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Sonic Under New Management Part 2: Hedgehog Boogaloo? (Reports of Sega of Japan studio restructure/new IP development)

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This has been something of an emerging topic within the statuses over yesterday and today, and at least a few (including myself) thought it warranted its own thread. I'm posting this in the Upcoming Games subforum as I think it could pertain to the future of Sonic management, but mods are free to move this into the general Green Hills subforum.

(As for the thread title--consider it a belated followup to this thread from 2016, when it was reported that Sega of America was being established as the new hub for the production of Sonic games and Iizuka had moved back to Southern California to oversee their development.)

Earlier today at ResetERA, Null Pointer (a member who has been verified by Era site staff as a senior localization producer at Atlus) had this to say in a thread about Sega's [current] development studios:

"Hey guys, I just noticed this thread since it got floated up, and wanted to point out that some of the info in the OP is a couple years out of date and is more accurate for SEGA circa 2013 or so, not 2018 (going on 2019). Just hitting the broad strokes, CS3 doesn't exist anymore (absorbed into the other two studios), and the current heads of CS1 and CS2 are Sato-san and Kasahara-san, respectively. Online, while it does have some mobile related stuff, is not "the mobile studio", and it is headed by a gentleman named Segawa-san. SEGA Interactive (AM) studios are a little vague to me, but those are a totally different company than SEGA Games.

Edit: I use SEGA Retro as a quick reference from time to time and appreciate when it's accurate."

---

Assuming what Null says is true, CS3 is gone, with its staff folded into the remaining CS1 and CS2 groups, both of which also have new studio overheads (Daisuke Sato for CS1, Eigo Kasahara Kasahara for CS2). (Sega's Online division also has a new lead (Sagawa) and may not be strictly concerned with mobile projects.)

Recall that as of late...

- CS1 was/is the "Yakuza" division (Yakuza series by internal Yakuza group, the Fist of the North Star and [upcoming] Judgement spinoffs) and was/is overseen by Toshihiro Nagoshi.

- CS2 was/is the "Sonic" division (Sonic series by Sonic Team group, Mario and Sonic Olympics, Puyo Puyo) and was/is [generally] overseen by Takashi Iizuka.

- CS3 was/is the "Miscellaneous"group that handled other projects (including but not limited to Project DIVA, Valkyria Chronicles, Shining, and M2's 3D Classics re-releases) and/is was overseen by Akira Nishino. 

(Please correct me if I'm wrong with any of the information above.)

In addition, 4gamer yesterday also released a article about Sega Games, talking about the hiring process and the available job positions the company had. The article also included this notable bit (English translation by Google translate and original Japanese text included below), which says CS2 may be at work on a original property:

---

The second CS studio is handling various SEGA Games IP works such as "Sonic the Hedgehog" series, "Puyo Puyo" series, "Sakura Wars" series. It is unusual for a single staff member to be involved in multiple projects at the same time, but it seems that there are cases where staff who worked on "Sonic" participates in the new work of "Puyo Puyo" next time.
In addition, the studio is also working on a new IP, but for that reason it was revealed that the "challenge budget" was set up at SEGA Games.

~

第2CSスタジオは「ソニック・ザ・ヘッジホッグ」シリーズや「ぷよぷよ」シリーズ,「サクラ大戦」シリーズなど,セガゲームスのさまざまなIP作品を手がけている。1人のスタッフが同時に複数のプロジェクトに関わるケースは稀だが,「ソニック」を手がけたスタッフが,次は「ぷよぷよ」の新作に参加するといったケースはあるそうだ。
また,同スタジオでは新規IPも手がけているが,そのためにセガゲームスでは「チャレンジ予算」が設けられていることが明かされた。

---

The article also mentions Sega Games relocated to a new office in Osaki, Tokyo, back in August; which was done to consolidate various groups working in the Tokyo metropolitan area into one location. (4gamer linked to an article where they covered the new office's opening exhibition in September.)

A more precise translation is appreciated, although at least one poster at Era says the "new IP" translation is accurate.

Taking both reports into account and assuming they are both correct; this signals a significant change in in paradigm shift of Sega's focus with their games. With CS3 as a division dissolved and CS1 firmly established in Yakuza games, this points to CS2 taking CS3's mantle of working on general projects, especially with the report of that division working on a new IP.

