History of Sonic The Hedgehog (Part 1) – Gaming Historian


Hey you mascots help identify companies they’re supposed to bring luck and can be used as fictional spokespeople for example Microsoft has Master Chief Nintendo as mario and sony has sac boy this was the idea even back in the 80s in Tendo still had mario NEC had bonk and sega had Alex Kidd or maybe oppa oppa that is until 1991 when Sega released one of the most influential games of the 90s Sonic the Hedgehog before Sonic Nintendo pretty much ruled the entire video game market but after Sonic the Hedgehog came out suddenly the genesis was the system to own I mean I even had friends that were afraid to admit they owned a Super Nintendo over a Sega Genesis Sonic was the new speedy guy with a lot of attitude Mario was old news for little kids this was exactly what Sega was going for when they created Sonic a new mascot to represent Sega that would challenge the Mario juggernaut in this multi-part episode of the gaming historian we’re going to take a look at the complete history of one of the most iconic figures in the videogame industry Sonic the Hedgehog the year is 1989 and Sega has released the Genesis or the Mega Drive in the United States the console was released a year earlier in Japan but lagged behind the Nintendo and even the turbo graphics Sega clearly had the more powerful machine but was running out of ideas to market besides some advertising such as the Genesis does what nintendon’t adds company president Hayao Nakayama wanted Sega to have an identity with a mascot Disney had Mickey Mouse and Nintendo had Mario so why not give Sega a character Nakayama held a company-wide search for a new mascot over 200 ideas were submitted including a kangaroo an armadillo and a bear some of these original ideas would later become characters for example one idea was turning to the sonic character mighty the armadillo another sketch of a Theodore Roosevelt character turned into dr. Robotnik even a concept of a rabbit who grabbed things with his ears evolved into the game ristar but Naoto Ashima a graphic designer for sega submitted this drawing from a napkin named mr. needle mouse Oshima created this Hedgehog character because he wanted to make a game that was fast and hedgehogs were known to be fast creatures did you know hedgehogs can run up to 6 miles per hour not bad he pitched the idea to the company who teamed him up with a programmer named Yuji naka this was a match made in heaven as Yuji naka had an obsession with speed mister needle mouse was renamed Sonic after the term supersonic which means anything over the speed of sound and with other employees they formed Sonic Team so how did Oshima go from mister needle mouse to sonic we know of today well the first change was pretty simple because all I did was change Sonic’s color to blue to match Sega logo another change was also pretty interesting now at the time Michael Jackson was huge extremely popular Oshima loved Michael Jackson’s boots with the belts on them Mishima took this idea and inspired by Santa Claus changed the color to red but that’s not all apparently Sonic’s quick attitude is inspired by Bill Clinton’s get-it-done attitude in politics with Yuji naka programming in hero Kazuya Sahara designed the levels with steep cliffs Hills jumps and loops Sonic the Hedgehog was almost ready to be released naka wanted to make it similar to Mario since it was so popular Mario collected coins so Sonic collected gold rings Mario used two buttons Sonic used one button Mario was a friendly slow-paced side scroller Sonic was an extremely fast game with attitude and fast it was the game even put some racing titles to shame if you didn’t control Sonic he would tap his foot impatiently however Sega was worried about how Americans would view Sonic for one he had a very Japanese anime look which never seemed to be popular in the United States second he was a hedgehog most Americans didn’t even know what a hedgehog was mainly because they aren’t native to the United States sonic team went back to a to American audiences with some changes such as putting sonic in a rock band giving him fangs and giving him a human girlfriend named Madonna and no I’m not kidding with the new changes Sonic the Hedgehog was pitched to Sega of America Madeline Schroeder sometimes known as the mother of Sonic was in charge of going over the idea Schroeder decided to soften sonic up by removing his fangs removing the rock band and removing Madonna she also had Sega of America redraw the character for a more American look when the changes were shipped back to Japan sonic team was a little miffed nevertheless if this was what had to be done to sell the game they accepted it after some final touches such as adjusting the speed of the game and adding a soundtrack done by Masato Nakamura of the band dreams come true Sonic the Hedgehog was released on June 23rd 1991 in North America and Europe the game was a huge success but only put a dent in the video game market Sega needed to find a way to take down the dominance of Nintendo Entertainment Ski the president of Sega of America kolinsky had previously worked for Mattel where he helped make the Barbie toy line extremely profitable after serving as president of Mattel for three years he joined Sega of America kolinsky had four main ideas one dropped the price of the Genesis from 199 dollars to 149 dollars to set up game development in America to make games for American audiences three develop a new advertising campaign to attack Nintendo and four bundle the Sega Genesis with Sonic the Hedgehog instead of altered beast Koen ski believed in the razor and blades business model now this is also known as freebie marketing now the idea behind freebie marketing is basically you take a product you sell it for a very low price or even and give it away and in turn another product will increase revenue in kolinsky case he wanted to sell second Genesis for an extremely low price with a free game this would cause more Sega Genesis to be in American households and thus software sales would increase kolinsky pitched his idea to Nakayama in the board members of Sega they thought kolinsky was insane he wanted to lower the price of the console to reduce profit and bundle it with Sega’s number-one selling game nevertheless Nakayama felt that if kolinsky thought it was a good idea then it would work the new plan was approved in time for the holiday season and by 1992 Sidda had a slight edge over Nintendo and Sonic the Hedgehog had become a hit but this was only the beginning for Sega you

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