The Spin: The Power of Panels

So I watched the 25th anniversary panel at SXSW the other day and… I’m a bit conflicted, see I knew there wouldn’t be any games announced at it, it’s been said constantly, unless you were living under a rock or found out about the event a few moments before it was due to start, it was hard not to know, aside from it being officially confirmed that there would be no game announcements, so many other Sega/Sonic sites and commentators were saying it.

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Currently the fanbase seems to be a tad divided as to how it went, some people thought it was great, others are let down, the ones who are let down seem to be divided as to reasons why. Some are actually upset no new game was announced, others claim it was over-hyped, I think both charges are kinda false… but I understand why they’re disappointed and I think the reasons why reside somewhere else.

That being, to me, the panel had a lot of problems, and in many ways felt like a HUGE missed opportunity.

Sonic Boom Fire & Ice dated for Sept 27th

Lets look at who was on it first.

Yuji Naka & Takashi Iizuka.

Ok that’s it guys! That right there could have been a panel on it’s own! That would have been a great panel. But no! We also got Roger Craig Smith and Mike Pollock too! The two main voice actors!

This should have been amazing, but… it wasn’t… why?

I think that the main issue was, the main draw was the panellists, but they weren’t really needed for the content of the panel. Whilst it was great that we got some interesting titbits from Naka and Iizuka regarding early Sonic development, such as Iizuka being responsible for Sonic 3’s intro and Naka commentating on Tails’ development, that was about it.

The structure of the whole panel was basically this.

In *insert year here* we released *insert game here* and we *insert 2 facts here*

It’s not a bad idea for content, but… when you have guests like Naka and Iizuka on there, you would hope that there would be some interesting or unknown bits and pieces of information told, but there was barely anything. Naka doesn’t even work for Sega anymore, yet his contribution hardly justified him being there if I’m being hyper-critical of it.

But then if you turn your attention to the voice actors, it becomes hard to even see a reason for them to be there.

What do I mean about this?

I feel bad for criticising someone who I know reads the comments and will likely read this, but… Mike Pollock was there, who is mainly known for his work as Eggman, but, he didn’t even say anything as Eggman (at least I don’t recall that happening), I remember him speaking as Ella from Sonic X, but not Eggman… that doesn’t seem right?

Even Roger Craig Smith was there, he barely spoke during the whole panel, I don’t remember him performing Sonic, except for a small bit as Alton Towers Sonic, which was a fun throwback since it made me laugh. But in terms of contribution I think that Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator spoke more in that whole movie than RCS did in this panel.

These are two highly talented voice actors who barely spoke or did anything. There could have been a fun moment between Mike and Roger but… there was nothing. It was crying out to be done and it didn’t happen.

It wasn’t just the voice actors, even Naka and Iizuka faded into just window dressing at points, and it was sad to see this, to put it another way, take away all the panellists from this panel and ask yourself “was anything lost?” Aside from some titbits, no there wasn’t anything.

For me, this is why I left feeling a bit disappointed. Not because there wasn’t a big announcement, not because we didn’t get a flood of new information, but because it felt like the panel didn’t even need the panellists.

I honestly think it would have been a much better experience if they had dropped the retrospective angle and just made it an FAQ, made it clear at the start that they couldn’t answer questions regarding unannounced games or release dates, which is odd to say given what happened at that Sonic Boom FAQ a few years back.

But it would have gotten all the panellists involved and it would have been far more interesting to hear what they had to say.

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So with regards to why some fans are let down by this, some of the reasons I don’t agree with at all, but I can understand why some are disappointed. It was hard not to get high expectations, the panels description mentioned ‘future of Sonic’, we got told we’d find out what the numbers meant and with Naka and Iizuka in the same room, it was hard to deny that people were expecting a big announcement in some way.

That’s not to say that the 25th party news isn’t a big deal, it is, but… the way it was handled felt a bit like a quick mention and in a way became an announcement of an announcement.

I think that in future, if Sega decides to do stuff like this, you really need to involve the actual panellists more, if I’m being really critical, at times they felt just like window dressing for someone’s history of Sonic PowerPoint presentation, when really they should have been leading it and giving some inside into the series and it’s history.

Oh well, at least we now have more cryptic clues to decipher, that’s still fun right?

Disclaimer: The views in this piece may not reflect the views of TSS or other writers on the staff team. The intention of The Spin is to promote debate and discussion of an issue or something that’s happening in the fandom or the world of Sonic.