In the context of Sonic, I believe this gives a very heavy implication that the Sonic series is no longer considered a priority IP for Sega of Japan, to the point of possibly no longer having its own division. Coupled with what we know about SoA being the new center for Sonic development, this would speak volumes on where management over the franchise's direction lies--it might possibly be in Sega of America's hands now. By this, I'm not just referring to tie-in merchandising efforts, I think this could even entail which studio(s) gets to produce the games and what design decisions are upheld (or thrown out) as the series' standard. It also raises questions for what happens to the Sonic Team group as we know it from here on out, who have up until this point been the undisputed producer of almost every Sonic game up until this point.

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I don't know, honestly it seems a bit too early to say if this will have any huge impact to the Sonic franchise. I'm hoping that things do change. It being for better or for worse though... that's entirely up to the company and developers themselves.

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4 minutes ago, Mania Pipe said:

I don't know, honestly it seems a bit too early to say if this will have any huge impact to the Sonic franchise. I'm hoping that things do change. It being for better or for worse though... that's entirely up to the company and developers themselves.

^This. Let me also add that this entire proclamation means nothing if you don't have anything to show for it. As I always say: "Words without action is worthless."

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If SEGA are letting their American branch handle Sonic games from here on out, I'm not complaining one bit. Sonic just doesn't do well in Japan. Maybe Sonic 2/3 was the peak, but that isn't saying much. Having Sonic game production in a more unified enviornment may help, who knows? It's just speculation though.

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Eh it's not a big loss considering their recent works. Still, I liked Runners at least. I'm pretty sure Sonic's next main projects will be classic from the Mania team, while modern will get more spin-offs like TSR, which is super fine by me, it's like the best of both worlds. Sorry for the fans who wanted a big modern game after the Forces disappointment. Yeah, we might have to wait long for that.

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If it means Sega is better able to have a finger on the pulse of what Sonic's main audience wants from the franchise, then all the better. While I agree with the others saying it's too early to call just how this will overall effect the franchise, Sega taking greater input from the West is what led to Sonic Mania, and more of that approach can only be a good thing.

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Dammit, when I saw Sonic running off against a setting sun in the ending of Forces, I had a feeling it would be a while until we saw him again. It’s like they knew...

Anyway, I really hope this means we get sort of a soft reboot that significantly changes Sonic’s world to a more cohesive and compelling one. What is Shadow up to these days, anyway? Where do Sonic and co. live, and what do they do when they’re not beating down Eggman? Answering these basic questions would go a long way towards me giving a shit about Sonic’s world. To do all this requires a modicum of creativity, though. Something that present-day Sonic Team doesn’t show. 

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* A larger pool of potential new staff, with a decisively non-Japanese work ethic.

* Staff less likely to flee to other companies.

* Possible re-union with older alumni such as Mark Cerny, Howard Drossin, etc. Pehaps even Archie and IDW staff being loaded onto the games, and possibly even Fleetway & past Japanese alumni (Maekawa?) being contacted? 

* Newer and less monolithic/sterile work environment. Less creative sterility, meaning no more inane, desperately created ideas such as donut levels. A new point of reference or two.

* Japan is freed up to make Puyo Puyo, NiGHTS, and even new IP. 

* Closer proximity to listen to honest, constructive critics instead of harsh numbers.  Roger and Luke would be proud.

* Perhaps someone can even negotiate the Freddom Fighters into the games...

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1 hour ago, SSF1991 said:

If SEGA are letting their American branch handle Sonic games from here on out, I'm not complaining one bit. Sonic just doesn't do well in Japan. Maybe Sonic 2/3 was the peak, but that isn't saying much. Having Sonic game production in a more unified enviornment may help, who knows? It's just speculation though.

In recent years, "Sonic Team" has been little more than a label. The majority of the staff working on Sonic games are shuffled around various projects at SEGA or appear to just be contracted workers. There are some permanent stuff, but by and large there's no tangible "Sonic Team". Almost every Sonic game coming out of Japan is labelled as Sonic Team, most notably everything produced by Dimps. And when you compare the production staff from Runners and Forces to other "Sonic Team" Sonic games, you notice the disparities; we all know by now that Forces certainly wasn't from the same group that brought us Colours and Generations. 

