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Sega of America vs. Sega of Japan: Who has been better for Sonic?


Kuzu
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There's no doubt that both regions have played a large role in getting Sonic to where he is today...for better or worse. But we also know about the HUGE regional differences that have resulted in very different interpretations of the franchise. We also know about the huge rivalry between both regions in the 90's in trying to get THEIR vision of the franchise off the ground. 

The American soundtracks in CD, the potential SATAM video game that got canned, and all of the lore and storyline differences. It even extends to the localization of the scripts between regions that is happening even nowadays.

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So which region or branch do you feel has been overall, a bigger benefit to Sonic in the long run, you got any other big regional changes that maybe some don't know about that caught your eye?

 

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America from the aggressive marketing angle and trying to keep Sonic relevant. Japan primarily works because they had the ideas for designs and level concepts, but overall they never really promoted Sonic in a way that managed to get him the audience he deserved over there.

Big props to SoA for using STI to keep Sonic relevant between Sonic 2 and 3. In fact, SoA did a solid job of trying to keep Sonic relevant during the Saturn years that SoJ clearly didn't prioritize. 

But SoA seriously mishandled their talent, and ran STI like a doghouse with no strong direction for good development, leading to the mess of Sonic X-treme. 

SoJ didn't understand how important Sonic was and didn't gather any resources for Sonic games on the Saturn proper. They left Yuji Naka to flounder on ideas without trying to properly get anything together. 

Overall, I think SoA handled the franchise better in the early years. And SoJ only was properly active for the Dark Age. But now things have reverted to SoA giving Sonic more care than Japan proper. 

Of course, they should have just cooperated more, but thats another story. 

41 minutes ago, azoo said:

Sonic Team and SoJ are for better or worse responsible for the majority of the actual content, creating the games and basically all within.

Sega of America is responsible only for either localization, or wanting to fix things that weren't broken (soundtracks, lore, promo art / character designs), or attempts made in thinking they could do a better take with what they were given (western Sonic shows/comics, Boom, the movie). 

I don't think their output is comparable at all. The most you could probably give SoA is decent marketing and developing fandom fringes, but outside of that? Nah. I feel a lot of SoA's contributions were / still are unnecessary at best, and outright negative at worst.

At least we got Robotnik from it, though. And chili dogs. Those things are neat.

For all the talent SoJ had, they didn't make Sonic work in Japan. They had a good character and franchise, and didn't give him the push SoA did. Say what you will about them being unnecessary, at least it was proper attention. 

It doesn't matter if the idea or content is good. If your studio can't sell the public on it then that is a failure. We've seen this with Nintendo titles like Metroid, or F-Zero.

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15 minutes ago, VisionaryofSUPER said:

SoJ didn't understand how important Sonic was and didn't gather any resources for Sonic games on the Saturn proper. They left Yuji Naka to flounder on ideas without trying to properly get anything together. 

Naka didn’t “flounder” on ideas, he made NiGHTS and Burning Rangers alongside his team as a means of creative freedom from the sweatshop that was the classic era (ST staff made five major games in four years).

This wasn’t the most profitable angle, sure, but that shouldn’t matter to anyone but businessmen.  That decision was made for their own benefit; something that I think was well-earned. It’s not like the lack of a Sonic title on Saturn was the greatest of Sega’s reasons they failed that gen.

Plus, saying they didn’t “understand” it pretends that Sonic's biggest factor in failure wasn't his marketability but rather that the Mega Drive was not appealing in Japan compared to SNES or PC-Engine, so sales were naturally not going to be as high until they made a console more appealing to that market (the Saturn itself). It also erases the fact that they started an initiative to get Sonic more popular in Japan (Project Sonic) by releasing Sonic Jam and starting development on Sonic Adventure, which would’ve been a Saturn title if not for Sega prematurely jumping to Dreamcast.  Project Sonic, btw, was a fairly decent success. Most of the JP fanbase came in with the Adventure era.

SoA’s angle has always solely been to turn a profit over SoJ’s angle in making a game. Whether you like the quality of the games made after a certain point cannot change that. 