18 Comments

  1. I just went into the panel, just expecting a good time and came out enjoying myself. I can see why people can be disappointed (even though Webber made it very clear that nothing too big is going to happen) but I don’t know, it did seem like Webber tried to spend as much time trying to get the audience and Pollock/Smith/Naka/Iizuka involved as well along with getting to the point since they only had 45 minutes in the first panel. The second panel was more enjoyable because Webber just used the same powerpoint but the host of that livestream panel asked some really nice nice questions (though more about Classic Sonic than some Modern Sonic) and they had an extra 15 minutes. I don’t know maybe, Webber wasn’t entirely prepared for the panel and wasn’t entirely sure how to keep the pace going along with making the panel to be as informative and entertaining as well.

    I mean, I’m not already expecting the new game to be announced 3 months into the year (isn’t it usually April or May when we even get the first tease of new Sonic games?). I was just happy to see important people from Sonic, having a good time, interacting with the fans and giving some small announcements about what’s to come like the 25th Anniversary party and the release date of Fire & Ice (hey, don’t judge. I’m actually looking forward to that game.) Though it’s kinda weird that Aaron didn’t announce that it’s June 24 is when Rio Olympics U is going to come out, it was announced in the recent Nintendo Direct so that was kinda weird.

    Overall, I found the panel to be a nice appetizer to the main course of what is to be the celebration of 25 years of Sonic (and of course, only the dankest of memes provided by Aaron and Gene).

    1. Yeah and… that’s kinda the point. You’ve been proving Sonic VA’s for 13 years, you’ve got a wealth of information as well as talent, but you were so undersold/used in this panel we didn’t really get anything.

      A couple of years ago, Hoshino who was the designer of some Sonic characters, did a panel like this and talked about the difficulties of being an artist as well as a the good parts, it was one of the best parts of the panel because it was so informative despite only being a few moments in length.

      I just wish you’d been given some more time or some more questions or even more chances to get involved with the panel, it just felt like such a missed opportunity to hear from you and the other panellists.

      1. Guy who plays Eggman saying something in Eggmans voice counts as giving us something worthwhile from something that contains no actual Eggman? ok. I was under the impression the panel existed to provide us with information and answers to questions, not character-based entertainment but whatever…

    2. even though I didn’t watch the panel, but I can definitely tell you that we had more fun at Youshi-con.

  2. The panel was disappointing to me. Not because there weren’t any big announcements but because they spent nearly the entire time on that powerpoint, most of which only focused on things that are common knowledge to anyone who is already a fan of the series. (“When we released Sonic 2, we also introduced Tails and Super Sonic.” No duh. I’m positive everyone in the audience already knew that.) I don’t think there was a single fact or bit of information revealed during that panel that I didn’t already know. I can also imagine it being somewhat awkward for the voice actors since most of the time was spent talking about things that happened before they got their jobs. It begs the question of why they were there since it’s not like they’ll have much to say about the Classic or Adventure games that they weren’t involved in.

    I think they should’ve dropped the powerpoint completely and have the entire panel devoted to a Q&A session with the guests and have the last five minutes put aside for the announcements they had. That likely would’ve led to a far more interesting and entertaining panel. I hope any future panels Sega decides to hold will learn from this. Don’t waste time with things people already know.

    1. I don’t know about you but I never recall previously hearing that it was Iizuka that directed the Sonic 3&K opening cutscene. But I get your point and I can see maybe they could do a Q&A and hear some never-before-heard info on Sonic.

    2. That was my exact thought. I also hated Webber’s Big’s big fishing adventure 3 joke. Seriously, that joke was probably his highlight of the whole panel.

  3. Yeah come to think of it they weren’t really used much were they? I skipped most of it to get to the announced bits, but judging by the summaries I’ve seen everywhere, it doesn’t sound like I missed much. It’s a shame really, I mean two heads of Sonic and the voices of the two most defining characters of the franchise in the same room at the same time and they only got to say a few words each? That’s like having a room of clowns with pie everywhere and all the clowns just sitting around being bored. It defies all logic! But who knows, maybe we’ll get to see them involved in other events too. I would at least hope that Iizuka and Naka would be at the celebration, that would at least make sense, but it would also be great to see Roger and Mike there, as well as any other cast members or staff, and have an actual legitimate FAQ session. Heck, Crush 40 is already going to be there, why not have them part of it too? This may have been a missed opportunity, but it’s one that can still be rectified with the upcoming July celebration, so come on Sega, actually realize what you’ve got here and use it!

  4. I dunno, I mean they went in saying they were gonna look at the history of Sonic and I feel like that’s what we got? I don’t see what the point of trying to make it into a bigger thing of “oh, the panellists could have done more!” Like, yeah, shrug, but does it really matter that much?

    Just the Stadium making a big deal out of something that really isn’t that big a deal. I feel like that’s your guys M.O. at this point.

    1. Yeah we’re totally making a big deal about it, a whole one article written in response to lots of people saying that they felt the panel was disappointing, so why not talk about it?