If this means that there's going to be something more solid and permanent, I'd definitely down for that. SoA has had more influence on Sonic in the past decade than they did for the series' dark ages, and that's going to be in part due to the fact that Sonic is simply more relevant in the West than in Japan. It makes sense to have have the series headquarted in a place where it actually matters. I don't think we'd have ever seen Mania if SoA weren't at the helm, and Boom could have been a very different story if SoJ had loosened their grip or understood what the hell the project was aiming to be

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1 hour ago, Miragnarok said:

* A larger pool of potential new staff, with a decisively non-Japanese work ethic.

* Staff less likely to flee to other companies.

* Possible re-union with older alumni such as Mark Cerny, Howard Drossin, etc. Pehaps even Archie and IDW staff being loaded onto the games, and possibly even Fleetway & past Japanese alumni (Maekawa?) being contacted? 

* Newer and less monolithic/sterile work environment. Less creative sterility, meaning no more inane, desperately created ideas such as donut levels. A new point of reference or two.

* Japan is freed up to make Puyo Puyo, NiGHTS, and even new IP. 

* Closer proximity to listen to honest, constructive critics instead of harsh numbers.  Roger and Luke would be proud.

* Perhaps someone can even negotiate the Freddom Fighters into the games...

Sorry to burst your bubble, but I really don't think those two things will happen.

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1 hour ago, Ruomarta said:

Sorry to burst your bubble, but I really don't think those two things will happen.

Remember when we thought having Deadpool, Galactus, Wolverine, or even Blade in the MCU was impossible? 

 

They could happen, it would just probably take a very long time. It took until 2015 for a deal to be made for Spider-Man, and 2018 for X-Men, F4, and Deadpool (Though through a buyout).  Heck, Stan Lee, Joan Lee, Flo Steinberg, and Steve Ditko died before the possibility of Ultraverse in the MCU, but i’m still convinced it could eventually happen once they make a deal with Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.  

 

Miracles can happen. Remember when we thought Snake would never Smash again? When it was believed SpongeBob was forever past his prime? 

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31 minutes ago, Miragnarok said:

Remember when we thought having Deadpool, Galactus, Wolverine, or even Blade in the MCU was impossible? 

 

They could happen, it would just probably take a very long time. It took until 2015 for a deal to be made for Spider-Man, and 2018 for X-Men, F4, and Deadpool (Though through a buyout).  Heck, Stan Lee, Joan Lee, Flo Steinberg, and Steve Ditko died before the possibility of Ultraverse in the MCU, but i’m still convinced it could eventually happen once they make a deal with Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.  

 

Miracles can happen. Remember when we thought Snake would never Smash again? When it was believed SpongeBob was forever past his prime? 

The difference is all of those other examples are still relevant, with the possible exception of Snake due to the whole Kojima/Konami shite. SatAM and Fleetway aren't.  

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50 minutes ago, Tracker_TD said:

The difference is all of those other examples are still relevant, with the possible exception of Snake due to the whole Kojima/Konami shite. SatAM and Fleetway aren't.  

What about Hey Arnold: The Jungle Movie finally getting made? Nobody expected Hey Arnold to be relevant again. The Freedom Fighters suddenly becoming relevant again isn’t an impossibility, look at comics’s OTHER squirrely heroine. Or how Bee Movie blew up as a meme.

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4 hours ago, Miragnarok said:

* Closer proximity to listen to honest, constructive critics instead of harsh numbers.  Roger and Luke would be proud.

Ironically, I'd consider them listening more to critics to be problematic. At this point I really want them to FOCUS on a direction, not constantly second guess themselves whenever someone has critisms.
Heck it's why I stopped asking or wishing for anything specific anymore. I don't care what you do, even if it's a direction I don't like. Just FOCUS please.
At this point it's their inability to devote themselves to a singular vision, even just within One game, let alone the series in general,  I consider to be more problematic then any individual style direction or mistake they could be making.


