SEGA of America celebrates 25 years of Sonic the Hedgehog with new games, new merchandise and much more in 2016.
By Eric Slack
A leading presence in gaming for more than 50 years, SEGA is synonymous with innovation. It was one of the first companies on the interactive scene, and Sonic the Hedgehog became the perfect mascot to symbolize SEGA’s efforts to break barriers when he debuted in 1991. Celebrating Sonic’s 25th anniversary in 2016, SEGA of America’s leaders are looking to continue to build on that pioneering spirit.
“The Sonic Pillar team combines an experienced team from the world of entertainment alongside executives with a history of the Sonic brand from Japan,” says Ivo Gerscovich, chief brand officer and senior vice president of SEGA of America. “It makes for a powerful combination as we look to elevate Sonic into an entertainment icon across film, television, games, consumer products and many other areas.”
Still on Top
For a quarter-century, Sonic the Hedgehog’s games and brand have remained among the most relevant gaming properties even as the gaming world has changed dramatically. The character’s timeless design, speed, attitude and heroism make for a powerful combination that has inspired generations.
At Sonic’s 25th anniversary event during Comic-Con in San Diego, SEGA announced several new exciting products including two new titles. Additionally, the company offered some exciting updates about its upcoming Nintendo 3DS exclusive title, Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice, which is launching Sept. 27.
“The two new titles we announced were big initiatives for the brand,” Gerscovich says. “It marked the first time in recent history that Sonic was going to be available on Microsoft, Sony and PC gaming systems alongside Nintendo. This broadening strategy will once again allow us to reach the widest possible audience of Sonic fans.”
Sonic Mania, one of the titles announced, is a classic-inspired 2-D side-scrolling platform game, aimed at retro-gaming fans but accessible to gamers of all ages. It is a unique collaboration between SEGA and independent developers with a background in porting Sonic games to mobile.
“The game mixes brand-new zones and levels along side reimagined ones from classic Sonic titles,” Gerscovich says. “Sonic Mania will be available in Spring 2017 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.”
The second new Sonic title is in development and will launch during the 2017 holiday season. It is untitled and will feature modern and classic Sonic in a battle-ravaged world.
“While we aren’t revealing a lot of details at this time, we’re very excited about this next title within the Sonic universe,” Gerscovich says. “It will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo’s new NX as well as PC. A lot of new information on these titles will be rolling out soon.”
Extending the Brand
Over many years, the Sonic brand has found fertile ground in the licensing space. SEGA understands that a key to brand licensing viability is to develop numerous touch points for consumers to engage, which is why the company is taking a multi-platform approach to Sonic. In the console games, mobile apps, TV series, social media and an upcoming feature film, Sonic is proving himself to be a credible property in the highly competitive entertainment space.
“With that, we’re able to pave the way to building a sustainable, long-legged entertainment property that licensees see real value in,” says Anoulay Tsai, SEGA of America licensing director. “Our most successful categories have been in toys, plush and graphic tees. We’ll be placing quite a bit of focus on fleshing out our collectibles and novelty business as well as creating more products for the female fans.”
SEGA can be selective when choosing its licensee partners, seeking those who truly get the brand and anticipate what the Sonic fan will want. By looking for innovative partners that have a love for Sonic, SEGA believes its licensing partnerships will create products that are coveted by the die-hard fan.
“We even go so far as to sift through fan comments in our social streams to identify what it is that they’re clamoring for, and we’ll challenge our licensees to deliver on it,” Tsai says. “With the newly implemented team structure, we’re spending a lot more time with our partners to ensure that we’re providing input and brand information to set them up for sell-in and sell-through success. With the increased involvement from SEGA, we believe we’ll exponentially increase sales and presence at retail.”
Moving ahead, SEGA will strive to help retailers by understanding their business and showing them how Sonic will help achieve their sales goals. Additionally, it will take information from merchants and incorporate their feedback into its licensing plans as it implements a tiered retail strategy that will help gain more placement and visibility in stores and online. “These strategies will be tailored to the retailers and will align with their respective initiatives so the plans are conducive to their business,” Tsai says.
Through a blend of art and science, SEGA of America is committed to ensuring that the Sonic brand remains engaged with consumers. Part of this is done by leveraging and analyzing the metrics across its many social channels, and its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube platforms are all extremely successful at reaching and interacting with fans.
“It takes a unique approach to stand out, get heard and to be noticed,” Gerscovich says. “I believe that we need to be driven by a passion for the brand and the best creative strategies flow from that. Everything we do is about surprising and delighting fans.
“All of us here at SEGA are working extra hard to grow the brand by keeping one foot in Sonic’s past while keeping the other foot planted in the future. We continue to focus our energy on making entertaining content on all platforms, and this is how we believe the brand will continue to strengthen over time.”