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9 minutes ago, azoo said:

Naka didn’t “flounder” on ideas, he made NiGHTS and Burning Rangers alongside his team as a means of creative freedom from the sweatshop that was the classic era (ST staff made five major games in four years).

This wasn’t the most profitable angle, sure, but that shouldn’t matter to anyone but businessmen. Plus, that’s also erasing the fact that they started an initiative to get Sonic more popular in Japan (Project Sonic) by releasing Sonic Jam and starting development on Sonic Adventure, which would’ve been a Saturn title if not for Sega prematurely jumping to Dreamcast. 

SoA’s angle has always solely been to turn a profit over SoJ’s angle in making a game. Whether you like the quality of the games made after a certain point cannot change that. 

Flounder on stuff that wasn't Sonic. They were good ideas, but the fact they pigeonholed Naka to be responsible for Sonic was a waste. If he didn't want to work on Sonic, then they should have relied on someone else they could trust. 

It mattered for basically the Saturn worldwide. 

Nintendo's priority and this is all their branches, is about making good games while still making profit because they are good games in a reliable fashion while giving appropriate marketing for their titles. Especially their mascot. 

SoJ drummed up attention with Adventure in Japan but floundered shortly after. And ever since, no title has come close to matching Adventure in Japan. 

Hell, give Nintendo credit. Even when the N64 was a flop in Japan, their titles were still great sellers and well beloved to this day in Japan, and they applied themselves to not losing their place. 

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Most of what you are arguing is basically exactly what I said SoA's only true success was: their marketing / business decisions. It doesn't have anything to do with the actual output, besides perception.

Also, I'm fairly sure Naka wanted to be the head of Sonic Team and the IP itself; he just didn't want to make constant releases of new Sonic games the top priority of his group, much preferring they make multiple series with Sonic as a returning point every now and then. You can't blame them for simply not feeling like a constant new Sonic was necessary.

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5 minutes ago, azoo said:

All of this you are arguing is basically exactly what I said SoA's only true success was: their marketing / business decisions.

It doesn't have anything to do with the actual output, besides perception.

I argue the marketing and business was the thing that kept Sonic alive when most mascots died in the 3d era. 

Stubbornness didn't keep Spyro, Crash, and Megaman alive in the 5th gen outside of oddball titles. They had to actually sell well and be well advertised. 

Despite the rushed development of post Adventure titles and huge mismanagement, the consistent ability of Sonic to sell well (even the likes of the infamous 06) can't be ignored. 

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1 hour ago, Kuzu said:

 

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Honestly I kinda think the second one has more personality. I don't know Shadow going "I know you're trying to provoke me" is just kinda dull.

I know it's not popular but I'm sorry Colors and the games that follow brought some much needed life into the franchise. Like yeah maybe snarking the non-sentient robots is a little meh but I don't know I'd rather Sonic be a shit talker than...I don't know kinda nice like he was portrayed in the games before then. 

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CrownSlayer’s Shadow
32 minutes ago, azoo said:

Most of what you are arguing is basically exactly what I said SoA's only true success was: their marketing / business decisions. It doesn't have anything to do with the actual output, besides perception.

Honestly, If it weren’t for those very factors, Sonic probably wouldn’t have even had much of an output to begin with.

 

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26 minutes ago, CrownSlayer’s Shadow said:

Honestly, If it weren’t for those very factors, Sonic probably wouldn’t have even had much of an output to begin with.

Maybe back when they needed a kick to get people to stop buying SNESes, but outside of that earliest era? I don't think so.

Sonic kinda sold itself in the 2000s, and game reviews are what people decide if it was worth looking at in the 2010s (even then, kids would still eat it regardless). Sonic's appeal is pretty inherent; why else would it be relied on as their cash cow? 

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CrownSlayer’s Shadow
29 minutes ago, azoo said:

Maybe back when they needed a kick to get people to stop buying SNESes, but outside of that earliest era? I don't think so.

But that earliest era is what made the first impression that allowed Sonic translate into more success come the 2000s, which is ironically where he began to falter in perception after Heroes. (Funny enough, it didn’t stop ShTH from being successful despite the massive amount of flak and division it caused)

Otherwise, Sonic likely wouldn’t have made it to 2000s and been the next Alex Kidd instead.