At least I hope this means Sega of America will be more hands off and let the American team work in peace, that's at least one distraction factor less to deal with.
I'm not sure what to think about the American team handling it. On one hand, the Japanese are way better in taking chances and having the more shameless and energetic aproach that I like the most. On the other hand, the Americans are more reliable in terms of quality...


Much as I'd think seeing the Freedom Fighters pop up somewhere would be neat, so far Sonic Team can't even handle the current cast.
Heck, even the alleged main characters, in particular Knuckles and Amy, seem to helplessly stumble around in a desperate attempt to be relevant, so I'm not sure why you think Sonic Team can handle even more characters.
It's probably safer to hope for a fangame to make some kind of fun action game set in the Archie universe rather then Sega doing anything senseble, if anything at all, with them.


Either way, man, I really hope this doesn't mean Sega's only focused on Yakuza and Sonic now, with only 2 big teams.
Then again, they did make a new Dayotona and House of the Dead, and there's a Panzer Dragoon remake coming, so there other IP's are still active. More active then they were for over a decade, in fact. Then again, I suppose they mostly just let other studio's do all the work.
 

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18 minutes ago, Miragnarok said:

What about Hey Arnold: The Jungle Movie finally getting made? Nobody expected Hey Arnold to be relevant again. The Freedom Fighters suddenly becoming relevant again isn’t an impossibility, look at comics’s OTHER squirrely heroine. Or how Bee Movie blew up as a meme.

Animated series with five seasons and a movie that exists as its own property/franchise, made for and aired by a major television network.

Spinoff characters to a larger and (mostly unrelated) franchise that have spent most of their existence in comic books (with their origin animated series lasting for two seasons).

Animated movie for an major animation studio that only very recently has/had an cult following that is clearly ironic, rather than in earnest (nobody's actually vying for a Bee Movie revival or followup).

I really don't get how you thought you would get your point across if those were was your bases of comparison.

Moreover, the Jungle Movie is a special case of a Grand Finale project for the show planned and announced years back when the show was airing. After it --and the show-- was cancelled, the show's fans (and eventually the show creator) were vouching for the network to the film to finally get it made. There was a enough of an audience (as well as good timing within the company, the "NickSplat" era of the company revisiting its older library of animated shows was starting up) for Nick to finally agree to get it made. (And even so, please note The Jungle Movie was originally supposed to be made for theaters, the movie we got was made for television.)

As for the "comics's other squirrely heroine" comment, assuming you're talking about Ray the Flying Squirrel (who is male?....)--he (and Mighty) actually DID get some confusion/pushback for being brought back in Mania Plus as playable characters when they were revealed--a lot of people were saying they would had picked Amy over him and Mighty for Mania Plus; and Iizuka even said he had no intention of ever bringing those two characters back. It's was the development team's idea to retrieve those characters and they also had to win people over with their inclusion with their gameplay in the DLC/re-release. Both Mighty and Ray also get credit for actually originating in games that's actually from the main series, rather than the comics/spinoff television shows (even given those games were super obscure).

 

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As I stands, immediately I can't think of anything this changes for Sonic. Seems like it just made official what's already been true for awhile regarding Sonic Team being more of just a branding thing based in America. Maybe this will allow for more consistent branding for Sonic Team? Probably not though lol.

Long term, it might lead to a stronger focus on what Americans want out of Sonic, which I think is pretty fair. Going by the Sonic Boom TV, it seems like the western side of Sonic stuff has a better grasp of characterization and creating a believable team dynamic, and hey, I don't know much about Mania but it seems like people still like it a lot.

The notion of a possible new Sonic Team IP is really the biggest thing I got out of this. I know that Iizuka and crew have wanted to do new stuff for awhile and hey, maybe Sega's finally going to listen and give them a fair shot in doing so. That's real growth and progress right there on Sega's part and if true, Iizuka's probably very very happy. I just hope it isn't a blatant expy of Nights, knowing Iizuka's very very very persistent desire to make another Nights game, because you don't need a new IP for that lol.

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1 hour ago, Gabriel said:

Animated series with five seasons and a movie that exists as its own property/franchise, made for and aired by a major television network.

Spinoff characters to a larger and (mostly unrelated) franchise that have spent most of their existence in comic books (with their origin animated series lasting for two seasons).

