Sonic the Hedgehog touted to make another splash on the casual gaming scene
Mobile devices have certainly been instrumental in bringing more people into the video gaming fold. It was rather unexpected too, given the nature of these portable devices. After all, as any hardcore gamer will tell you, the accuracy and responsiveness provided by tactile game controls (d-pad, analog stick, face buttons, etc.) will beat out touchscreen-only interfaces 9 times out of 10.
However, it’s perhaps this very reason why the video game industry got a huge market demographic boost. The control limitations imposed by mobile gadgets forced game developers to design games that were simple enough to play through using just touch and/or tilt controls; a design philosophy that’s not dissimilar to arcade machines pre-console boom. And just like how those old arcade machines were able to attract people who’ve never even thought about the concept of interactive entertainment before, present day mobile games have done the same to folks who don’t even know the difference between Pac-Man and Pacquiao.
In other words, casual gaming was born.
Statistics definitely back this gaming phenomenon up. Online games developer AlchemyBet – a major presence in gaming site Pocket Fruity – reports that in a study conducted by Information Solutions Group, more than 125 million gadget users in the US and the UK have been getting into mobile games. Tellingly, 27% of female gamers comprise the 25-34 age group, just a hair’s breadth away from the 28% posted by male gamers. More interestingly, there’s even a 35-44 gamer age category; and that group includes 23% of the total count of female gamers, versus the males’ 19%. Clearly, the allure of casual games is a rather broad one.
Sega apparently sees this casual gaming scene as one of the more viable avenues to resurrect its once highly regarded mascot. It’s no secret that Sonic has been through some rather tough times of late; and the hype surrounding the upcoming Sonic Boom aside, the popularity of everyone’s favorite hedgehog is still nowhere near where it was during his 16-bit glory days.
That being said, there is hope yet for Sonic to make a strong comeback. There have been a few bright spots in his post-Genesis career, one of which was the critical and commercial success garnered by the mobile-only Sonic Jump; particularly its 2012 remake optimized for iOS and Android. Featuring simplistic controls that required merely required players to tilt their mobile gadgets – as well as pull off the occasional double-tap on their screens – the title was quite the fun diversionary romp that appealed to a wide range of people, gamer or not.
As a testament to its popularity, Sega has even announced a sequel at this year’s E3. Called Sonic Jump Fever, the game now allows you to control other characters from the get-go, including fan-favorite Knuckles. Other gameplay improvements include helpful boosters, unique character upgrades, and the so-called “Fever Mode,” which lets your character go into hyper-speed for even higher combo scores.
Only time will tell if this upcoming title will be able to help restore Sonic’s faded star power; and more importantly, if it will lead to Sega’s renewed focus on quality mobile titles. Until then, Sonic hopefuls will most certainly have their fingers crossed.