Sega has asked fans of their most popular franchise, “Sonic the Hedgehog”, to create their newest game, “Sonic Mania”.
Critics are praising Sega for allowing its fans to create “Sonic Mania”, a new retro-throwback title, instead of the typical in-house developers. The move is making some critics draw comparisons to Nintendo, who usually shuts down fan projects in an effort to protect the intellectual property’s (IP) identity.
“It is drastically different from Nintendo’s strategy, and it’s a strategy that I think is much better,” said George Weidman, creator of the YouTube channel Super Bunnyhop. “The fans end up being better at these sort of ‘old school revival projects’ than the original developers.”
While snuffing out fan-made projects is Nintendo’s standard M.O. these days, it hasn’t always been the case; fans may remember Tim and Chris Stamper of Rare’s game, “Donkey Kong Country”, made with Nintendo’s blessing.
“There was some wrangling over the look of Donkey Kong; we wanted to modernize the look and give him a different personality. Shigeru Miyamoto had some very strong ideas on what he should look like,” said Brendan Gunn, former lead on the project.
The move with Rare was not typical of Nintendo, however, as the company imposed high standards for their games early on in an attempt to stay afloat after the video game crash of 1983. Nintendo understood that the flood of poor quality games helped to kill Atari, and they were determined to avoid dying in this manner at all costs. In 1985, they introduced the Official Nintendo Seal Quality, awarded only to games that met Nintendo’s standards. In order to achieve the highest quality of titles, Nintendo set strict guidelines with its third party publishers, allowing them to only publish a maximum of five titles per year and demanding exclusivity. Because of these rigid rules, Nintendo reassured the public that they would be receiving high quality games, thus revitalizing the video game industry in the United States.
Still, Sega is not without its standards, and “Sonic Mania” is still very much a new strategy for the company; in 2011, the company forced Bombergames to pull its fan-made sequel to “Streets of Rage” off the market. Perhaps “Sonic Mania” signals a loosened grip on the beloved blue blur, however, considering they tend to disappoint fans with each new iteration they put out themselves.
“Fans wanted a game that brought back the Classic Sonic we all know and love,” said Matt Mannheimer of Tails’ Channel. “I feel that Sonic is finally getting back to where he used to be back in the day, which is awesome.”