The Crossfire: Ratcliffe Reactions

The Crossfire: Ratcliffe Reactions

Hey, broskis, we’re taking a break from the aesthetics of Sonic game design and talking about an equally important part of the game industry, public relations. Today, we’re following up on the GameDaily interview with SEGA VP of Marketing, Sean Raticliffe, which was covered so brilliantly by me last week. I felt that the fanbase could be split on the remarks by Mr. Ratcliffe, in that they could be the soothing words that calm the fan backlash of the newer Sonic titles or that they are partaking in the same PR bullshit that SEGA has been spewing for years now. Where do you stand?

SEGA VP of Marketing, Sean Ratcliffe.  Full of sanguity or shit?

Sean Ratcliffe: Full of Sanguity or Shit?

POINT: SEGA has fully acknowledged its mistakes and the future Sonic games will be of better quality.

We have rarely seen somebody from SEGA step forward and field a question like the one that GameDaily asked (“Aren’t you concerned about the brand though when game after game is mediocre at best?”). Ratcliffe admits that the criticism is indeed warranted, thus proving that the Sonic community’s constant complaining was good for something, in a sense. We can continue to/finally be optimistic about the future of the franchise.

An interesting boost to this point’s argument is the cooperation between SEGA and BioWare. Ratcliffe commented:

[W}e’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.

SEGA wanted to expand Sonic’s repertoire with an RPG, so rather than developing it in-house, they sought after one of the greatest RPG studios out there, BioWare, and therefore possibly illustrating a commitment to quality. BioWare’s reputation as an RPG developer, without a shadow of a doubt, has the potential to restore glory to the Sonic name and it sure is showing: BioWare claims that they have a handle on the enormous amount of characters and thrown them into a complex and engaging story, the game won the Best of E3 for Nintendo DS games from GameTrailers, and fan consensus, from my observation, is mostly positive. Hell, I’m digging this game and I am a purveyor of “goddamn you, SEGA.” Would you like to see my pre-order receipt?

In summation, SEGA is trying to please us all now and for that, Sean Ratcliffe fills us with hope.

COUNTERPOINT: Ratcliffe continues to play SEGA’s broken record of “the next game will be good, we promise.” Stop talking and start doing.

You know, SEGA, it is great that you have finally admitted that you have been dropping the ball over and over, constantly one-upping terrible games with more terrible games, but it is 2008. You are way late to the party. You should have known some time ago that Sonic was on the verge of becoming inconsequential.

We have heard this PR tactic before. “A series reboot” and “[akin] to the Genesis classics” are a couple phrases that come to mind, especially the first, since it was used to push the Sonic the Hedgehog game on the XBOX360/PS3, which we all know was a terrific game. Why should we trust SEGA and Sean Ratcliffe this time when previous attempts at winning us over with words have failed?

I have two quotes from the interview that are perfect for this argument:

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.

If you are not comfortable with the technology and release is approaching, then delay the game. Delay it. Metroid Prime 3 was hyped to be a launch title for Nintendo’s Wii, but it got delayed and was later successful. You can do that in gaming. Secondly, quite frankly, it was a huge surprise that Sonic’s debut on next-gen systems was that awful, because SEGA built up so much hype through gorgeous trailers and the aforementioned “series reboot” comment.

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.

Innovative? Giving a character a “darker, more evil” side is innovative? defines innovative as “something new or different [that is] introduced” and this has definitely been done before. Slapping “God of War” beat-’em-up gameplay is not anything new. Sonic continues to be the guinea pig for new genres that SEGA picks out of a hat wants to implement and it will could possibly detract from the main, 2.5D gameplay that you have established.

Also, who the hell is this monstrosity? How can I trust you, SEGA, when you pull off the ol’ “introduction of a new character a game” trick?

Sean Ratcliffe, I hope you know what you have done here. I would like to bring your attention to this:

This is a hole. For saying that Unleashed will be “the game [the fans] have been waiting for,” you have dug this hole. If you do not fill this whole with “dirt,” which in this case is “a good Sonic game,” you might as well put a headstone over this hole that reads, “Here Lies Sonic the Hedgehog. We tried, we really did!”

DECISION: Where do you stand? Post your opinions in this article’s thread on SSMB.

The Crossfire will take a break next Monday, due to the fact that the Sonic Amateur Games Expo will be going on and I will be moving back to Lincoln, Nebraska to continue my college education and tennis playing.

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Slingerland is a staff writer and editor for both The Sonic Stadium and Sonic Retro. His area of emphasis is the inner-workings of the games and laughing at everything.