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Sonic kinda sold itself in the 2000s, and game reviews are what people decide if it was worth looking at in the 2010s (even then, kids would still eat it regardless). Sonic's appeal is pretty inherent; why else would it be relied on as their cash cow? 

Because they don’t put as much emphasis on marketing their other works by comparison, especially during that ten year period. It’s little wonder why their products outside of Sonic don’t seem to be as reliable as Sonic, where as Nintendo meanwhile can do more than just rely on Mario as their cash cow.

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To be entirely fair, that was mostly true in the 2000's where Nintendo did lean on their other franchises more than Mario. Nowadays, their other IP output has lessened significantly. We only had two Metroid games in the 2010's, and one of them was a remake and we don't even know if Metroid Prime 4 will ever see the light of day. They attempted to bring back Starfox and that seems to be on the back burner now, etc etc. 

Its ironic too, because while I wouldn't say Sonic has gotten LESS popular, Sega aren't leaning on the franchise as much as they were in the 2000's. The marketing for the series has eased up immensely.  

 

But yea, I would say that without Sega of America, Sonic would have never left the 90's. 

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25 minutes ago, CrownSlayer’s Shadow said:

Otherwise, Sonic likely wouldn’t have made it to 2000s and been the next Alex Kidd instead.

If you really believe that then you don't have much faith in Sonic's appeal. The amount people attached to Sonic compared to Alex Kidd is dimensions away, and it's not just because it was put in front of them more. Sonic was just better, and it's qualities resonated on their own.

It's also worth noting that when it came to the games themselves (the real breadwinners of the franchise in it's heyday), all the marketing they had to do to get people on board was "look at it". The existence of tv shows and comics helped sure, but there's nothing about the mohawk, about their reimaginings, about Robotnik's backstory, the big lore or changing SCD's soundtrack that would've changed that. The games sold themselves, and all SoA had to do was show it off and give it supplementary material.

In another timeline, people would still be asking whatever happened to Sonic. The same is not the case with Alex Kidd in ours.

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Because they don’t put as much emphasis on marketing their other works by comparison, especially during that ten year period. It’s little wonder why their products outside of Sonic don’t seem to be as reliable as Sonic, where as Nintendo meanwhile can do more than just rely on Mario as their cash cow.

Sega didn't even have to market Forces for it to be successful (and boy did they not market that game). It happened just simply because Sonic was in it, and then doubled down when it was free on PS4 for a time.

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To be honest, I think SoA’s vision of the franchise - and the changes they’ve made as a result - are somewhat of a necessary evil. They might always not be what’s best for Sonic, but they’re doing what they can to appeal to Western audiences; without that appeal, I doubt Sonic would have made it through the 90s let alone left it.

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I just don't think they were nearly as necessary as people give them credit for. The existence of alternate media like tv or comics was definitely a reason it survived, but the way they were handled didn't have to be that way to ensure survival. If Sonic's appeal was from the games, and the games shared none of those qualities, what does it say of the rest of it?

It says a lot that there were such a wide variety of alternate takes for the series in that short period of time, but the only true things they had in common were what the games had in them, and the amount they didn't (especially when placed with the entrance of the Adventure era) only harmed brand perception in the long run.

I'd argue that if the games weren't there to serve as a core, Sonic would've definitely not survived.

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CrownSlayer’s Shadow
50 minutes ago, azoo said:

If you really believe that then you don't have much faith in Sonic's appeal. The amount people attached to Sonic compared to Alex Kidd is dimensions away, and it's not just because it was put in front of them more. Sonic was just better, and it's qualities resonated on their own.

It’s not that I don’t have faith in Sonic’s appeal, it’s that Sonic’s appeal isn’t the only factor that lead to his success. And in the era before Sonic took off, it is indeed because he was put in front more given that marketing push that brought him into the spotlight over Mario.

