi: Because I felt the big pressure. And since he is an entrepreneur I wanted to be an entrepreneur at the time and to do that you have to see a lot of business models, so I decided to join an investment bank at the time.

CT: What made you change your mind to join the family business in the end?

Haruki Satomi: Actually one of the senior managers from my father's company asked me to join. My father never actually asked me to join his company, or take over or carry on. Simply at the time one of the senior managers who were the youngest one at that time asked me to join his team and I agreed to it.

CT: You joined the family business around the time when your father acquired Sega in 2004 and merged both companies together. At that time Sega had already abandoned its console business and was focusing very much on software development. What was the vision back then of your father to bring these 2 companies, Sega and Sammy together?

Haruki Satomi: He definitely wanted to be a global entertainment company at the time and by adding the Sega part into the business and moving in a different direction, it was easier to achieve. But when he made the decision at that time it was not only a business decision because the former owner of Sega was my father's mentor and had even asked him to be the CEO of Sega prior to acquisition. But at the time he had to focus on the Sammy business so he denied being the CEO of Sega. But after he passed away, Sega's senior management got in trouble as you know. Their performance was not great, so he decided to come to the rescue, and it was him giving back to his mentor.

CT: Mm, so he felt obligated to save Sega because it belonged to his friend?

Haruki Satomi: Yes.

CT: You joined Sega immediately after the merger. The company had a huge fan base, but it was bleeding. Turning the company around was difficult and you had issued a statement to say you betrayed the trust of fans and you were working very hard to improve the quality of games. What actually happened?

Haruki Satomi: Simply that several years ago when we launched a Sonic game, the reception was very bad, there was a site called Meta-critic that aggregates the critics and scores games from 1-100, and at that time the Sonic game got 30 out of 100 so I felt like we…

CT: Disappointed fans?

Haruki Satomi: Yeah disappointed, did not meet those expectations for the big fan base we have. So after I took the lead it will never happen again and I told our development team or even sales team that we should not release a game unless we 100 percent agree with and are confident of the quality.

CT: So what are some of the lessons learnt during that time, those difficult times that you take with you today to make Sega successful, to turn Sega around?

Haruki Satomi: Sega is very known company, many people on the website emails or Facebook messages asking me to make this kind of game, or please bring back this title again, or please improve the quality of this title again, so I try to answer those questions and requests.

CT: So back in the 90s Sonic the Hedgehog was one of the most successful and well-known franchises of Sega. Now fans of Sega are wondering when Sonic is going to make a successful comeback. What are you telling them?

Haruki Satomi: One of the answers I gave was the latest two titles which we launched last year, Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces, especially Sonic Mania which got a 80s, 85ish Meta-critic score and fans are excited about this game and people really love it, actual sales was very strong, and we introduced a Sonic animation series over the last two years. We recently announced the new partnership with Paramount for a Sonic movie project that's going to be available November 15th to December 19th so it's a little more than one year but it's coming soon and we're really excited about it. We can bring Sonic to the next level and not only bring the Sonic game to existing fans but we try to grow our fan base worldwide.

CT: So you think this movie is going to be a big thing when it comes to reviving Sonic the Hedgehog, making a successful comeback?

Haruki Satomi: Yes, one of it, one of our efforts to do so.

CT: So do you think Sonic can beat Super Mario?

Haruki Satomi: I think there is a possibility of beating Mario, but you know, Mario and Sonic used to be big rivals who competed against each other but now we have become friends. As you may know we have this Mario and Sonic Olympic Games since Beijing Olympics 2008 and 2012 we did the other game and recently 2016 we launched the Mario & Sonic Rio Olympics games so now we are friends.

CT: So you're teaming up to fight the enemy?

Haruki Satomi: Yeah. Not the enemy but we're teaming up to entertain our fans.

CT: Well these days Sega which is now under your entertainment contents business, pulls in something like more than half of overall sales. Sales of packaged games have been going up, but digital sales have been going down because of a slowdown in the Japanese smartphone market. You see a pickup in digital sales soon? What are you doing to beef up your digital titles?

Haruki Satomi: Simply the competition in the smartphone game has been very high and higher and higher so we decided not to release too many titles over the last two years; instead we developed more quality games to be more competitive in the market, then since this year we will keep these new titles so our digital sales will grow again.

CT: How many titles are you hoping to release this year?

Haruki Satomi: More than 10. When we try to launch our game, typically Japanese developers focus only on the Japanese market but we keep asking them to see the global market and we agreed with them to at least launch the game simultaneously in Asia and Japan, and then we'll bring it to the West as soon as we can.

CT: I'm curious how much work is involved, launching a gaming title? What is involved and how involved are you in these games yourself?

Haruki Satomi: Actually I try not to get too involved in the game content or the design itself.

CT: Do you test them out?

Haruki Satomi: A little bit, but I try not to see the details because I'm not a creative video game type. Of course I see if something is affected in the game itself but instead of me saying so, our trusted man, trusted producer should be responsible for the specific title. But I decide the direction of the game, like I said we should prioritize the quality not schedule and we should listen to the consumers or fans opinions.

