Sonic Mania came out of nowhere. Sega announced it at a celebration of Sonic’s 25th Anniversary, and no one was expecting they would return to a classic 2D game. What I find most interesting is the interest in the game. Although Sega showed off another game, tentatively called Project Sonic 2017, all eyes are on Sonic Mania. What looked to otherwise be a small downloadable title may be one of the biggest hits the series has seen in years.
There is no hard and fast rule for how to tell how interested people are in a game. Interest is what drives sales. If people are talking about it, viewing it, reading it, then they are interested in buying it. For this, let’s look at Youtube views and Google searches
First, let’s look at Youtube views. Project Sonic has 2.34 million views while Sonic Mania has 2.41 million views. Although Sonic Mania has more views, it’s not by much (about a hundred thousand). However, the video on Nintendo’s page (for the Nintendo Switch version) has over 3 million views. Sonic game have historically done better on Nintendo systems, but the fact that the video has an additional four hundred thousand views is still surprising. Moreover, Sonic Mania’s trailer is one of the most popular Nintendo Switch trailers on Nintendo’s Youtube page, being beaten only by Zelda, Mario, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Its clear that Nintendo’s customers are excited for Sonic Mania.
Google search results also show greater interest in Sonic Mania. While both Sonic Mania and Project Sonic 2017 were shown off at the same time, Sonic Mania is searched more often. Interest spiked again around the Nintendo Switch Presentation in January which is consist with the higher view count on the Nintendo Sonic Mania trailer than the Sega one. Consider also that Project Sonic has the same search results before the game was ever announced as it does a few days after its initial reveal suggesting that there isn’t much interest in Project Sonic 2017.
This data matches what I’ve seen personally. The discussion is centered around Sonic Mania, not Project Sonic. Nevertheless, Project Sonic was a teaser trailer, so there should be less interest in it than a full game. Even still, do you hear anyone really talking about it, speculating, or wondering? Not really. For the most part, it has fallen off the radar. People are interested in Sonic Mania.
This isn’t too unusual when you consider that Sonic’s hayday was back in the 1990s. While official numbers are not available from Sega, Sonic 1 sold 15 million (the source being a video that isn’t viewable in the US) and Sonic 2 sold 6 million units (according to Gamasutra). Sonic was at one time able to compete with Mario, and Sonic was what made the Sega Genesis. Since Sega went to being a third party publisher, interest in Sonic has been declining. Sonic really hasn’t had a hit in years and the series is more known for being bad than being good. With a new classic Sonic, consumers are interested again.
Look at the New Super Mario Bros games. When the series returned to its roots on the DS, the game sold 30.80 million units. New Super Mario Bros Wii sold 29.90 million. To fans, the sequel to the classic 2D Marios were games like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy, yet those games couldn’t get close to the sales numbers the 2D games were pulling in. Even with trying to make the 3D games more accessible, the market never responded to those games as they did with the 2D Mario games. The lost consumers, those left behind by the move to 3D, were lying in wait. When they saw a return to classic 2D gaming, they lept on it. I think Sonic will experience the same.
Consider the Nintendo Switch trailer. Nintendo released the trailer months after the original one was released, yet it has over 400,000 more views than the original. It’s one of the most popular trailers for a Nintendo Switch game. I don’t think it got those views by the original 2.41 million people watching it again and then some. I think it shows how strong the interest in this game is. Like with New Super Mario Bros, eager Sonic fans, waiting for a return to the classic formula and lying it wait.
The Surprise Hit
Sonic Mania will be a surprise hit. There is a lost market that has been left behind since Sonic moved into 3D. While Sega has released some 2D games (with some being better than others), this is the first time its at the forefront. I’m sure Sega and Sonic Team don’t see this as a true Sonic game. They see this as a small game and Project Sonic 2017 is the true Sonic game. I don’t think the lost market agrees. The true Sonic game is Sonic Mania.
There is a disconnect between fans and developers. Since the mid-2000s, every game Sonic Team makes has to have some silly gimmick. If its not guns, its Sonic becoming a werehog or going back in time to save Camelot. Sonic Team can’t just make a normal game. There always has to be something. Do fans really care about this stuff? I’d argue no as it hasn’t helped the Sonic series over the past decade and a half. One of the most popular recent Sonic game among fans is Sonic Generations which is just a celebration of the old game.
Now you have a new 2D Sonic made by a fan who has worked on other ports of classic Sonic games. The game is simply trying to recreate what made Sonic awesome. In many ways, the game kind of spits in the face of Sonic Team. Sonic Team had no idea what they were doing with the series. It was a young fan who would create the next Sonic success and not the series veterans. It would be a fan of Sonic that creates a next hit game.
Time will tell if Sonic Mania is a hit, but everything is moving in the right direction. It looks good, it plays well and there is obviously some unexpected interest in the game. I think Sega will be pleasantly surprised when the game launches this Spring.