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It's also worth noting that when it came to the games themselves (the real breadwinners of the franchise in it's heyday), all the marketing they had to do to get people on board was "look at it". The existence of tv shows and comics helped sure, but there's nothing about the mohawk, about their reimaginings, about Robotnik's backstory, the big lore or changing SCD's soundtrack that would've changed that. The games sold themselves, and all SoA had to do was show it off and give it supplementary material.

You’re really overestimating the impact of the games during the 90s because the games alone didn’t make Sonic the juggernaut he was back then, and they certainly weren’t the dominating force as they are now for him. That’s especially true when this predates the Internet’s ubiquity.

The whole of Sonic at that time was marketed on the whole spectrum: the cartoons and comics were as much a major force as the games were in order to keep Sonic in the eyes of us 90s kids that were interested, and let’s not forget the toys that were sold in McDonald’s kids meals which really boosted the attention he would get as a result. He wasn’t just a game franchise, he was a multimedia one, a hella successful one too given he managed to get at least three different cartoons during that period while others in the same boat could hardly even expect one or two of them. It’s that same interconnectivity of media that even Pokémon used to jumpstart its own success. (far more so than Sonic in fact, given he never had a card game that still goes on to this day)

As much as Sonic is primarily focused on his games, you don’t make a franchise by sticking to just game’s alone to sell themselves. Sega knew this, which is why they really went all out in marketing the hell out of him during the 90s in any way they could afford outside of the games. You really don’t see this same push today on the same level as back then.

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Sega didn't even have to market Forces for it to be successful (and boy did they not market that game). It happened just simply because Sonic was in it, and then doubled down when it was free on PS4 for a time.

That game actually succeeded? I thought that title did underwhelming in sales, because I could hardly find anything solid from them other than it “selling strongly” alongside Mania in their business report at the time. (And I’d bet it was Mania that was actually carrying the success than it was Forces)

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FlameStream

People tend to undermine the business partner of the artist/engineer/technical person a lot. In truth, it really is the combination of both that results in great success (moreso the marketing typically).

I'd say it's quite true here too.

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16 minutes ago, CrownSlayer’s Shadow said:

It’s not that I don’t have faith in Sonic’s appeal, it’s that Sonic’s appeal isn’t the only factor that lead to his success. And in the era before Sonic took off, it is indeed because he was put in front more given that marketing push that brought him into the spotlight over Mario.

Sonic stood out over Mario because the games struck audiences harder than Mario's. Sonic 1 & 2, the games with the absolute biggest initial impact in the entire series, didn't arrive on the scene with a full multimedia package already figured out, it wasn't until after that when the series got its comics and tv shows. 

You can argue that it kept it alive, and by all means it probably did, but no moreso than any other video game's tv and book adaptations at the time. Don't forget Mario, Street Fighter and Mega Man all had their own share of these things too. Do we really owe them the entire series' success and longevity like we supposedly do here? 

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You’re really overestimating the impact of the games during the 90s because the games alone didn’t make Sonic the juggernaut he was back then, and they certainly weren’t the dominating force as they are now for him. That’s especially true when this predates the Internet’s ubiquity.

The whole of Sonic at that time was marketed on the whole spectrum: the cartoons and comics were as much a major force as the games were in order to keep Sonic in the eyes of us 90s kids that were interested, and let’s not forget the toys that were sold in McDonald’s kids meals which really boosted the attention he would get as a result. He wasn’t just a game franchise, he was a multimedia one, a hella successful one too given he managed to get at least three different cartoons during that period while others in the same boat could hardly even expect one or two of them. It’s that same interconnectivity of media that even Pokémon used to jumpstart its own success. (far more so than Sonic in fact, given he never had a card game that still goes on to this day)

As much as Sonic is primarily focused on his games, you don’t make a franchise by sticking to just game’s alone to sell themselves. Sega knew this, which is why they really went all out in marketing the hell out of him during the 90s in any way they could afford outside of the games. You really don’t see this same push today on the same level as back then.

You missed the part where I said that making tv shows and comics definitely is what helped the series have the lasting power it did during the 90s. My point was moreso that the changes said properties made weren't necessary for the series to succeed. They were arbitrary, at best. Sonic could've been close to the intended continuity and it still would've sold fine. Why? Because it was Sonic.