CT: What are your favorite games, just out of curiosity?

Haruki Satomi: One of my favorite is the Yakuza Series or the Valkyria Chronicle Series.

 

 

Part 2

CT: Christine: These days Sega Sammy has ambitions beyond pachinko machines and beyond entertainment content, it is now moving into the integrated resorts business. With the expected casino legislation happening in Japan to make gambling legal in the country, is this where the big money is going to be for Sega Sammy? Is this your next pillar of growth?

Haruki Satomi: Yes, I think that market is something that we tried to get into and in order to do so we acquired the Phoenix Seagaia Resort in 2012 which is a smaller integrated resort without casino. We then got involved in the Paradise City Project that is the joint venture between Paradise Group Korea and Sega Sammy Group. We opened an integrated resort from scratch, developed and operated it together and we sent more than 50 Japanese people into the vicinity so we're heavily involved in the operation by now. If the Japanese government opened the market for integrated resorts like Marina Bay Sands, we would definitely like to be a part of it.

CT: So these two resorts will obviously help you increase your chances of getting selected. You had to build a casino resort from scratch, what was it like? What did you know about casino development? What did you know about resort development? What were the initial learnings like?

Haruki Satomi: It is my father's aspiration to be, to develop and operate an integrated resort in Japan. That's why we're currently learning like how to run the hotel business and how to develop the resort with Paradise City- its supply and demand, how many rooms we should have, how many tables for casino floor, that kind of demand you have to decide first. Then how many rooms we provide, that is something that we have to figure out from scratch.

CT: Have you figured it out?

Haruki Satomi: We are trying, yes.

CT: I understand you want to take a majority stake in your casino venture. Who are your likely partners?

Haruki Satomi: Yeah we were quite open to partner with anyone, and what we publicly say right now is since it is a Japanese project, we try to lead the project, which means we try to take the majority of stake. If we don't get the partners, it's ok to be a minority share. That'll be a possible candidate.

CT: You talking to any of the foreign casino operators like MGM or Las Vegas Sands?

Haruki Satomi: Yeah, we can't say their specific names but yes, most of the operators we have had discussions with already. But some operators obviously said that they'd like to be majority stakeholder of project. Those we haven't discussed details yet but some operators agree that they can be a minority in this Japanese project.

CT: Are you close to any sort of formal tie up with these foreign operators?

Haruki Satomi: Yes, we've already been closely discussing with some of them.

CT: In terms of your casino development, which locations are you eyeing?

Haruki Satomi: We haven't openly disclosed which city is our priority but we actually prefer bigger cities around the Metropolitan Tokyo area or Osaka area. Secondarily, if we are able to secure the majority of stake we would consider the suburb like Hokkaido, perhaps Okinawa or Kyushu area.

CT: When do you think the licenses will be given out? What's the talk within the industry? What are you hearing behind the scenes?

Haruki Satomi: Of course, depending on the law passed in the Diet for now but if the promotional bill is passed to the Diet this year hopefully in early summer, the license given to the specific city and operator would be in 2021.

CT: Are you frustrated that things are moving so slowly in Japan just to get the casino license?

Haruki Satomi: Yes, actually the Japanese government started discussing the casino business even earlier than in Singapore but still we haven't passed the bill yet. It takes a lot of time so of course it's frustrating. We have a business model and we've been preparing for it with a team but still the bill is not passed yet, and even if the bill is passed this year, the local government will decide opening the first around the end of 2019 or in early 2020. Only then can the city and operator propose to the government together and they will then give the license officially I think in 2021.

CT: So when could you possibly have a casino resort up and running at the earliest? What sort of time frame are we looking at?

Haruki Satomi: At this rate, three to four years to develop from scratch including the infrastructure.

CT: So that'll be 2024, 2025?

Haruki Satomi: That'll be 2024 and 2025.

CT: And you're confident of being selected?

Haruki Satomi: We're trying to be.

CT: Could the casino resort business eventually overtake your key entertainment content business?

Haruki Satomi: Yes I think so; there is huge potential if we are able to build a Marina Bay Sands-size integrated resort in Japan. It can exceed the revenue in the existing business.

CT: When you say Marina Bay Sands, are you using that as a model for your casino development in Japan?

Haruki Satomi: That size of integrated resort is a good benchmark in an urban city.

CT: How many rooms are we talking about?

Haruki Satomi: If we open the integrated resort in a Metropolitan Tokyo area or Osaka we would need at least 3000 rooms.

CT: And it would include a convention centre as well? An integrated feel of the resort?

Haruki Satomi: Yes, course there will, we need an entertainment part.

CT: What would you call the casino resort? Have you got a name for it yet?

Haruki Satomi: No, not yet.

CT: These days you're working to position Sega Sammy as the number one global entertainment company. You've launched a 2020 road map. Tell us, what are you doing in the next two years to achieve that vision?

Haruki Satomi: We are not a simple video game or pachinko slot machine makers, we are the company that provides people's moving moments or emotional excitement. As long as we can offer these kinds of things we will expand our business. That's why we recognize that the resort business including casino is part of those kinds of business. Our vision is to be a game changer. We'd like to impact the society in a good way with our business model. Even though the casino or pachinko business is controversial, we believe we can put in more positive things than negative.

