2020 is the start of a new year and a new decade. That’s a huge deal, and you can see the gravity of it in the sheer volume of reflective content out there on the internet. A new decade feels especially prevalent in video games. It’s a young medium, and while the 60s and 70s and actual origins of games fall further away, the medium as we know it now is much younger. Many popular series and characters have been having their 30th anniversaries, and that train is still rolling. In 2020, Sega is celebrating 30 years of Sonic the Hedgehog and doing it in a seemingly big way. Will 2020 be a good year for the blue blur, or will the “cycle” repeat itself once again?
2020, in terms of the Chinese Zodiac, is a year of the rat. Other than the obvious rodent connection, there’s another fun factor in that the rat is the beginning of a new cycle. Browsing through horoscopes and zodiac websites is an exercise in white people making things up, but one common thread is opportunity. So it makes sense that Sega is taking that, combining it with the 30th anniversary, and launching a new marketing campaign for everyone’s problematic fave. 2020 will be the Year of the Hedgehog, and hopefully it will go at least as well as the Year of Luigi.
A big part of 2020, somewhat ironically, will be the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. It was supposed to come out towards the end of 2019, but instead became a huge source of drama and internet memes. But the movie is back on track now, and people seem much less upset about its existence. It helps that the redesigned character actually looks cute, instead of a horrifying space monkey from another dimension. The marketing is starting to push forward, including recent fast food deals and probably other things I’d know about if I went grocery shopping more often. I’m pretty mad I don’t have a local Jack in the Box though; those “tiny tacos” look pretty solid.
Beyond the movie stuff, Sega itself will also be promoting the Sonic brand through its own channels. The whole 2020 gimmick has led to a plan in which Sega will be posting fan creations and other goodies on the 20th day of each month (starting with some wallpapers and social media decorations for January), and included in those content drops will be official Sonic news. It’s about time for the next actual Sonic video game announcements, and since we’ll be seeing a new console generation this year, the news could be pretty significant. Then again, it’s Sonic we’re talking about here, and the series is sitting on some shaky ground at the moment.
It’s weird though, because at the same time, Sonic is almost in the best place he’s been in years. Despite years and years of mediocre or divisive games, Sonic Mania came out and killed it in nearly every conceivable way. Sega has capitalized, with tons of merchandise, transmedia projects, a new (and pretty solid) racing game, so on and so forth. Unfortunately, Sonic Forces also exists. While I personally got a lot out of Sonic Forces, most folks absolutely trashed it and frankly most of the criticisms are valid. The soundtrack slaps, though.
Despite Sonic Forces being what it is, there’s a good chance things could be looking pretty good for whatever is next. There will probably be a Mania follow-up from that team, because that’s the obvious thing to do. As far as Japan is concerned, Sega did a lot of recent restructuring after the Yakuza series blew up, and “Sonic Team” as we knew it was sort of absorbed into one of a few larger development structures. Potentially, assuming the Sonic series gets more time and money after Forces was ostensibly screwed before it got started, there could be a lot of new and talented development hands touching the next one. It could even make a big splash as an early next/new gen title.
Whatever happens, I’m excited. The 30th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog is a good opportunity to try some optimism for a change. It’s fun to dunk on Sonic, but while there have been some real stinkers, the last couple of games were at least alright in my book, if not good. The movie was almost a total disaster, but now there’s a more accepting vibe that could end up being a lot of fun. Between the movie, the next game(s), and this new promotional drive, 2020 could very well end up being the year of the hedgehog.