In 1985, Nintendo delivered what would be hailed as one of the greatest, most legendary video games of all time — Super Mario Bros. With that, they launched the Famicom/NES and they became the new kingpins of the industry. Many tried to challenge Nintendo’s position, but they were all shot down by Mario’s growing success, along with Nintendo’s stream of the early days of their now legendary franchises. Even so, while they were large, they weren\’t invincible, for a certain blue-colored company caught notice of Nintendo’s new found success and they were determined to take the fight to them head-on. This company was none another than the (also-Japanese based) SEGA.
SEGA had already made a name for themselves in the industry, but unlike Nintendo, they didn\’t have a widely recognized mascot. At that time, Alex Kidd was the face of SEGA, but not too long after Mario became the entire face of gaming, SEGA realized they needed something new and daring to take on the Italian plumber. So, in 1991, SEGA’s new child was formally introduced to the world on their new home console, which was fittingly named the SEGA Genesis. Sonic the Hedgehog made his debut, and rocketed across the screens of millions of gamers. His edgy, anti-hero attitude won over the crowd, offering an added flare that wasn\’t there before, not even in the worlds of Mario and Co. Nintendo finally had themselves a worthy adversary, and thus, the battle had begun.
During the 90s, it was the War of Red and Blue that ruled the gaming industry. Buzz-terms like \”blast processing\” and \”Genesis Does What Nintendon\’t\” took over TV stations, and the \’fanboys\’ of the time had at it in comic shops and gaming stores. With every new game and console release, the battle raged on. Both Nintendo and SEGA were enjoying their golden years and when it came down to Sonic and Mario titles, they were in a class all their own. But as time went on, and the industry began to transform, things between the two juggernauts also changed.
As the industry moved towards the beginning of the 3D-era in the mid 90s, Nintendo was able to adapt quickly with the Nintendo 64 and its myriad of critically acclaimed titles. SEGA on the other hand, was having a bit of trouble, jumping from idea to idea, and none catching fire. In 1998, however, to release their (last) home console, the Dreamcast, SEGA delivered Sonic’s first \”true\” 3D title — Sonic Adventure; a game which is hailed by many Sonic fans as being one of the best (and sometimes the best) Sonic titles ever created. Sonic’s popularity once again soared, and he brought a firefight to Nintendo’s doorstep. With its 2001 sequel, Sonic Adventure 2, SEGA once again was given a standing ovation. However, these successes weren\’t enough to keep SEGA’s console business afloat, and only but a few years after its release, the Dreamcast was discontinued. Homeless, Sonic now needed to find a new home. In 2003, that home was found.
When it was announced, gamers thought it was a cruel joke. They thought that what was supposed to be complete taboo, was now being done. Sonic found a new home, and in the most unlikeliest of places — the Gamecube, Nintendo’s 6th-gen home console and competitor of the Dreamcast before its demise. In 2003, SEGA released the first ever Sonic game to be released on a non-SEGA console — Sonic Adventure 2: Battle — an enhanced port of the original Dreamcast version. The game’s success carried over to the Gamecube quite nicely despite the controversy between the fanbases, and thus, a new era for Sonic was born. Subsequently, new Sonic titles soon became multiplatform releases, however, as time passed, several post-Dreamcast Sonic titles found themselves being exclusive to Nintendo systems. What gamers of the 90s would have thought as being nothing more than a bad joke, became a reality. Sonic was on Nintendo platforms, and he was actually doing quite well.
Now, wasn\’t that an interesting history lesson?
We\’ve basically caught up to the present at this point. Sonic has been on multiple platforms for about 12 years and now, he’s once again entering a new era. SEGA recently announced that they\’d be restructuring the company, after dismal sales reports. With that, they plan to move away from consoles entirely and instead, focus on mobile devices and PC, and they\’re carrying Sonic and Co. along with them. In this startling turn of events, it has led me to write this article. Now that we\’ve gone through a brief trip down memory lane, I pose the question to you:
Should Nintendo buy the Sonic the Hedgehog IP?
