Right up there with the cast of Disney Infinity, Sonic the Hedgehog has been an iconic, family friendly figure for a long time. The bright blue character has been around for over 20 years, with his speedy running and coin collecting having captivated both adults and children during that time. That universal appeal is likely why Sega has wheeled Sonic and his friends out in over two dozen games.
But Sonic‘s appeal is waning. Sega has never really been able to replicate the same success of the original Sonic game, Sonic the Hedgehog, which sold 15 million copies. Not even Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games was able to do the trick as that sold just over 11 million copies on Wii and DS. While some have pointed the finger at Sega’s partnership with Nintendo (all of the recent Sonic games have been released on Nintendo consoles only), others suspect that it’s just due to market saturation.
These factors could certainly be the reason why Sonic Boom performed so badly. It was revealed today in Sega’s latest financials that the Sonic Boom games – which were released in November as Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric on Wii U and as Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal on 3DS – have only managed to sell 490,000 copies between them. And, due to the ambiguity in Sega’s report, that figure could include shipped units of the game, meaning that a good deal of those 490,000 copies may actually be sitting on retailer shelves rather than in the hands of consumers.
In addition to the aforementioned problems, Sonic Boom also suffered because of various bugs and glitches. As one of the many games that were criticized last year for being technically broken (including Assassin’s Creed Unity and Driveclub), one of Sonic Boom‘s bugs actually allowed players to skip a majority of the game and complete the entire thing in under an hour. It wasn’t a particularly tricky exploit either – all players had to do was pause the game as Knuckles reset his double jump ability, allowing players to jump infinitely through the game when they resumed play.
Some have also compared Sonic Boom‘s poor performance to Sonic Lost World, which was released in October 2013 for Wii U and 3DS and had sold 710,000 copies by March 2014. The comparison is slightly unfair when you consider that Sonic Lost World racked up those sales over a course of five months, whereas Sega’s financials ended on December 31st and so only represented a month of Sonic Boom sales. However, considering that Sonic Boom had a massive marketing push behind it, including an animated TV show and a line of toys, the game should have sold miles better than its predecessor.
So what can be done to fix Sonic‘s on-going troubles? Many fans are suggesting (and hoping) that the series goes on a much needed hiatus. Continuously pumping out more Sonic games is only going to make sales deteriorate even further; something which could kill the franchise off and make Sega’s existing money troubles even worse. Sega could look at other franchises in the company, such as Alien: Isolation, as a good example of what to do. Aliens: Colonial Marines didn’t live up to many critic and fan expectations, but a break and a fresh attempt at doing right by players has helped put the series back on track and the latest game has sold and reviewed well because of it.
What actions do you think Sega should take? Does Sonic just need to slow down and take a break?