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Sega talks Nintendo, Wii, and comes clean concerning bad Sonic games

by rawmeatcowboy
07 August 2008
GN 1.0 / 2.0

A portion of a massive GameDaily interview with Sega of America VP of Marketing Sean Ratcliffe…

BIZ: Nintendo pointed out during its conference that 19 Wii titles from third parties had sold over 400K units, but it’s taken a while for companies to figure the Wii out and 400K doesn’t seem necessarily seem like the greatest sales milestone either. What do you think has been the problem with third-party software?

SR: Well, from our point of view, with Mario & Sonic having sold so well, we don’t think there is a problem. But actually, I think it goes beyond Mario & Sonic. We got a great lineup of software on both platforms (Wii and DS). It’s about taking a specific approach. If you’re porting a game, that’s probably not going to do so well. Both of those platforms have unique capabilities. It’s about thinking about the different ways of exploiting that technology. Sonic Chronicles is developed exclusively on the DS, and it’s an RPG, and we know RPGs do well on that platform. And we’re partnering with a developer [BioWare] that’s renowned for that type of gameplay. So we’re crafting that game and experience for that platform. Likewise, when we look at something like MadWorld, we want to take advantage of the Wii.

The Wii platform is for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you dumb down the games and that it’s only casual for moms and dads and little Johnny. There are also mature audiences with Wii, and where are the games for them? So MadWorld addresses that. I think we maybe understand the platform a bit better than other publishers, and that’s borne out in our publisher ranking on both Wii and DS – if you take Nintendo o>ut as a first party, currently we’re number three. You shouldn’t be too tunnel vision about it, though. There are lots of gamers who bought a Wii, and of course there are some evry easy, pick-up-and-play casual experiences there, but don’t ignore the mature audience either. So we’re delighted to have a game like MadWorld on there, but we’re equally delighted to have Samba De Amigo, which arguably started the music/rhythm genre back in Dreamcast days. It was ahead of its time in many ways. So right there, we have polar opposites in terms of content, but each one has been crafted specifically for the Wii platform.

BIZ: Aren’t you concerned about the brand though when game after game is mediocre at best?

: Some of that criticism is probably warranted. We definitely recognize that a franchise that has been going as long as Sonic, you really have to put a huge amount of effort in to make sure that you maintain that quality, and arguably a disproportionate amount of effort. However, I would say we recognize it, which is why you’re seeing us this year taking the first steps in making sure the quality is right, and we’re constantly looking at innovation. We can’t just stand still with Sonic; we’ve got to be looking at different ways to develop the character, different genres, and so on. Chronicles is a great example and that’s a Western developed title. So again, trying to address the quality, if you’re going to put Sonic in his first RPG experience, who do you go to? Bioware, the world leader in making RPGs.

I think the Sonic next-gen experience in terms of quality, that was relatively early in the next-gen cycle when lots of developers were just coming to grips with the technology. It’s not a huge surprise when you try to get something out for launch or thereabouts and the quality is not optimal. This time around, with Sonic Unleashed, we got a great new engine, the Hedgehog engine, and that allows us to truly deliver the Sonic experience as it arguably should have been on the next-gen – you know, blending classic 2D gameplay with 3D, beautiful landscapes, rich environments. Then with a nice innovative twist, we’re taking Sonic in a different direction, slow him down and he transforms into a “Werehog.” And that changes the gameplay again. For fans of Sonic that have been looking for a next-gen experience, this is the game they’ve been waiting for.

So your point [about quality] is a fair one, and it’s a challenge to Sega to make sure we’re pushing and making sure the quality is there with Sonic. Do we get concerned about it? Yes, of course we’re always concerned about how we’re developing that franchise. And a lot of time and effort is spent discussing how we develop Sonic.

Make sure to check out the full interview for a lot more Nintendo talk