In Japan, mascots are crucial when it comes to comany’s success. A mascot is like a slogan, it will be remembered and is a representative of the whole company. Where the naked baby doll called ‘kewpie’ is used for Kewpie Corporation, which is a Japanese food manufacturer, especially famous for its mayonnaise, the huge mobile giant soft bank enjoys great popularity with ‘otosan’, the Ainu dog character.
In the world of video games, this is no different: Nintendo has its Mario, Sega had its Sonic. But this was not always the case.
When Sega started in 1940 in Honolulu under the name “Standard Games”, their main product line was coin-operated jukeboxes, games, and slot machines. They moved to Japan in 1951 and founded “Service Games of Japan”, and US soldiers working on US military base in Japan were their main target.
It took them a couple of years, before they brought their first video game on the market in the 1960’s. Eventually their first home used console was released, the SG-1000 in 1983 and others. Finally, in 1985 with the Sega Master System, Sega had its first unofficial mascot: Alex Kidd. Another game, ‘Fantasy Zone’, had a spaceship called ‘opa-opa’, which is sometimes also referred to Sonic’s predecessor.
With Nintendo releasing the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) around the same time, which was technically inferior to the Sega Master System, but more successful due to good Nintendo strategies and poor marketing of Sega the ‘console war’ was responsible for the birth of Sega Mega Drive and the famous Sonic the hedgehog in 1991.
The ‘console war’ lasted almost a decade and even though Sega was struggling to win the market, Sonic’ popularity and the use of the hedgehog as their mascot did not end. Unfortunately, Sega announced in their ‘New Management Policy’ in 2001, that it would start producing third-party software and ceased producing new consoles.
Sonic is still present in various games of Nintendo, PSP, PS3 and Xbox 360.