2021 sees the 30th anniversary of one of the original, and most enduring, console game characters of them all; Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic was originally released on 23rd June 199, and as you would expect from the endless ball of energy, he is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. If anything, the little blue ball of fur is getting bigger all the time, with live-action movies, new games and much more planned as he enters his fourth decade.
The great games rivalry
Sonic was originally designed by Sega creator Naoto Ohshima to take on Nintendo’s crazy Italian Plumber, Mario, who was dominating the video games industry at the time. It took a little time to get the character right, losing sharp spikes, fangs and even a girlfriend called Madonna along the way, but the finished result was an instant hit, selling 15million copies and, more importantly, giving Sega the edge over Nintendo. Ironically, when Sega stopped making consoles in 2001, those rivals, Sonic and Mario, ended up teaming up on Nintendo consoles in games like Mario & Sonic and Super Smash Bros.
The secret is simplicity
The draw of Sonic has always been the simplicity of the game play, as he runs around collecting rings and taking on Dr Robotnik. Even when Sonic 2 blended the game with online casinos in the Casino Night Zone, you didn’t need to develop the subtle skills of games like poker to win. With no complex plot to follow and few characters to keep track of, Sonic offers a simple, fun escape for gamers.
Sonic easily outran Mario’s go-kart by sponsoring Williams F1 team
Over the years, Sonic has racked up worldwide success as one of the best known video game characters of all. It is estimated that the games have been bought or downloaded over a billion times, generating over $6billion in revenue for Sega. Sonic is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the Fastest Game Character, and his need for speed reached new heights in 1993 when Sonic sponsored the Williams Formula 1 team. That same year, his dominance of the games market was established beyond doubt when he became the first gaming character to have a balloon in the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York.
Sonic at the movies
Game to movie crossovers have a notoriously shaky history. Super Mario’s embarrassing 1993 outing, starring Bob Hoskins, made just $20m of its $48m budget back and made no new fans in the process. Game-led movies have often struggled at the box office as dedicated gamers become frustrated at not being able to control the action as they would when playing, yet Sonic even managed to be successful on the big screen, with the first live-action adventure, starring Jim Carrey, James Marsden and the voice of Ben Schwartz. Despite several months delay in the release, as the team had to rework the look of Sonic after a backlash from fans who saw the early trailers, it went on to make $320m from an $85m budget as the sixth highest grossing movie of 2020. A sequel, featuring the original cast plus Idris Elba as the voice of Knuckles, is due for release in April 2022.
Sonic’s 30th anniversary
To celebrate Sonic’s 30th anniversary, Sega created a dedicated website and are releasing a whole raft of new games, including Sonic Colours Ultimate, Sonic Dash and Sonic Origins. The company also arranged an orchestral concert, Sonic the Hedgehog 30th Anniversary Symphony, featuring music from the games down the years. And there are even more ambitious plans for the future. Under the banner of ‘Sonic Everywhere’, the company plans to raise Sonic’s profile even higher, so that there ‘will not be a day when the world does not see Sonic’. So, if you are a fan of the fantastically fast hedgehog, watch this space!