As one of the most iconic video game mascots of all time, Sonic the Hedgehog has enjoyed a long and illustrious career in video games, spanning over 30 years. With so many beloved titles under his belt from the Mega Drive all the way to current gen consoles, the blue blur shows no signs of slowing down, with two new games on the horizon, a hit animated series and even plans for a Hollywood film. That's not to mention the fact that his Mega Drive classics are currently enjoying a second life on mobile devices, as millions of fans around the globe relive where it all started. To find out more about what 2017 holds for the supercharged hero, we sat down with Jason Rice, head of brand licensing at SEGA Europe to talk all things Sonic.
Tell us about Sonic Mania. What licensing opportunities could this new game bring to the table?
Jason Rice: There is so much anticipation for Sonic Mania particularly from the game’s core fans. It’s a completely new 2D adventure with stunning HD retro style graphics. The game mixes classic fan favourite levels with new designs, new gameplay and music as well as many other surprises. We’re keeping the associated merchandise for Sonic Mania very focused and that’s a strategic decision to allow us to offer fans a small and authentic range of limited edition product. This includes a selection of T-shirts on Amazon and a range of soft lines from Forbidden Planet and Game Stop.
Tell us about Sonic Forces. What opportunities will this bring?
Rice: Sonic Forces promises to be something really special for everyone from the casual gamer to the Sonic superfan. Early reaction to the teaser trailers and hands-on gameplay events at trade shows such as E3 have been really encouraging. Sonic Forces will allow you to play as both Classic and Modern Sonic as well as a customisable Hero Character equipped with a wealth of gadgets and unlockable items. All of our partners are set to benefit from Forces as we support the release with a heavyweight marketing programme. The majority of our future releases will be AAA multi-platform titles available on next generation consoles as well as PC and all supported by robust above the line activity. In addition, we are making available game-specific artwork, mini style guides and assets to our licensees to support the development of limited merchandise programmes.
With the Sonic Boom series now in its second season, how has the reception been to this series?
Rice: You don’t have to look too hard to see what kind of reception the series has had. We have a raft of major global broadcasters committed to seasons one and two across Pay, Free to Air and VOD platforms including Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Nickelodeon, and more recently a global deal with Netflix. Then we have the ever-growing list of awards. In fact, Sonic Boom now holds over 30 global awards and nominations, so we are delighted with the show and the success it has had to date.
Sonic is a brand in the truest sense of the word – gaming, animation, merchandise, fashion, movie, live events, branded locations and more.
Jason Rice, SEGA
A Sonic the Hedgehog movie has been confirmed as in the works. What can you tell us about this project?
Rice: We are making a hybrid CG/live-action family film but as with every major release, we are keeping our cards close to our chest whilst we finalise our plans around merchandise and marketing, so you will just have to be patient and look out for updates in the near future. The new Sonic movie is already set to be one of the biggest events in the history of the Sonic franchise.
Why do you believe the Sonic character has remained so popular over such a long stretch of time?
Rice: Sonic is arguably one of the most iconic video game characters ever and the commercial and critical success he has received over the past 26 years is a testament to this. Way before my time at Sega but I think it's fair to say that no one at the time of its launch in the early 90’s will have foreseen the unprecedented global success that the Sonic brand has enjoyed and not just within the gaming world. Sonic is a brand in the truest sense of the word – gaming, animation, merchandise, fashion, movie, live events, branded locations and more. The question of why there is such love for a blue hedgehog probably does stem from the roots of those original games, particularly the blistering pace which certainly set it apart from anything else at that time but you have to look at the whole package. Sonic himself, aside from being the fastest Hedgehog on two legs, is incredibly aspirational. He’s cool, witty and full of attitude and then there’s the iconic music and the vibrant visuals which have accompanied him throughout his adventures.