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That game actually succeeded? I thought that title did underwhelming in sales?

Yes. Sega even mentioned it pulled strong numbers as recently as last fiscal year, IIRC. Again, likely due to PS+ promotions.

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CrownSlayer’s Shadow
19 minutes ago, azoo said:

Sonic stood out over Mario because the games struck audiences harder than Mario's. Sonic 1 & 2, the games with the absolute biggest initial impact in the entire series, didn't arrive on the scene with a full multimedia package already figured out, it wasn't until after that when the series got its comics and tv shows. 

You can argue that it kept it alive, and by all means it probably did, but no moreso than any other video game's tv and book adaptations at the time. Don't forget Mario, Street Fighter and Mega Man all had their own share of these things too. Do we really owe them the entire series' success like we supposedly do here? 

And Sonic remained over Mario thanks to that abundance of media he ended up having over him. 

Yes, Mario, Street Fighter, and Megaman each had one cartoon, at least here in the west (I’m sure Japan had more cartoons, but that’s beyond the scope of what I’m aware of right now before NT Warrior came during the 2000s). But again, Sonic had three, and that and plenty of other factors other than the game alone is why he dominated the 90s compared to other game-based franchises. So as far as Sonic is concerned, yes we do owe them for the series’s success, because they played a massive part of it as the games did.

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You missed the part where I said that making tv shows and comics definitely is what helped the series have the lasting power it did during the 90s. My point was moreso that the changes said properties made weren't necessary for the series to succeed. They were arbitrary, at best. Sonic could've been close to the intended continuity and it still would've sold fine. Why? Because it was Sonic.

I didn’t miss it, I’m saying you’re not giving them enough credit. If you were to take a time machine back to the 90s, it wouldn’t be just the games people were talking about when it came to Sonic, much the same way it wouldn’t be just the games people were talking about when it came to the upcoming Pokémon franchise after him. It isn’t about the necessity of the changes, it was about the attention they would net him.

As much as the games made up the core of the franchise, the cartoons and the comics were on par with the games of the 90s.

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Yes. Sega even mentioned it pulled strong numbers as recently as last financial quarter, IIRC. Again, likely due to PS+ promotions.

Well, that’s surprising at least.

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I feel like SEGA of Europe should get more say in things. A lot of people were into Fleetway even if Archie alienated them somehow, despite them conveying the same ideas. 3D Blast was alright too. Anyways, I feel like more cooperation is the best option.

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I don't think anyone here is knowledgeable enough about SEGA's inner workings to answer that question. Who's deciding what? Doesn't SOJ already contribute to the concepts of everything the west does, anyway? If they didn't vet them back then, they definitely do now and they're about as divergent as they were before. It's obvious SoJ were and still are fine with Sonic offshoots existing as long as it puts the character in front of eyeballs, so I can't pin the blame entirely on SoA. Even if they don't always have creative control they still put all that stuff into motion knowing full well what could happen.

 I can see why some people would be concerned about SOA since I was for a long time as well. This isn't always the case, but SoA sometimes puts out something that feels like 'Sonic in name only.' I don't mind the series trying new things, but none of the stuff I mentioned really feels 'new'. It feels like older, proven concepts given a sonic coat of paint. An action beat em up with Sonic characters. A sitcom with Sonic characters. A 3D family film with Sonic on it etc. Sonic X took the series in a serious "generic kids action show" direction though so maybe that's just their approach to making spinoffs? Crib as much as they can from popular material and put a Sonic spin on it? Some awareness of the times is healthy, but too much can dilute the core appeal of the IP. Archie before the shakeup was riding a fine line of modernizing some parts of the series and keeping in line with it's roots that I really liked, though.

SoA have been off and on, but Japan is about as inconsistent. Like, SoA explicitly warned SoJ about the ball and chain that was the Werehog and were promptly ignored. They had almost nothing to do with the states Heroes, Shadow, 06, and countless other Sonic games released in. Even when tasked to recreate their old stuff with Sonic Generations, they couldn't hack it. These are 30 year old games. Nintendo has had emulations of Mario's old movement with satisfactory quality of life improvement down since, what, the GBA rereleases of the originals in the early 2000s? They've been doing it consistently since then.