To some, an idea like that sounds incredibly far-fetched, but I digress. Now mind you, had anyone asked this question 20 years ago, they would probably be checked into a mental ward, but now, things have changed. We\’ve already grown accustomed to Sonic games on different platforms, but as already stated, he’s been mostly found on Nintendo platforms. The reason? Well, even though Sonic was created to challenge Mario, they\’re both two birds of a feather, or maybe even two sides of the same coin. They\’re both platformers — only one is focused on precise jumping and light puzzle-solving, while the other is about running from point A-to-B as quickly as possible. Not to mention that the overall aesthetics are also similar between the two; the look and feel of Mario and Sonic games are quite reminiscent, especially in Sonic’s more recent titles where cues were not-so-subtly taken from Nintendo’s gems.
Ever since he became a third-party character, Sonic has fit better on Nintendo platforms more-so than what he’s had in the world of XBOX and PlayStation. That’s because he fits in perfectly with Nintendo’s image, rather than the more \”mature\” styling of popular titles that are found on the other aforementioned brands. That’s why Sonic games have proven to have sold better on Nintendo’s platforms throughout the years, and why SEGA went ahead and released so many exclusives. In fact, any uninformed gamer might have even thought at one point that Sonic was a Nintendo character.
With that said, let’s go back to SEGA’s current situation.
Once again, they find themselves at a crossroad. Like before, they\’ve made some grave mistakes and it has literally cost them, as they once again have to make a massive shift in order to keep their heads above water. With their new plans to now leave the console business entirely, it’s no wonder why so many Sonic fans are upset. Their beloved character who used to be a platforming hero looks to now become another mobile-game fad like Temple Run, Angry Birds, among so many others. With this, there’s no telling whether or not SEGA’s new ideas will keep them going for the next couple of years, as the likelihood of them finally calling \”Cut!\” is now looking to become more and more of a reality, and sooner than later if I may add. Should that be the case, what is to happen to their treasure trove of IPs, and more importantly, to the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise?
No doubt, their IPs, including Sonic, would go up for sale should this happen. However, the issue is, can Sonic’s new owner take care of him properly? This is why I think Nintendo should take him in, now as their own. Under SEGA, Sonic has found success on Nintendo’s platforms, more-so than any other. Nintendo as a whole, is an ecosystem of legendary franchises and masterful developers. The amount of polish that they put into their top-tier games is unmatched, and its no wonder why so many of their longtime IPs are still quite relevant even today, and with myriads of reviews all giving them high scores.
Under the wing of Nintendo, I\’m sure the folks over at EAD (the same team responsible for titles like the Super Mario Galaxy series) would be able to create a Sonic game at a level just as good, if not better, than what Sonic was achieving in his golden years. No doubt, it would be a little different from making a Mario title, but they have already proven themselves more than capable of creating great games. Not to mention that there are many other studios under Nintendo that could handle the project as well. Just thinking of a Nintendo-made Sonic game puts a smile on my face, as that’s exactly the kind of treatment Sonic needs at this point in his life.
One must say that he’s one lucky bastard. After falling so low , it’s hard to believe that he’s still even relevant. While the Sonic fan community is a volatile and controversial bunch, there’s no denying that they have a die-hard loyalty to the franchise, and still get a rush of excitement with each announcement of a new game, even in the wake of the 2006 disaster. In the hands of Nintendo, the fan community would more than likely be able to not only be excited about a new title, but be excited and confident that this new title will be more than its money’s worth. SEGA has done a great deal of damage to the brand, but with some good ol\’ TLC, Nintendo could very well rekindle the flame of potential that the Sonic franchise still has locked away.
Certainly, this is all but a fan’s fantasy right now. SEGA has yet to file for bankruptcy and Nintendo is immersed in their own world. Even should SEGA go under tomorrow, there’s no guarantee that Nintendo would be the one to pick up the Sonic IP — as it could very well go to another entity. However, should the time come, the end result of Nintendo buying the Sonic IP and making a new game would sure to be — as the blue hedgehog himself once said — \”way past cool!\”