CT: Let's talk more about the pachinko business that you mentioned because obviously it was the beginnings of your family business, your father founded Sammy, a pachinko machine maker. But these days there are lots of concerns about casino legislation and the competition it would pose to the pachinko industry. What does the future hold for the company's pachinko business?

Haruki Satomi: Pachinko business itself is very lucrative; it is a cash cow business for us. So even though we do not expect a lot of growth, it is our foundational business as a group and we would like to make more efficiency in the business. Since we cannot expect the growth of the market as whole, what we try to do is increase the share and drastically cut the production cost especially the cabinet cost and then improves the margin. We will then try to reinvest that cash to other business like entertainment business like the video gaming business, or to the resort business in the future

CT: As a cash cow like you say the pachinko business right now pulls in about 40 percent of the overall revenue, where do you see this contribution from pachinko business in the next couple of years as you move towards this vision of number one big entertainment company?

Haruki Satomi: Revenue wise, it could be less than 10 percent in the future if we are able to open the integrated resort in Japan and take a majority stake. But profit wise it will still not be smaller than 10 percent, it would be like 20 percent as a whole business model, still significant in the group I think.

CT: So revenue contribution would fall?

Haruki Satomi: Yes.

 

 

Part 3

CT: Your father's the legendary Hajime Satomi who founded Sammy, pachinko machine maker. He has been ranked one of Japan's 50 richest in terms of net worth. What important lessons have you learnt from him, has he passed on to you about running and building a successful business?

Haruki Satomi: I believe he's a remarkably successful businessperson in Japan and he is a very successful entrepreneur. What I have learnt from him is he simply never gives up until he reaches his satisfaction level. I also respect him because he has the courage to believe people. Even though he has been betrayed by very close senior management or business partners, he doesn't stop believing people. That gives empowerment to our employees and is one of his strengths.

CT: He is the Chairman and CEO and you're the President and COO as his son, obviously he's still in charge. As the second generation, as his son, how much input do you give on how to drive the company forward? Is your father receptive to your ideas?

Haruki Satomi: Sure, yes. I'm very appreciative when he empowers me, currently he pretty much focuses on external communication like our industry association chairs while I manage the internal business. Most of the time, I don't report to him often.

There are 2 kinds of reports like pre-report or post-report. Pre-report means you don't decide anything and ask your seniority to make a decision but post-report means I made the decision and reported what happened. So I try to report to my father after I've made a decision, not asking him what I should do.

CT: How would you describe your working relationship with your father even though you don't report to him?

Haruki Satomi: Occasionally yes, I report to him if I think it is a very important thing to him but usually he doesn't care much about details.

CT: So he leaves it entirely to you?

Haruki Satomi: Yes.

CT: In terms of leadership style, how different do you think you are from your father?

Haruki Satomi: Mm, that is, it's a good point. I think it's similar, I try to empower my staff instead of try to make a decision by myself everything because I know, or I try to hire, or assign the smarter people than me, they should make the decision as I said for the game development. Instead of me deciding what kind of games I should make, the producers or directors of games should make the decision. That is a similar approach to what my father had.

CT: So you're following in his footsteps?

Haruki Satomi: Yes.

CT: As his son, you're the COO and the President; obviously you're being groomed to take over from your father one day. What impact do you want to make at Sega Sammy?

Haruki Satomi: The mission what I say, is to be the reason to be.

CT: The reason to be?

Haruki Satomi: Yes. As long as we're providing a positive impact to the society or to our fans, as I said. Even if pachinko business or video game, or casino is controversial, there are anti-video game guys, anti-casino people, but as long as we are providing a positive impact on the society and there are fans behind us, we are allowed to be this smart and reject increase the fan base in the future.

CT: Haruki thank you so much for talking to me.

Haruki Satomi: Thank you very much.

 It's definitely an interesting read.

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I think this is like the 10th time some high up from SEGA says they won't be releasing "low quality Sonic games" anymore. And yet, what is Sonic Forces' Metacritic score? Oh, that's right, 57, with only 4 reviews being positive.

Yeah, does someone still believes? It's a MIRACLE that Sonic Mania exists, and we should be thankful that it did so well to the franchise, even if you don't enjoy 2D games, because I'm whiling to bet that the Boom's fiasco, followed by Sonic Forces' poor reception, followed by the live-action movie that will most likely get a poor reception too, would've killed this franchise for good.

But hey, we have another studio that isn't Sonic Team about to mend this mess yet again, Sumo, with their racing game, which I believe will be solid fun.

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3 hours ago, Jango said:

I think this is like the 10th time some high up from SEGA says they won't be releasing "low quality Sonic games" anymore. And yet, what is Sonic Forces' Metacritic score? Oh, that's right, 57, with only 4 reviews being positive.

Yeah, does someone still believes? It's a MIRACLE that Sonic Mania exists, and we should be thankful that it did so well to the franchise, even if you don't enjoy 2D games, because I'm whiling to bet that the Boom's fiasco, followed by Sonic Forces' poor reception, followed by the live-action movie that will most likely get a poor reception too, would've killed this franchise for good.

