1UP.com: “Put Sonic Back on the Shelf”

1UP.com: “Put Sonic Back on the Shelf”

by May 6, 2010

Part of Theory to Save Sega from Major Resource

Though the ownership of 1UP.com recently changed hands from Ziff Davis to Hearst–with a lot of jobs and regular content that made the site special lost in the process–it remains one of the driving Internet forces in the gaming industry.

For Sonic and Sega fans, that’s likely why a de facto dissertation on how to save the company, published today with the assistance and input of 1UP staff, raised some eyebrows.

“The gamers most likely to be drawn to (classic Sega titles) are the ones who are already sticking with Sega through thick and thin, who snap up releases like MadWorld and Yakuza on day one,” the article states, “And as the numbers prove, that’s a painfully small audience.”

The point was made by 1UP staff as part of a push for Sega to make efficient use of its vast IP library, mostly from the classic/retro era, as a way to raise company profile.

In some ways, there is one glaring example of that theory in practice: the constant re-issues of old Sonic titles occurring while a new Sonic is released every year or two.  But 1UP staff believes that has to stop.  As part of its section detailing the need for respect among Sega games and fans, the article states:

If Nintendo is the gold standard by which classic franchises are judged, and Mario is the shining example of what Sonic could be, it’s easy to see where Sega has gone astray. Mario games rarely make a misstep, and it seems that every stumble simply makes his creators more determined to ensure his next outing gets it right. When Mario Galaxy 2 arrives later this month, it will be just the fourth “core” Mario game since the series went 3D in 1996 (accompanied by a pair of New Super Mario Bros. titles in 2D). Sonic, on the other hand, has starred in nearly twice as many 3D platformers and three times as many side-scrollers in that same amount of time — few if any of which have been worth playing since Sonic Adventure back in 1999.

It goes further than that.  Acknowledging that Sonic is Sega’s bread winner, staffers suggested an array of options to steer the franchise going forward.  1UP Editor Frank Cifaldi suggests Sega of Japan should cede control of Sonic, and hand it off to a “young studio.”  Another editor, Scott Sharkey, takes it to the next level, saying Sonic should be left alone for a few years.

“Honestly, I’d put Sonic back on the shelf for two or three years, and shoot the fingers off anyone who went reaching for it,” Sharkey said.

“Sega should bring back a game in one of their treasured franchises and just take their time with it,” added editor Ray Barnholt.  “They’ve allied with Nintendo on multiple occasions now, yet they haven’t really picked up on the way they make great games. Crappy Sonic titles are the big example, but I think it’s even more of a letdown to gamers when something relatively smaller like Golden Axe is made into a cash-in that isn’t any better than the old games used to be.”

If all else fails, the article concludes Sega’s recent re-organization is the best course of action.  1UP staff acknowledge a stream of Sonic titles alone can’t save the company.  There were also strong calls to release Sonic Team’s ChuChu Rocket to current generation platforms.

This is far from the first time the gaming press have been hard on Sega and Sonic specifically.  GiantBomb’s Best of 2008 awards awarded the Sonic franchise its “Take a Break” award.  Yahoo! Games placed Sonic among its five “franchises to put to rest” around the same time.  The Escapist’s Zero Punctuation gave Sonic Unleashed its “Turd in a Turd” award not long after that.  And if we hyperlinked to all the stories of IGN criticism, we would have carpal tunnel syndrome.

To be clear, this is independent theory, and though it joins a chorus of criticism, it will likely have no bearing on Sega’s future plans.  Still, we’d like to know your thoughts.  Does Sega need to re-think its structuring, and lay off on Sonic titles old and new for a bit?  Tell us your thoughts in the comments area.