My Open Letter of Loving Advice to Sega
Recently I saw on twitter that Sega was asking its fans to fill out a online survey to help them figure out what they need to do next for the company. That or it’s a long list of tick boxes just to take our e-mail address and sell it on to third parties. Well I got half way through the survey where I had typed a long page essay of why I wanted another sexy Altered Beast arcade game only to realize, “you know what? I’m going to write a letter instead!” So here it is folks, my open letter to Sega on some loving advice – from the heart – to get them back on track:
I feel times must be getting little hard for you. It’s been over fifteen years now since you left the console business and it seems as the years progress you appear to be having more success marketing merchandise from the past as opposed to focusing on new projects for the future. This period hasn’t been all bad though. During these fifteen years we have seen you make friends with Nintendo to the extent you have actually allowed Sonic to appear in a video game series with Mario and done quite well from that. We have also seen several Sega games be released to Nintendo consoles. The young boy I was in the nineties would never have believed this truce would happen. You have also published some incredible video games such as Condemned: Criminal Origins, Vanquish, and Bayonetta. Now I understand these I.Ps did not sell well but they are all original ideas which will stand the test of time and though didn’t get the recognition they deserved on launch certainly have a fan base today. Of course it has not all gone well. Aliens: Colonial Marines while in my opinion not a terrible game by any stretch certainly had a lot of bad publicity behind it which certainly didn’t help your reputation. But you made up for it (and the Alien franchise) by allowing Creative Assembly to create the fantastic Alien: Isolation, a game that I could not praise enough from a design prospective. It may not be a game for the mass market but it is original and frankly one of the best AAA games I have played for some time.
Let’s talk about Sonic, shall we? Once again you deserve to be commended on always trying to do something new with Sonic. This is what I like about your company, trying something new and not sticking to the same formula. The problem is this clearly isn’t working. The harsh reality is Sonic now has far more titles that are perceived as low quality as opposed ones that are critically acclaimed. The worse part is when you do release a good title such as Sonic Generations it tends to get overshadowed by the severe negative history of prior games and therefore doesn’t get the attention it deserves. This is where I suggest something that might seem a little crazy: stick to what works. My biggest recommendation for Sonic moving forward is to head back to its roots on the Mega Drive/Genesis and make a very simple low budget title that mirrors the feel of Sonic 2. You may argue you tried this with the downloadable Sonic 4 but if you really look at that game it still tries to add modern elements to it and ignores what made the originals so fun. Stick to the formula, have eight stages with two acts per stage, make those levels colourful and have awesome groovy nineties names like Volcano Metal Zone. Have some sort of collect fifty rings bonus where you enter a special stage at a checkpoint and go for a emerald. Have Super Sonic playable if you collect all the emeralds. Make the game 2D, none of this 3D on a 2D plain rubbish, just 2D. Most importantly don’t let Sonic talk, ever. No seriously I want his mouth zipped shut, in fact I want no cutscenes in a Sonic game. Just give me the thumbs up pose when I finish the game. The best part of Sonic Generations by far was the fact the original Sonic (and best) kept his mouth shut. If you want to something a little different then here it is. Allow a second player to control Tails like in the old days, only this time rather than have him fly in when Sonic zips off ahead allow split screen so the second player can catch up themselves. If they really want to zip back to Sonic allow a simple button press to transport them back to Sonic to help with a boss or a difficult area. Why would this be awesome? Because it allows two players to both co operate and compete in the same game. You can race toward the end (the best thing about Sonic 2′s overlooked competitive mode), but for those that want to help each other you can stick together. This is a winning formula for all types of gamers. Make this Sonic game and see how well it sells. Then once that has brought success repeat this formula every year. Yes, every year until the buzz wears off. You don’t need to spend a lot of money and you can keep it as a downloadable game as well. I also understand that you probably would rather market Sonic to the younger audience. Here’s the thing though the new generation of young gamers still prefer to old Sonic games on the Mega Drive than the modern 3D attempts. Sonic can be great again, so why not stick to what works?
Let’s move on. It’s time for a little reality check Sega. In the nineties you where riding the waves of sun glasses clichés and fan art of Sonic literally murdering Mario in magazines. What you need to realize is that a lot of those younglings that loved you are now grown up and a small percentage are actually making games for a living. May I suggest you find the people that have that passion and allow them to go rampant with some of your I.Ps (including Sonic)? Would it really hurt your reputation to have a indie developer make a Kid Chameleon sequel? A passionate indie developer who loves this game will go absolutely nuts with the current development technology. I understand you worry that you want to hold on and protect the past, but at this stage really what is the worst that could happen. We’re not talking big budget here I’m talking small. So no crazy expensive 3D games, just cute colourful games with small development budgets. Why not bring back Altered Beast? I would love to see another 2D site scrolling sexy brawler. I want to have the “power up” slogan come back. I want to see ridiculously muscular men (and put women in to this time) literally exploding out there clothes with their bulging muscles. I want to turn into new animals like Gorilla and a land Shark. There are several other forgotten gems that would be interesting to see indie developers work on such as Ecco the Dolphin series, maybe bring back Fatal Labyrinth, Flicky, a new Story of Thor (Beyond Oasis in the US)? There are a lot of forgotten I.Ps. Why not cross some of the game series over like Alex Kidd in Shinobi World? Nothing wrong with having a bit of fun like these games originally were. Lets have more smaller titles and less money poured into AAA games. Also while we are here we want these games on the PC, consoles, and portables. We don’t want mobile titles. The mobile market is over saturated and no one wants another stupid endless runner or match three game. Unless your going to make a good quality game I want you avoid this platform entirely. Remember quality doesn’t mean spending a lot of money. Get a passionate development team that cares about the project and you’ll be fine.
Well there you have it. Just a few suggestions on how to get you back on track. It does sound like your new friendship with Atlus is probably helping. I’m not expecting another console from you guys but it would be pretty great if you released some new games.
You have the power, have a nice day.