Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sega Issue: Suggestions and Miscommunication

https://www.forbes.com/sites/donaldwoodjr/2017/05/02/justin-roberts-ignored-attempts-to-help-wwe-is-sign-of-bigger-problem/#33656ac039c9

https://www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/2017/05/19/sega-of-japan-unveils-its-amazing-sega-branding-but-it-needs-awesome-new-games-to-back-that-up/#540da2351a40 

These 2 above links don't necessarily belong in the same blog post, do they? Well, I kindly suggest to think again about that because I am going to dedicate this blog post by comparing these 2 linked articles, and I will draw the conclusion (my opinion only) that these 2 stories actually mirror each other in some way.

I generally want to support a company like Sega. I really do. It's not my intention to come up here on my gaming blog and downgrade what Sega does. It's up to the blog reader to decide where I'm going with what I'm implying. I've been very vocal about how I feel Sega has poorly handled their flagship game franchise Sonic the Hedgehog, and if you look deep enough you will know that there is plenty of evidence that supports this feeling of mine. I'm not the only one who feels this way about Sega.

Now Link #1 describes what one former employee of WWE (professional wrestling) felt about his time there. This guy was a ring announcer who would genuinely pick up on what wrestling fans were feeling at the time, and he would try his best to pitch suggestions to the Creative Team of WWE in hopes of getting them to see what the fans were seeing in the wrestling product. Of course, as it turned out for this guy, he was ignored 99% of the time. This article goes on to explain why issues such as this represent a sign of a bigger problem for the WWE as a whole.

Now if you're a pro wrestling fan and you've seen the ups and downs of the term "sports entertainment", you would know where I would be going with this. The WWE is clearly nowhere near the level of relevance it once was when it comes to mainstream appeal. Remember the late 1990's and early 2000's when so many people, who weren't even huge wrestling fans, would be buzzing about something that happened on WWE programming? A big part of the WWE's main problem is a combination of the following;
  • The WWE has become too commercialized and politically correct over the last 10 years.
  • The "creativity" in the WWE's Creative Team is non-existent at this point.
  • The WWE is trying too hard to appeal to everyone while pleasing hardly anyone.
  • The WWE is abusing its advantage as a possible monopoly on the wrestling business.
Keep an imaginary tab on this part as we now go to Link #2.



Link #2 describes the latest marketing strategy that Sega is attempting to implement, as in rebranding itself as "Amazing", and according to recent reports it's likely that "Sega Forever" is actually a real thing on the internet, which is basically an updated version of the old Sega Channel. The article notes that the President of Sega went on record to say that gaming quality is important. The article ultimately draws the conclusion that Sega needs to have a solid lineup of awesome games if it wants to back up its "Amazing" new brand claim.

I find it funny in one sense that the President of Sega said that gaming quality is important because it leads me to wonder how often, if at all, he keeps track of what's going on with franchises like Sonic the Hedgehog. If he doesn't keep good track of Sonic's recent history, then he must allow Sonic Team to have more free reign with the franchise than what we were led on to believe.

Gaming quality is important. That's a claim made by a company official. Will that claim become a reality? Will gaming quality continue to go up for Sega? We don't know that for sure. Many gamers who are still burnt out from what happened to the Phantasy Star Online franchise may beg to differ with this claim, especially the PSO fans located in North America.

Do Sega and Sonic Team listen to their fans?

That's a hard question to answer simply because there are many layers of this issue that you need cut through first.


Are fan requests sometimes misguided?

All fan bases, no matter what video game franchise they devote their time to, are going to have their fair share of bad apples, so to speak. It's bound to happen. The Sonic Fan Base gets a bad wrap in this case. There are so many things going on with the Sonic Fan Base right now that it really gets hard for anyone to keep track of. Perhaps that's where some of the confusion begins when we go back to the first question above.

