Sega May Be Looking to Profit Off Fans Further
About a week before the bomb dropped at Sega Sammy about Sega’s poor financial shape, we learned from a source who spoke to TSSZ on condition of anonymity of possibly serious changes the company may have in store for its flagship franchise. Again, that’s “may”…not “will.”
The source alleged that both Sonic Team and Sega are looking to better monetize Sonic well beyond the merchandise arrangements already in place, as part of what was said to be a potentially “massive” and “total” reboot that is allegedly still in the exploratory phase. We’ve bolded that last part to remind you that nothing we’re saying here is set in stone, and that it may be a least a year or two before any of this may pan out. While we have been told Sega and Sonic Team are “committed” to the reboot, to what extent that stretches is still being pitched. While several ideas are being floated around, what we’re about to explain is the alleged current frontrunner.
We’re told the core tenets of speed, platforming, and surreal environments will remain–as will Sonic and Dr. Eggman and the rivalry they share, though both characters may undergo a makeover. But as part of this possible reboot, anything and everything else is under review, says the source. That includes, at its core, the main supporting Sonic cast, even Tails, our source says. And while the idea of surreal environments would remain, a whole new universe for Sonic to do battle and new characters for him to befriend may be concocted, in effect destroying most canon that precedes the relaunch and wiping the slate nearly clean, according to our source. All the meanwhile, new gameplay methods and gimmicks are allegedly being fleshed out for Sonic to try.
Specifically, our source alleged the concept of “zones” may be revamped. In this possible reboot, zones would be massively expanded and become their own worlds, sort of speak. Within the zones, there would be individual levels masked as missions for Sonic to complete. The source most closely compared it to Electronic Arts’s Burnout Paradise, which is open-world and lacks a concrete, linear level structure. All of this would be enclosed in a new engine. Our source compared its next-gen capability to the likes of Unreal Engine 4, currently in development for the next crop of consoles, and Frostbite 2, used with EA’s Battlefield 3.
If this sounds like Sonic intends to take a turn back toward the serious and photorealistic, not to worry–our source assured that will not be the case, and injecting photo-realism is of no concern in this potential reboot. To be sure, Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka has said as much in recent interviews.
But there’s a catch, and it lies in that monetizing part. The source tells TSSZ that Sega and Sonic Team may aggressively pursue a collection model as part of the reboot. The source claimed the company intends to target the young audience bent on physical collectibles by perhaps going so far as to require physical emblems and collectibles to unlock special features in future Sonic series. An example would be to purchase a Knuckles statue in order to gain the echidna as a playable character in-game. The strategy could also be used to unlock extra levels.
If that sounds far-fetched, it’s not. In fact, it’s already been executed successfully. Our sourced pointed to Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure as a major source of Sega’s inspiration for this model. Released last year, Skylanders featured more than 30 playable characters, but only came with three out of the box as physical figurines, as did an interactive peripheral. Remaining characters had to be purchased in stores. When a character’s toy connects to the peripheral, which in turn connects to the console, that character unlocks in-game. Skylanders performed pretty well in its multiplatform debut, well enough that a sequel under the same model is planned for release later this year. With Sega’s recent commitment to expand its Sonic merchandise and the partners who make them, the backbone may already be there to support this kind of a strategy.
What’s more, Sega and Sonic Team have already tried this method out–albeit on a much smaller scale–and you may not quite realize it. If you remember the secret statue room in Sonic Generations, it was always Sega’s intent to release codes for that room through various promotions and merchandise. That in fact happened on a very limited basis in some territories despite fans mining the game and releasing all the codes online. If our source’s information holds, this strategy would be an extension of that.
Other possible revenue models our source discussed was for these physical toys and collectibles to have an interactive component with a new cartoon series, or to offer classic characters in-game straight up as DLC. But ultimately, Sega is looking to attract a new generation of fans, the source said. That would certainly explain why classic Sonic was touted as a one-time deal for Sonic Generations, but this information also indicates that modern Sonic, as we know him, is at risk as well.
To again be clear–we’re told this is all very early and exploratory. We’ve labeled this story as rumor for that reason. We are, in some respects, just as skeptical of some of the above as you may be, but we do at least want to tell you what we’ve learned. It’s not unreasonable to expect little else related to this for a least a year to eighteen months. Of course, for any of this to pan out, Sega as a company still has to exist by 2014. Keep in mind we learned of it just a few days before the full scope of Sega’s financial troubles was known, and there certainly are a few components above that may become necessities for Sega to survive as a business. Anything more we learn will be passed along.