But hey, we have another studio that isn't Sonic Team about to mend this mess yet again, Sumo, with their racing game, which I believe will be solid fun.

57 is mixed on Metacritic, not bad. And it should be noted that the Xbox version of the game got a 67, which is a good deal higher, and the user score for all versions of the game stands at roughly around 6.9-7.4/10 (which is roughly what Lost World, Colors, and Unleashed have if I recall correctly). The reviews too are overwhelmingly mixed, with little on the positive or negative side. Like the game's reception itself, you love it, you kind of enjoy it, or you utterly hate it. (I also don't think that Metacritic is reliable as a gauge of how good a game is, only as a general summary of how professionals and people received it at the time of release, but that's a different discussion.)

So Forces fits the bill of not making any more low quality Sonic games, because the general consensus for the game is that its okay on the professional side and moderately good on the user side. Neither of which are actually considered bad in terms of reception.

So hey, I believe it. The evidence certainly backs it. And Mania's not a miracle. It would have gotten nowhere without Iizuka advocating for Headcannon to make an original Classic Sonic title, and it would have never been finished or turned out as complete crap if Sonic Team, Sega, and Headcannon had not worked together to make it happen. These are totally within the grasp of Sonic Team and Sega to pull off, as well as a studio like Headcannon or Sumo Digital.

The franchise has survived worse. Boom produced a good TV show that drummed up minor positive publicity during the long wait in 2015/2016, Forces wasn't received poorly at all by the general public, and we literally don't even have a public teaser trailer for the movie yet so there's no way to know if its going to be bad or not (coupled with that, its unclear if its even coming out before the next mainline Sonic game). The comics from IDW and merchanidising are still things too that have been pretty steady for Sonic. And well, before Forces became the cool thing for the fandom to hate, people said that there should be no outside studios making Sonic games ever because Rise of Lyric of proved it doesn't work ever. So I think Forces would have been received better without Mania simply because it wasn't coupled with any games from an outside studio. That's a lot of ways of saying that the franchise will survive with or without Mania. Not to say that Mania isn't worthwhile or good, but you're giving it too much credit and significance IMO.

----------------

What I find pertinant for Sonic's future is the de-emphasis on mobile titles. Which I find kinda sad because with mobile games, you only need a small, dedicated userbase to make big bucks, and Sonic's offerings have always been of the better quality than the most. I'd really prefer they release a version of Sonic Runners that is advertised decently and not totally screwed up to show their dedication to focusing on quality. But hey, my ideas aren't the only way to go about it and I hope the best in the future.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was Sonic, but things are looking up from my perspective.

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4 hours ago, Mad Convoy said:

57 is mixed on Metacritic, not bad. And it should be noted that the Xbox version of the game got a 67, which is a good deal higher, and the user score for all versions of the game stands at roughly around 6.9-7.4/10 (which is roughly what Lost World, Colors, and Unleashed have if I recall correctly). The reviews too are overwhelmingly mixed, with little on the positive or negative side. Like the game's reception itself, you love it, you kind of enjoy it, or you utterly hate it. (I also don't think that Metacritic is reliable as a gauge of how good a game is, only as a general summary of how professionals and people received it at the time of release, but that's a different discussion.)

So Forces fits the bill of not making any more low quality Sonic games, because the general consensus for the game is that its okay on the professional side and moderately good on the user side. Neither of which are actually considered bad in terms of reception.

 

The term "mixed" is misleading. It implies that a varied spectrum of critical response ranging from very positive to very negative. Sonic Forces' reception wasn't that. It isn't Marmite. It was almost uniformly reviewed as a 5-6/10 game. In the video game world, that's considered sub-par, a critical dud. For one of the most recognisable franchises in all video game history, it's embarrassing. Sonic Team have squandered all the good will they built up with Colors and Generations.

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8 hours ago, Jango said:

I think this is like the 10th time some high up from SEGA says they won't be releasing "low quality Sonic games" anymore. And yet, what is Sonic Forces' Metacritic score? Oh, that's right, 57, with only 4 reviews being positive.

Yeah, does someone still believes? It's a MIRACLE that Sonic Mania exists, and we should be thankful that it did so well to the franchise, even if you don't enjoy 2D games, because I'm whiling to bet that the Boom's fiasco, followed by Sonic Forces' poor reception, followed by the live-action movie that will most likely get a poor reception too, would've killed this franchise for good.

But hey, we have another studio that isn't Sonic Team about to mend this mess yet again, Sumo, with their racing game, which I believe will be solid fun.

In some fairness to Haruki, Forces started development in 2013, a couple of years before Haruki took the position as CEO of Sega Games. By that point, the underlying design was probably set in stone, and there wasn’t much he could feasibly do to change the game without a massive retool or just shelving the entire thing. Meanwhile, Mania has been said to have been greenlit in late 2015 or early 2016; which would be under his tenure.

I do think Haruki will have to do some serious changes to the management of Sonic though if he’s serious about regaining fans trust in the IP. The most obvious decision would be to send Sonic Team packing to work on other/new franchises and give the Sonic IP to another development studio/division who are actually competent at consistently designing quality games.