Do Sega and Sonic Team listen to their fans? Which parts of the Sonic Fan Base? Hearing a lot of noise from so many different parts of the Sonic Fan Base? Why do you think that is? Ever since Sonic 2006 and the disaster that it was, Sega and Sonic Team have been going through a slippery slope of sorts trying to figure out just what were the core problems of Sonic 2006.

As you can probably tell, if you look close enough at what's being released, it's clear that Sonic Team have been playing it safe with the Main Series of Sonic games, going on this experimental phase where they put out gameplay features in hopes that it will lure in the right kind of audience. The longer they experiment, supposedly according to them, the better they believe they'll get in fixing the core problems of Sonic the Hedgehog, both the character and the games.

Soon I will dedicate another blog post to the Sonic game that is going to be released later this year, Sonic Forces. This game will be yet another example of what is hindering true improvement for the Sonic franchise as a whole. Even though Forces will be sure to sell well on the market when it hits, what is the core purpose behind this game's main selling points? Did Sonic Team listen to their fans well enough?

Remember that imaginary tab on Link #1? Bring that tab back out and let's try to break this all down together.

Commercialization and political correctness has impacted so many things in society in recent years, and while I won't go into specifics about this, let me just say this. When you try to restrict a creative endeavor so much to the point where you basically demand that endeavor to fit a narrative that suits your liking, problems are guaranteed to arise.

While creativity is still something that exists in Sega and Sonic Team, it has become clear that their use of creativity has become completely misplaced. The creativity that Sonic Team implements in their Main Series Sonic games leaves a lot to be desired. There have been many accounts of gamers who claim that Sonic Team could afford to push the envelope a little bit more, and it shouldn't hinge on whatever the "professional" video game critics over at IGN, Game Informer, GameSpot, etc. say or believe.

Sonic Team is clearly trying too hard to appeal to everyone in the Gaming Industry while they end up pleasing hardly anyone. Sonic Team has stretched themselves out so much throughout the history of Sonic games that it has become impossible to "unite" the Sonic Fan Base under a single game that they can all enjoy together. Especially with how they promote a game as "something that will revolutionize the Main Series", the game ends up doing almost the exact opposite of that; creating more problems and putting band-aids on existing problems rather than addressing them head on.

In the grand scheme of things, looking at the Sonic Main Series, as a character Sonic the Hedgehog has a monopoly when it comes to playable character priorities. His name is on the games, of course, but that alone shouldn't be the reason why he should be made the only important character of the series. Sonic has a monopoly on his friends, characters who supposedly support his heroic cause. Maybe we should now call it a "duopoly" because Modern Sonic seems to share top playable character priority with Classic Sonic these days. However, that just doesn't solve the core problems of the Main Series.




One sign of the Sonic Fan Base being fragmented beyond recognition today? In the Main Series it has been over 10 years (we're counting 11 years now) since characters like Miles "Tails" Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, Amy Rose, Shadow the Hedgehog and others have been optional playable characters. Does that at all give you pause as to what is really going on with the Sonic games?

What is the conclusion that I personally draw from this?

Playing it safe forever isn't going to work for Sonic Team. While I personally have no problems with Sonic Forces as a whole, and think that it's going to sell well because of its features and gimmicks, when we step back and look at its core, that's what it only provides. Features and gimmicks just for the sake of being features and gimmicks.

Ultimately you can't address a problem head on by taking millions of baby steps and constantly dancing around the problem. That's not how a normally functioning business operates. Sacrificing the long-term solution in favor of getting that short-term fix does more damage to your brand than it provides any benefit. If you know what a problem is, you just fix it. You find what works and don't second guess yourself.

What I see in the actions of Sega and Sonic Team is a ton of second, third and fourth guessing when it comes to deciding on what Sonic the Hedgehog should be as a character and as a series. The result? A Fan Base scattered into 20+ different parts where they all file complaints about different issues, and a company that doesn't even realize that they created this mess to begin with.

It may be unusual to compare Sega to WWE, but it's a crazy enough comparison to appropriately use.

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