There's arguments that Sonic boom was sabotaged, intentionally or no, by SoJ's interference. The fact that they literally could not touch the film after it went into production and it turned out to be a success might be a sign that they should just leave shit alone sometimes. Much as I hate Sonic Boom conceptually, it's hard for me to gauge if it would have truly been bad for the brand or not because it wasn't really given a chance to be anything. I don't think I would have been a fan of it even if it had reached it's full potential but it would be better for everybody if it had at least been given that chance.  Almost every change they've forced on to the comic has largely been to it's detriment. Given an open lane and four years to prove themselves, Japan only managed to fart out Sonic Forces which simply wasn't much better no matter how much closer to 'what sonic should be" it is. 

I tend to prefer SoJ's concepts on the whole but let's be honest: it's been so long since they've actually come up with a good premise, character or mechanic that I don't think it's really worth being so defensive of them anymore. The SoJ that created some of my favorite characters and worlds ever were gone when Generations ended. All of those creatives are working on different stuff now and a lot of it is great. Sonic Team/Dimps's track record since 2012 has been pretty bad though and I don't have a problem saying it. I'd have my concerns if SOA was given more power but they might as well try it. 

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Mauro Fonseca

This entire argument of "Sonic would've died in the 90s if Sega of America hadn't marketed it", once again, very annoyingly seems to forget this planet has more markets than "Japan" and "US". If Sonic was a hit in Europe, South America, etc, all the markets where Sega not only had already had a presence with the Master System but also arcades and then a hit presence with the Mega Drive, you really think it would've died?

You think it's SoA to credit for something like London loving Sega so much they build an entire theme park around it in the 90s?

Sega had no presence in the US outside the Genesis because Nintendo got there first. Sega had no non-arcade presence in Japan because Nintendo got there first. Unsurprisingly, viewing just these two gives us "Sonic floundered in Japan, and was only a success in America when Sega of America got to market the franchise in the early 90s with the Genesis". And the fact there were other markets where Sega had both the console AND arcade presence just gets forgotten.

 

Sonic sells on the appeal of the games first and foremost. Cartoons and comics helped (and even then, hey, remember how Europe had their own comic????? What, it only helps sell games if it's an American one?!), but they're not what sold the game- the fact that it was the fastest platformer seen with bright colours and appealing characters with ease of drawing did. Obviously SoA played a role, but it gets way overemphasised by both the usual online over-Americanised-perspective (take a shot every time you hear about the "80s videogame crash" without the mention it only happened in one country worldwide!) and the self-promotion of SoA employees later on (Kalinske especially) which has often been shown to be dubious, like all the stories of how it was SoA that told the devs to remove Sonic's fangs or human girlfriend while Japanese-made demos were already cutting those elements.

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CrownSlayer’s Shadow

Then ask the OP to change the title and broaden the topic more to include the other branches?

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Mauro Fonseca

The issue isn't with the thread name but with how the discussion's evolved into "Without SoA Marketing, Sonic would be dead"?

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1 hour ago, The KKM said:

The issue isn't with the thread name but with how the discussion's evolved into "Without SoA Marketing, Sonic would be dead"?

I mean SoA marketing kept games going into the Saturn era as well as keeping up aggressive marketing to keep him relevant during an uncertain time where he could have become just another odd IP at SEGA.

And even then marketing is plenty important to the campaign that kept Sonic selling astronomically going during the dark age. Games like Shadow, Heroes, and 06 don't sell into the millions without some smart campaigns. 

Hell even selling the Sonic X license to 4kids was a marketing move likely pushes by SoA because of their success with Pokemon and YugiOh. 

Because if sales didn't keep up during that tumultuous gen would we have even gotten costly games like Unleashed or Gens in a good time frame, especially after Yuji Naka left.

Granted, I put more responsibility on Izuka for keeping the franchise alive. But you dont convince other corporate heads without examples of profit. 

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