52 minutes ago, Pengi said:

The term "mixed" is misleading. It implies that a varied spectrum of critical response ranging from very positive to very negative. Sonic Forces' reception wasn't that. It isn't Marmite. It was almost uniformly reviewed as a 5-6/10 game. In the video game world, that's considered sub-par, a critical dud. For one of the most recognisable franchises in all video game history, it's embarrassing. Sonic Team have squandered all the good will they built up with Colors and Generations.

Metacrtitic itself does list games that review neither positive or negative as "mixed and/or average". As you said, Forces' reviews don't quality as the former; but the sheer majority of "5-6/10" reviews counted for it would make it apply as the latter.

You're also correct in that in the video game review space; a 5-6/10 scoring game is effectively a disappointment. A 57 metascore may not be "the worst thing ever" or "not at bad as 2006 / Rise of Lyric" but that's still not a score to be proud by a longshot; especially for a long-running major series that used to be (and somewhat still is considered) a company showcase. That score also isn't being released in a vacuum; virtually all of the other major 3D platforming series that had games that released last year (from broadly well-received games like Mario and Crash to more divisive / less impressive games like Yooka-Laylee and Knack) were better-received than Forces; as were smaller debut indie-made titles like Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time; to say nothing of Forces being reviewed worst than most of the recent Sonic games (especially Mania).

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Those we're great back-ups @Pengi and @Space☆Yeow, I was going to reply to @Mad Convoy, but I believe some people are okay with the franchise taking 2 steps backwards after each 1 step forward. Average game after average game, lack of direction, uncalled sub-series with weird designs and outright broken games + plus a cringe worthy series, a series of comics that yes, are actually good, but only a small part of the fans really care about... None of these signs matter, they still believe in the "everything is fine or will eventually get better" stuff. I'm over believing it, it's crystal clear that Sonic Team isn't going to deliver that great game everybody, including me, wants. 

Also, @Mad Convoy, I'm giving Mania too much credit and significance? Rightfully so. And I will keep on doing so, the same way you keep investing your time trying to convince me that Forces was "not that bad" or not a mixed bag of mess and direction. It's not me giving Mania too much praise, it's a LOT of people. It's the highest point this franchise got in years, the best reviewed and received Sonic game in years by both fans and critics alike. It actually got people back into Sonic. It had a kickass Collector's Edition, marketing, animations, music and it's now getting a great pack of improvements and new content and a physical release. 

One day you will hear me saying "I told you so" and believe me when I say, I hate doing it, but it will happen.

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16 minutes ago, Jango said:

plus a cringe worthy series

Eh, the tv series delivered more than the games. Think of them what you will, but they were keen and popular and majority wise not viewed as cringe worthy.

That said though, the show's success was no thanks to SEGA of Japan anyway, so some of your other points against SoJ do stand. What with them holding Sonic Team back in quite a few ways.

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1 hour ago, Jango said:

Also, @Mad Convoy, I'm giving Mania too much credit and significance? Rightfully so. And I will keep on doing so, the same way you keep investing your time trying to convince me that Forces was "not that bad" or not a mixed bag of mess and direction. It's not me giving Mania too much praise, it's a LOT of people. It's the highest point this franchise got in years, the best reviewed and received Sonic game in years by both fans and critics alike. It actually got people back into Sonic. It had a kickass Collector's Edition, marketing, animations, music and it's now getting a great pack of improvements and new content and a physical release. 

One day you will hear me saying "I told you so" and believe me when I say, I hate doing it, but it will happen.

I'm not trying to change your opinion of the game. In fact, if you'd look at what I've said instead of making assumptions based on the fact that I'm not as negative as you, I actually agree that its a mixed bag.

Gonna put this is bold so there's no way you can miss it this time around: I enjoy Forces but I agree that it is a mixed bag.

That's what the reviews reflect. A mixed bag. It actually depends on the reviewer-- 5/10 can mean alright or bad depending on who is doing it, and well, the user reviews still stand. (And that's one of the many reasons why Metacritic isn't necessarily the best gauge of how good a game is). Its more to point out that not everybody necessarily shares your opinion, Forces is nowhere near the RoL-esque nadir that you imply it to be, and the franchise would not outright die if weren't for Mania coming out.

And well, yeah, Mania has a lot of stuff coming out. Except for actual plans for a sequel. Once its run its course, and it will, Mania as we know it is dead. Because the future of Sonic isn't dependent on it. Because more of Mania isn't necessarily a good thing. That remains unchanged if you are alone in your opinion or if many agree with you.

I also recall Generations getting 90+/100 on Metacritic at launch. It got the same labeling as Mania did-- the game that saved the franchise and got the highest review scores in years and represented a franchise high. In its heyday, Generations was as applauded as Mania is now. Generations's Metacritic score is much lower nowadays, because Metacritic isn't static, and reception and viewpoints change over time. Mania is not so incredible as to be above that, and given several of the controversies behind its launch and issues that relate to boss and level design that can't be fixed with patches, its plausible enough to point out.

