by KERRY TINGA
Sonic did not need to be redesigned. Instead, he should have been retired.
As indie video game developer Dan Marshall put it in a tweet: “Now all you have to worry about in the upcoming Sonic movie is *literally everything else*”
When the first live-action Sonic the Hedgehog trailer premiered earlier this year, people were horrified by the animation and Sonic’s appearance, so much so that Paramount Pictures postponed the release date for several months so that the production team could redesign the iconic hedgehog. The new trailer was released earlier this week to greater fanfare, but is that enough?
For all the social media posts and shares talking about the new Sonic glow-up, I am still not convinced about it, and I do not think any of us should be. At the end of the day, it is still another franchise in a saturated market that arguably diverts resources from creative content development of new, innovative ideas. While kids may still recognize Sonic, they do not engage with it because it has been overexposed.
After a major profit drop of 70 percent in its 2018 earnings, Sega, the Japanese game developer of the Sonic franchise, announced it would focus on the development of existing intellectual property while avoiding producing too many new product lines.
That meant that, for 2019, a lot of the products coming out of Sega involved additional games in development for tried and tested franchises like Yakuza and Valkyria Chronicles. Even their “new” products simply banked on late ‘80s to early ‘90s nostalgia, the last era when Sega was considered successful.
They have a point. Nostalgia does sell. Its retro mini console, the Sega Genesis Mini, was extremely well received by tech and video game buffs. But while nostalgia can do well to push and sell a product, it is another thing all together for it to push and sell a company, particularly one that is leveraging on its glory days.
The difference between the video games of the ‘80s and the video games of today, other than the obvious design and technical advancements, is the environment they are released into: Gaming is now mainstream.
When we talk about gaming today, we could be talking about the $68-billion-dollar mobile gaming industry that most everybody with a smart device, whether it is a child or their father playing something mindlessly in the elevator, engages with. Or we could be talking about the fast-growing e-sports industry, with the League of Legends World Finals tournament boasting multi-million-dollar deal sponsorships with firms such as Mastercard and OPPO. The most subscribed YouTuber in the world is Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, who rose to fame with his Let’s Play videos.
We could very well call this the Renaissance Age of all things gaming, which is why a 28-year-old mascot just does not cut it. I am sorry to say it, but Sonic is a Millennial when the conversation has already moved on to Generation Z.
Sonic had an awkward transition to the mobile with the clunky Sonic Forces, while other franchises, like Pokémon, looked at the nuances of the new medium and advancements of technology to maintain their competitive advantage. The money-raking, global mania Pokémon Go felt new when it came out and reached such a broad audience, beyond just the typical “gamer.”
As a consumer, I look for the new, the bold, and the different.
Sonic and its mediocre franchise games are now a joke of its spunky and swift characterization, best represented by the already old “Sanic” memes of early Internet. I suspect that what we have to look forward to (a mere expression, I am not looking forward to it) with Sonic the Hedgehog is a live-action film that is irrelevant at best.
A short note on the new column name: I now bring you Your Girl Friday, re-named for the obvious reason that this comes out on Fridays, but also as an homage to one of my favorite films that happens to be about a female journalist, the screwball comedy His Girl Friday.
Your Girl Friday is a weekly youth column that discusses prevalent social issues and current events through a Generation Z perspective in the opinion of the author. Kerry Tinga is a feminist and a contributing writer for Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. She is based in Metro Manila and can be found teaching at Meridian International (MINT) College.