So we’ve not had an instalment of ‘The Spin’ for a while, the last time we had one was when the live-stream panel at SXSW kicked off, which was insightful if only for the number of people on twitter who said “Lolz complaining that no games were announced” even some people in the comments of that article said this, despite the fact at the top of the article it said “We knew there would be no games” and how the panel felt like a big missed opportunity since all the guests ended up being set dressing instead of actually contributing in some way. My eyes were practically spin-dashing given how many eye rolls they completed.
Since then not much has happened, some people got overtly theatrical by crying over Sonic Face Cream, but otherwise, nothing noteworthy has happened.
Which brings me onto today’s subject, I am fully aware that this isn’t an issue to many people, some won’t care, some will never care and others, even I’ll full admit it’s not that big a deal in the grand scale of things, but it annoys me constantly when I see this because I think it’s harming the franchise and sales of products more, and the fact that Sega is forcing various companies to now do this if they want to slap Sonic’s face onto a mug or T-Shirt.
Let’s Talk About Style Guides
During this article, I’m probably going to accidentally say the ‘Paladone design’ just because if you’re not as informed about the design/style guides it’s a lot easier to understand, but if you’d like to see the style guide in question I’m talking about during this article, we have it in full here.
So a number of years ago, a company called Half Moon Bay produced a number of Sonic items, not amazing stuff, nothing amazingly note worthy, but there were the odd one or two nice gems in there, but today, we’re not talking quality of merch, we’re talking about the packaging. This is the design for one of their items, just look at the packaging, not the product.
So there’s the packaging for that. Then a few months later, another company named Paladone announced it was releasing a ton of new items. Here’s a few of them.
Now, again, look at the package design, compare the two… So a few weeks later, when this gets announced, which company do you think made it?
If you thought Paladone, you’d be wrong, it was Half Moon Bay who made it. Whoa, what happened? Their packaging was so different, why have they ripped off Paladone’s? Well… they didn’t. They were forced to use that packaging design.
It seems that Sega is now using design/style guides not only for how characters should look on a product, but also, how the packaging itself should be designed.
And I for one, am starting to spot a number of things which I do not like about this process which I think might even be considered slightly anti-consumer, in that it greatly misleads less informed customers about the quality of what they are buying.
“It’s a Collectors Edition, Because it says it is”
Have you noticed how on all the Paladone products, and the Half Moon Bay winking mug, there is the words ‘Collector’s Edition’ written on there? Well, check this out, This is a T-Shirt which was on sale a few years back from Primark, it cost £8 brand new at the time, it too had to use the same design pattern for the tag.
It too, uses the words ‘Collectors edition’ on the tag.
How the hell is an £8 mass produced shirt for Primark a ‘Collectors edition’? It’s a really cool shirt, don’t get me wrong, but a collectors edition? How!?
To me, this seems like it’s misleading people who are not that clued in with merchandise, especially what classifies something as ‘Collectors Edition,’ you’re artificially suggesting that this is somehow ‘more special’ or ‘better’ than products which don’t have it on.
Which leads me onto my next point.
“If everything is ‘Collectors Edition’ what is so special about it?”
Is it just me? Or is there something just a little sly about the style guide actually telling and showing companies that they must use the words ‘collectors edition’ on their products and even providing a location for that phrase?
Remember when the idea of a collectors edition for a game was a special thing? Remember how they really made an effort on the stuff? Now they’re so common that the majority end up being disappointing, or loaded with digital extras that they’re no longer special but rather a disguised £30+ price hike on the original product.
I’ve started to cut down on the number of ‘collectors editions’ which I do buy, because it’s starting to feel that there’s more collectors or limited editions than there are the normal editions. You want an example of this? Take the Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing Transformed challenge, try to find a copy of it which isn’t a ‘limited edition.’
It’s the same for merch, when you start labelling everything as collectors edition, it becomes less special. I don’t know about the rest of you, but lately if I see a Sonic product which uses the standardized packaging and even includes the words ‘collectors edition’ I’m less likely to buy it, because the products which have used it so far are all mass marked, kinda cheap and feel like they’re using ‘collectors edition’ as a selling point, as opposed to something actually indicating something worth collecting.
The Danger of Association
Imagine a company decides to make 50,000 white cups, wants to put Sonic’s face on them, and Sega makes them use their packaging design. So we have 50,000 white cups, with Sonic’s face on them, being called a ‘Collectors Edition’. The cups are released, the print job on them isn’t brilliant, the material feels cheap, some are slightly broken.
That product and the packaging gets a reputation.
Then along comes another company, releases another mug which has a different image of Sonic on it, however, it uses the standardized packaging… Only this time the quality is brilliant.
That second company is going to find it much harder to sell their product, because everybody who bought the previous one is going to associate their product with the inferior one, and standardising the packaging is going to be the primary reason why.
Let’s think back to that Half Moon Bay mug, everybody thought it was a Paladone product, because the packaging completely fooled them.
Shouldn’t a Special Occasion use Special Occasion Packaging too?
This year is the 25th anniversary, and I’d say that people are more on edge over this one than they ever were for the 20th. Everybody seems to want everything to be special… yet… it looks like Sega might be also forcing Master Toy Partner Tomy to also use the standardised packaging, these prototype packaging designs were at Nuremberg toy fair, it’s the standardised packaging… just without the details, they’re prototypes remember.
Granted it has the 25th anniversary logo on it, but I guarantee you, come 2017 Tomy will do exactly what Jazwares did which impacted their stuff too.
Jazwares released a bunch of 20th anniversary merch using ‘newish’ packaging, and being new it looked really cool, even including a huge 20th anniversary logo, but after the 20th, they adapted the design for a more general packaging (swapped out the 20th logo for a general logo), suddenly, the 20th merch didn’t look as great anymore.
Maybe The Problem… is that the design is just… kinda… naff?
A couple of weeks ago, F4F released their Tornado statue, it’s a really awesome piece of merch, tons of collectors wanted it, but the one thing which most seem to agree on… is that the packaging is kinda naff, just… look at it.
Is it just me… or does it look nowhere near as special as it should be? Let’s compare it to OwTheEdgehog & Tails.
Just look at how much better those designs were, I’m not sure if they were following any style guides or if F4F used their own guide, but, it’s so much better than the current style guide.
It’s not just ‘Sonic’ stuff either…
Back in December/January, Numbskull released a bunch of Sega themed items, we even reviewed them and liked them. Here is the packaging for that.
And here is the ‘certificate of authenticity’ which I got from an art print made by Iron Gut Publishing, a completely different company.
Had I not told you it was a different company, would you have thought it was the same one making it? But also, think about this for a moment… Even an art print is being made to use Sega’s Style guides just for a certificate of authenticity. Is this now not getting a little silly?
Sega have recently said to various licensing magazines that they are sending out Style Guides for Sonic Boom and SegaSonic to license holders, meaning this is going to be something which will continue, you will be seeing this standardized packaging on pretty much everything in future, stuff which should be limited or amazing in quality will be using the exact same packaging as lower end quality stuff, yet that stuff will be using words like ‘collectors edition’ to try and trick you into thinking it’s actually high end.
Like I said at the start, not many people will care, even I fully admit there are bigger issues out there, but this is one which not many people seem to be talking about so why not?
You can read the 2014 – ? style guide in full here.
Special Thanks to David Seay for the tails image.
Oh go on then, here’s a poll.
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.