And y'know what, maybe I am wrong. That happens. I will admit it and take a lesson from the whole experience. What I will not do is put up with arrogance like "I told you so." I don't have the authority to issue bans or strikes or anything, but rest assured that is not the same as idly taking it. And if I am right? I will not say "I told you so." I will not say that this was inevitable like you brought my choices in posting upon yourself. I will be polite and appreciative that you have the courage and decency to admit that you were wrong about something.

1 hour ago, Jango said:

Those we're great back-ups @Pengi and @Space☆Yeow, I was going to reply to @Mad Convoy, but I believe some people are okay with the franchise taking 2 steps backwards after each 1 step forward. Average game after average game, lack of direction, uncalled sub-series with weird designs and outright broken games + plus a cringe worthy series, a series of comics that yes, are actually good, but only a small part of the fans really care about... None of these signs matter, they still believe in the "everything is fine or will eventually get better" stuff. I'm over believing it, it's crystal clear that Sonic Team isn't going to deliver that great game everybody, including me, wants. 

Gonna address this part now. You seem awfully judgy here. We all want what's best for the franchise here, and I too want improvement. Its just that maybe what I would consider an improvement is different from yours, as well as what's enjoyable or not, and that's okay. And I do have a more positive outlook on Sonic, but that doesn't mean I'm ignoring the facts or in denial, as you seem to imply.

Even if you never believe it, that's no excuse to look down on those who think differently. I don't agree with you, but I don't look down on you for your viewpoints.

And well, you talk of how I'm a lost cause but you still couldn't resist tagging me or replying to me anyway to passive aggressively call me a blind fangirl.

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2 minutes ago, Mad Convoy said:

I'm not trying to change your opinion of the game. In fact, if you'd look at what I've said instead of making assumptions based on the fact that I'm not as negative as you, I actually agree that its a mixed bag.

Gonna put this is bold so there's no way you can miss it this time around: I enjoy Forces but I agree that it is a mixed bag.

That's what the reviews reflect. A mixed bag. It actually depends on the reviewer-- 5/10 can mean alright or bad depending on who is doing it, and well, the user reviews still stand. (And that's one of the many reasons why Metacritic isn't necessarily the best gauge of how good a game is). Its more to point out that not everybody necessarily shares your opinion, Forces is nowhere near the RoL-esque nadir that you imply it to be, and the franchise would not outright die if weren't for Mania coming out.

Well spoken and said there. There are too many bouts when people overlook details mentioned in stances as you've delicately put there.

Not to mention, just judging off the scores too and not actually reading them too is a bit annoyingly common with some fans as well. The actual takeaway from those reviews, looking at them thoroughly, ironically in contrast with what @Jango claims is that quite a few reviewers actually see Forces as a mixed step in the right direction, go figure.

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I doubt Mania should be the long term solution to the franchise's problems. I can see it carrying one more game, at least, maybe even make it a trilogy. In my personal opinion, however, making sequels to Mania would, at best, only be a temporary solution to the franchise's problems, and I feel like they'd have to find something else eventually. We don't want the Mania line to be like New Super Mario Bros.

I'm not gonna say Forces did perfect; far from it, actually. And the series still has serious problems that need sorting out, some from the management position, some from other aspects, and more than anything, the series needs a clear direction.

However, even I admit, I'm struggling to think of what direction they should go with the series. Granted, even Mario shakes things up every now and then, but I kinda feel like the series isn't in the best position to be shaking it up too much.

I had a few ideas that, but I admit, I'm not entirely confident. Building off of Lost World's template and improving upon it, giving the N. Sane Trilogy treatment to Sonic Adventure to give the new team an idea of what to do with future games, but given this is Sega we're talking about, I dunno if either of them would work, and the latter may sound to some like it's not letting go of the past, which, I admit, is a reasonable argument.

Still, IDW Sonic is doing well so far, and I look forward to where that goes. I don't think it says much good that I'm more optimistic for something that isn't even part of the main franchise, but hey, good to see the franchise doing well in at least one area.

I do admit, this is all just me rambling, and who knows where it will all go from here? For all we know, they may step it up after Forces. Maybe they'll blow us away with something. But realistically, I feel like I shouldn't expect too much right now. It'd be nice, sure, but it'd also be nice to not have these worries in the first place.

Only time will tell, but the future is...uncertain, and sadly, that's as optimistic as I can be right now.

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It's downright delusional to think that Sonic Mania wasn't a huge boon to the Sonic brand. It's delusional to think that Sonic Forces didn't do further damage to the brand's reputation.

 

This isn't a matter of opinion. It's a fact that the Sonic brand began its life with a reputation for high quality games (Sonic 1, 2, CD, 3, Knuckles). It's a fact that the Sonic brand has gained a reputation for low quality games (Shadow, 2006, Secret Rings, Black Knight, Unleashed, Free Riders, Rise of Lyric, Shattered Crystal, Lost World etc). It's a fact that Sonic Mania is the most positively reviewed game since Sonic Advance 1 - but with more visibility as a key home console release. It's a fact that Sonic Forces received the same lukewarm-at-best reception that Sega have been trying to shake off for over a decade now. It's a fact that in 2018, Sega are still investing in and hyping Sonic Mania whilst leaving Sonic Forces behind.