Animated movie for an major animation studio that only very recently has/had an cult following that is clearly ironic, rather than in earnest (nobody's actually vying for a Bee Movie revival or followup).

I really don't get how you thought you would get your point across if those were was your bases of comparison.

Moreover, the Jungle Movie is a special case of a Grand Finale project for the show planned and announced years back when the show was airing. After it --and the show-- was cancelled, the show's fans (and eventually the show creator) were vouching for the network to the film to finally get it made. There was a enough of an audience (as well as good timing within the company, the "NickSplat" era of the company revisiting its older library of animated shows was starting up) for Nick to finally agree to get it made. (And even so, please note The Jungle Movie was originally supposed to be made for theaters, the movie we got was made for television.)

As for the "comics's other squirrely heroine" comment, assuming you're talking about Ray the Flying Squirrel (who is male?....)--he (and Mighty) actually DID get some confusion/pushback for being brought back in Mania Plus as playable characters when they were revealed--a lot of people were saying they would had picked Amy over him and Mighty for Mania Plus; and Iizuka even said he had no intention of ever bringing those two characters back. It's was the development team's idea to retrieve those characters and they also had to win people over with their inclusion with their gameplay in the DLC/re-release. Both Mighty and Ray also get credit for actually originating in games that's actually from the main series, rather than the comics/spinoff television shows (even given those games were super obscure).

 

I was actually referring to Marvel’s Squirrel Girl. 

 

Also, you know how Batman has brought in a large number of long-irrelevant side-media characters into print, such as Lord Death Man, Sin Tzu, King Tut, Scorn, etc? 

 

Also, I think an increased staff would be a good idea that comes about because of this. Especially in a new environment to work in.

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a striking change, however even under management by Americans, which you would think would be the logical move for a franchise marketed towards American boys, you can only still assume Sonic will be a series controlled by aging Japanese men trying to figure out what small American boys like

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6 hours ago, Miragnarok said:

Remember when we thought having Deadpool, Galactus, Wolverine, or even Blade in the MCU was impossible? 

 

They could happen, it would just probably take a very long time. It took until 2015 for a deal to be made for Spider-Man, and 2018 for X-Men, F4, and Deadpool (Though through a buyout).  Heck, Stan Lee, Joan Lee, Flo Steinberg, and Steve Ditko died before the possibility of Ultraverse in the MCU, but i’m still convinced it could eventually happen once they make a deal with Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.  

Those copyrights are much more tightly kept and agreed upon, however.

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14 hours ago, Roger_van_der_weide said:

Ironically, I'd consider them listening more to critics to be problematic. At this point I really want them to FOCUS on a direction, not constantly second guess themselves whenever someone has critisms.
Heck it's why I stopped asking or wishing for anything specific anymore. I don't care what you do, even if it's a direction I don't like. Just FOCUS please.
At this point it's their inability to devote themselves to a singular vision, even just within One game, let alone the series in general,  I consider to be more problematic then any individual style direction or mistake they could be making.

 

You hit the nail on the head here mate.

I too am somewhat glad that critical reception is important to SEGA now. That's a good thing. But they seem to have no idea of what they want to do. Flip flopping between styles. Generations to Lost World to Forces. They need to find and pick a style they think will be good going forwards and then accept that it probably won't be perfect the first time around, but try and improve it. 

No I don't think Lost World was the style to take forward, but at the same time, that they rushed back to a watered down shittier version of Generations gameplay + some next character creator gimmick is baffling.

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I'm going to go out on a limb and say this probably won't change much of anything. A little bit of restructuring shouldn't really change how the company is run. Then again I'm not exactly a business expert so for all I know this could change everything. But I kinda doubt it.

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20 hours ago, AAUK said:

Everyone's going to that new building from what I gather, which'll make things much easier for the staff going forward as they'll all be in the same place as opposed to being scattered freaking everywhere. I asked Jun about the move when I saw him earlier this month, he'd been waiting for the studio kit to be installed there and was finishing off his last work at the old SEGA Sound Studio.

Pls Jun. Bring back Fumie Kumatanie. Pls.

A less scattered production team is good new though. Means everyone can much more easily communicate and stay on the same wavelength. Let's hope it means something for the quality of Sonic games coming out in the future.

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