      But hey you do constantly complain or find something minor to moan about with regards to my articles so I guess we could put that down to your MO at this point.

  5. The biggest problem about the whole panel was that they actually delivered what they said they were going to deliver: a panel hosted by Aaron Webber on the history of Sonic that didn’t make any new game announcements.

    45 minutes to spend on over 25 years of history is not a lot of time to dedicate to each year in the slightest. And there’s not a lot new to learn about the items people consider the most interesting considering they’ve already been out for a quarter-decade. Infinite interviews have already been made. On top of that, it’s not even 45 minutes, because we need to spend five minutes on Aaron’s announcements (with 30 seconds on his Big the Cat trailer because I guess Roger was like “he’s so giddy let him do it” so they humoured him).

    (I have no idea of the age difference between Roger and Aaron.)

    (Also Iizuka was definitely part of this. I would know. I turned him into a Chao, dammit.)

    So, to be generous, that’s 40 minutes tops to give the people exactly what’s been promised. They just managed it, and even then only by cutting corners. Talk not about 06, talk not about the secondary or spin-off titles in any year (except Rivals, 100% for the 2006 gag). Barely squeezing in Sonic X so they can talk about voice actor changes and cutting Lost World for Boom so that Roger and Mike have something to actually say because that’s the most involvement either of them have had in the series together. In the end, the most focus was given to pre-Sonic 1 development, as the necessary warm-up, and then for the part of the timeline between Sonic 3 and Shadow, because at that point both of the developer panelists were actually relevant and could therefore actually say something, but still the entire thing had to be relatively… relative. In time.

    In the end things spilled over to a second panel of which few of us were aware before it’d happened, and nobody actually had much to talk about.

    This is just the natural result of picking the most important people out of the history of a franchise with massive overhauls in the staff – there isn’t a single point in this franchise history where all four guests could talk together as one unit, because there isn’t a single point in this franchise in which all four people worked on the same thing. On top of that, voice actors are easy, recognisable faces to get ahold of, but they’re not behind the scenes. There’s nothing they can actually say unless they’re given the lead. Then Naka walked out in 2006 and everything post that was skipped over so fast that Iizuka couldn’t say a thing.

    The other biggest problem was Mike agreeing that he dubbed Black Doom. You lying butt.

    1. “The other biggest problem was Mike agreeing that he dubbed Black Doom. You lying butt.”

      Take that shit back under the rock you got it out from.

  6. I enjoyed myself while watching the panel, but I absolutely agree, Hogfather. By the end, I was just wondering, “Wait, what? That’s all? Roger and Mike barely said anything. And heck, Naka for that matter.” As for Aaron’s powerpoint… I had no issues with the fact that they were reminiscing over Sonic’s history…. except for the fact that they did it twice. At that point, the panel should have just been what it looks like on face value: an event with a gathering of some of Sonic’s most beloved real-life faces. They even shortened the powerpoint to not include Sonic CD, Sonic 4, or Sonic Lost World… and they skipped the Q&A session. It really made me think that they got all these cool things set up for nothing.

    Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, but for a 25th Anniversary panel that advertised “hints about Sonic’s future”… I don’t think I was wrong to expect a bit more. At this point, the only concern I have is if they’d be daring enough to announce the game at this new event they teased.

  7. I don’t recall anyone officially stating the panel was going to announce any new games, only the fanbase jumping to that conclusion.. You only have yourselves to blame for that disappointment. I personally didn’t bother to watch because I knew there wasn’t going to be anything interesting there. A history of Sonic? I pretty much already knew everything they’d be allowed to tell us thanks to the internet. Game announcements? What game announcements? You guys seriously expected a major one outside of E3?

    1. LMAO! We know! It was said in the first line of the article! Holy shit you really didn’t read it did you!?

      Nowhere in the article did I say we were expecting games! I even said we knew there wasn’t going to be any! So why have you gone off on a tangent accusing people of wanting and expecting game announcements!?

      The article had literally NOTHING to do with what you said!

  8. Sonic The Hedgehog 25th Anniversary SXSW Panel wasn’t bad panel at all it was a fantastic & hallilous to about Big The Cat a lot in Sonic Adventure 2 cameo senses Big Big Adventure 3 cracks me up a lot when they show that I watch today of Tails Channel YouTube stream!!! Of it but at the same time they host Sonic The Hedgehog 25th Anniversary House Of The Blues at San Diego Comic Con Which I already know I live at San Diego, it’s not farway for me to take it there so yep I can’t wait to meet you Sonic Fans people to interact introducing how old are you & more on July 22nd,2016 of summer yeah! Well anyway I hope I ask my mom for a permission to go Sonic The Hedgehog 25th Anniversary House Of The Blues at San Diego Comic Con I would rather go or not it depends my mom say about this?

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