 

5 hours ago, SurrealBrain said:

I doubt Mania should be the long term solution to the franchise's problems. I can see it carrying one more game, at least, maybe even make it a trilogy. In my personal opinion, however, making sequels to Mania would, at best, only be a temporary solution to the franchise's problems, and I feel like they'd have to find something else eventually. We don't want the Mania line to be like New Super Mario Bros.

 

Every entry in the New Super Mario Bros. series was positively reviewed and sold bucketloads. The contemporary New Super Mario Bros. games outsold the two Super Mario Galaxy games. Sega would love to have a New Super Mario Bros. on their hands. Any publisher would.

 

The NSMB series lost some cred with hardcore gamers for two reasons:

 

1. In terms of ideas and features, they were a step backwards from Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World.

 

2. Each installment in the series was very samey, particularly in terms of visuals, music and enemies.

 

Basically the criticism is that they didn't push the 2D Mario series forward.

 

Sonic Mania, on the other hand, despite re-mixing levels from older games, was praised for building upon Sonic 3 & Knuckles, rather than stepping backwards. The new levels in particular (Studiopolis, Press Garden, Mirage Saloon and Titanic Monarch) were considered the high points of the game.

 

Given who the developers are, do you really think a successor to Sonic Mania would fall into the same pattern as the NSMB sequels, with identical art assets, enemies, music and so on to Sonic Mania 1?

 

Perhaps a better comparison would be to Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. They were also back-to-basics revivals of a classic '90s 2D platformer sensation, but unlike NSMB didn't receive any hardcore fan backlash, because they actually felt like a true Donkey Kong Country 4 and Donkey Kong Country 5.

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2 hours ago, Pengi said:

It's downright delusional to think that Sonic Mania wasn't a huge boon to the Sonic brand. It's delusional to think that Sonic Forces didn't do further damage to the brand's reputation.

 

This isn't a matter of opinion. It's a fact that the Sonic brand began its life with a reputation for high quality games (Sonic 1, 2, CD, 3, Knuckles). It's a fact that the Sonic brand has gained a reputation for low quality games (Shadow, 2006, Secret Rings, Black Knight, Unleashed, Free Riders, Rise of Lyric, Shattered Crystal, Lost World etc). It's a fact that Sonic Mania is the most positively reviewed game since Sonic Advance 1 - but with more visibility as a key home console release. It's a fact that Sonic Forces received the same lukewarm-at-best reception that Sega have been trying to shake off for over a decade now. It's a fact that in 2018, Sega are still investing in and hyping Sonic Mania whilst leaving Sonic Forces behind.

I never denied that Mania wasn't good or worthwhile. But on the flipside, Sonic Forces really hasn't been all that damaging. Most people do not care about it. The reviewers generally tended to see it as well-intentioned and a mixed step in the right direction. That is not anywhere close to significantly damaging the franchise.

And it didn't gain a reputation for low quality games until 06 came out. Heroes and Shadow were quite popular back in the day. Secret Rings was actually seen as a return to form for Sonic in its heyday. Unleashed was initially disliked but steadily redeemed over time. Free Riders is long forgotten and really only shows up when mentioning the first appearances of the new VAs. Shattered Crystal is long forgotten and doesn't show up in many discussions period. Most people are past Rise of Lyric now, even though they still don't like it. Lost World is polarizing, not necessarily damaging, and something many want to see improved upon instead of just abandoned.

Actually, the last game to be reviewed as well as Mania was Generations, in 2011. It got impressive scores like 9/10 and was praised as the greatest 3D Sonic game ever if not amongst the greatest Sonic games ever. Things changed though. The excitement waned. People dropped the fanboy worship and started taking a good look at it, making its flaws more apparent. And the scores drop accordingly.

As for the rest, well, Mania is getting left behind some day. Its a fact that there's no sequel planned for it. Its a fact that it will run its course eventually and become tiresome, as the New Super Mario Bros. series eventually did. And its also a fact that a game's popularity is not directly correlated to its quality or its long term effect on the franchise. 

My point as well is that things change. People love Mania now, but its plausible that that will not be the same forever. Likewise, Forces may be less popular, but that too may not be forever. And neither have any bearing on the quality of the game or how they impact the franchise long term. Furthermore, its unrealistic to expect some kind of 180 turnaround. Gradual improvement is more likely at this point.

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I think @Pengi hit the nail there.

@Mad Convoy, well, maybe the Metacritic score is the least of our problems, but it was brough up by the SEGA chairman, so it's relevant to them. I brough up the score ealier just as a reminder, what's really concerning is Sonic Team's situation, they're clearly unfocused and the production value has dropped a lot since I'd dare to say Unleashed. Sonic Forces had the team all split and reduced, only 2 people designed the levels for that game, one of them was a newbie. The same thing is happening to other areas too, sound for example, Sonic Team always had a large group of great composers, but for their last 3 games (Lost World, Runners and Forces) Tomoya Ohtani did most of the work.

Also, calling me negative? I'm being realistic based on everything I've experienced with this franchise along the years, I'm with it since 1996. 

I read and understood that you enjoyed Forces but recognized its flaws on the first time, I'm not taking this right off you, but it's a fact that the game didn't made any good to the franchise, in fact, it gave back that sour taste after the success of Mania, as if things got back to being "mediocre".

 

37 minutes ago, Mad Convoy said:

As for the rest, well, Mania is getting left behind some day. Its a fact that there's no sequel planned for it. Its a fact that it will run its course eventually and become tiresome, as the New Super Mario Bros. series eventually did. And its also a fact that a game's popularity is not directly correlated to its quality or its long term effect on the franchise. 

A lot of games like Mania may get tiresome after some time, but I rather have a bunch of similar but great games instead of experimental and forgettable shitty ones. 

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25 minutes ago, Jango said:

I think @Pengi hit the nail there.

@Mad Convoy, well, maybe the Metacritic score is the least of our problems, but it was brough up by the SEGA chairman, so it's relevant to them. I brough up the score ealier just as a reminder, what's really concerning is Sonic Team's situation, they're clearly unfocused and the production value has dropped a lot since I'd dare to say Unleashed. Sonic Forces had the team all split and reduced, only 2 people designed the levels for that game, one of them was a newbie. The same thing is happening to other areas too, sound for example, Sonic Team always had a large group of great composers, but for their last 3 games (Lost World, Runners and Forces) Tomoya Ohtani did most of the work.

Also, calling me negative? I'm being realistic based on everything I've experienced with this franchise along the years, I'm with it since 1996. 

I read and understood that you enjoyed Forces but recognized its flaws on the first time, I'm not taking this right off you, but it's a fact that the game didn't made any good to the franchise, in fact, it gave back that sour taste after the success of Mania, as if things got back to being "mediocre".

 

A lot of games like Mania may get tiresome after some time, but I rather have a bunch of similar but great games instead of experimental and forgettable shitty ones. 

And those are fine things to be worried about, but what I don't appreciate is being called "delusional" and talked down to just for feeling more positive about the future than some others are. Which is what Pengi has called me, and what you have implied about me by claiming that "some people just are okay with the franchise taking two steps back after one step forward". It doesn't help that a lot of things Pengi has labeled facts are either more complicated or not actually facts at all.

Its a respect thing, and its also about being grounded. I have not been as fan nearly as long as you have, but you're still acting super negative and cynical by claiming that a great game will never come for the franchise as it is right now and anybody who thinks so is just ignoring the obvious facts, and the weight you place on Mania is still excessive. The franchise would not have collapsed entirely without it. It will run its course.

And you say that now, but I remember just a year ago people were complaining about how stale the Boost formula was and how awful it was that 3D Sonic was consistently headed in that direction because it lacked experimentation and innovation. People got a bunch of similar but great games, and they complained about it because it wasn't experimental enough. This can happen to Mania too. And tiresome can quickly become forgettably shitty, or worse, memorably shitty.

Likewise, while Forces didn't necessarily create any goodwill, my point was that it wouldn't have been nearly enough to be the penultimate blow to the franchise. People would move on if they even really care about it. Sega would hopefully learn from its mistakes, or not. But the franchise will survive, as it has through better and worse times, and good things will still come out anyway. I like what I'm hearing from Satomi, even if not all of what he's striving for bears fruit as fast as we may want it to or at all. From my perspective, there's no reason not to feel a little hopeful at what the future will bring. And I don't think that makes me delusional.

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1 hour ago, Jango said:

Also, calling me negative? I'm being realistic based on everything I've experienced with this franchise along the years, I'm with it since 1996. 

Realistic is not really the term to describe it by though. Especially if you're supporting the sentiment that anyone thinking positively is delusional. Or calling them too easy on the franchise. 

 

1 hour ago, Jango said:

, well, maybe the Metacritic score is the least of our problems, but it was brough up by the SEGA chairman, so it's relevant to them

Except they didn't even bring up Forces' score. You did, and you only used one system's score at that,  which arbitrarily bolstered your point. 

And again,  from your stance you'd think Sonic was a laughing stock again thanks to Forces. I mean,  if often comes a shock to core fans,  but Forces really didn't do damage. It was meh at worst,  and still got notable compliments,  despite what superficial details like simply looking at scores without reading reviews will tell you. 

Heck,  we're in a day and age where IGN are getting more deserved ridicule over needlessly bashing Sonic in the past as recent as 2017, because his reputation on the whole is no where near as bad as you think it to be. 

Besides,  there's more evidence to suggest that Sega of Japan running Sonic Team into the ground is the more the problem. 

Does that mean Sonic's in a perfect state and above criticism? No. No one is,  but the days of positivity towards this franchise and its installments being some pipe dream or "delusional" as some cynics put it are well behind. 

Be pessimistic sure,  but don't be surprised if your notions get debated and rebuffed. 

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They've said a lot how they're going to focus on quality from now on so that doesn't really mean anything anymore.

 

I remember very vividly hearing the same thing back in 2015 and here we are now. Call me a cynic but it's hard to believe them when they say that but never really seem to follow through. 

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