There's a rumor going around courtesy of TSSZ which thrives on Sonic the Hedgehog rumors that usually pan out in one way or another, so I mention this rumor with the upfront disclaimer that I do not know if it's true, but considering what has been going on lately with Sega's decision to limit its publishing and development efforts and the company's urgent need to raise cash, it sounds feasible. Word on the street is that Sega wants to reboot Sonic the Hedgehog and with the exception of speed, platforming, and the Sonic versus Dr. Eggman rivalry, every other element from the franchise is up for review and possible removal. If this is an April Fool's joke, it's late. The article is dated April 4. Here's some of the article:
We’re told the core tenets of speed, platforming, and surreal environments will remain–as will Sonic and Dr. Eggman and the rivalry they share, though both characters may undergo a makeover. But as part of this possible reboot, anything and everything else is under review, says the source. That includes, at its core, the main supporting Sonic cast, even Tails, our source says. And while the idea of surreal environments would remain, a whole new universe for Sonic to do battle and new characters for him to befriend may be concocted, in effect destroying most canon that precedes the relaunch and wiping the slate nearly clean, according to our source. All the meanwhile, new gameplay methods and gimmicks are allegedly being fleshed out for Sonic to try.
Specifically, our source alleged the concept of “zones” may be revamped. In this possible reboot, zones would be massively expanded and become their own worlds, sort of speak. Within the zones, there would be individual levels masked as missions for Sonic to complete. The source most closely compared it to Electronic Arts’s Burnout Paradise, which is open-world and lacks a concrete, linear level structure.
There's also talk that Sega may want to emulate Activision's success with Skylanders; specifically, the Skylanders toys that eager children have pestered their parents into paying high prices to acquire. The toys can then be "imported" into the Skylanders video game thanks to magical technology. The hope seems to be that kids would want to own Skylandersesque toys for Sonic and friends (whichever friends survive the reboot), thereby creating a new revenue stream for the Sonic brand. And, of course, if you don't commit to buying the toys, then you can't see everything that the associated Sonic game has to offer.
Sega and Sonic Team may aggressively pursue a collection model as part of the reboot. The source claimed the company intends to target the young audience bent on physical collectibles by perhaps going so far as to require physical emblems and collectibles to unlock special features in future Sonic series. An example would be to purchase a Knuckles statue in order to gain the echidna as a playable character in-game. The strategy could also be used to unlock extra levels.
While I bet the Skylanders business model would do well for Sega, I'm not interested in buying toys just to play the next Sonic game. I'm sure that there are plenty of people who are though, but if the next game requires a bunch of little action figures to properly play, then I'm out. I have a difficult enough time as it is talking myself into buying digital game expansions, so there's no way that I'm paying even more money for actual physical objects that have extra costs associated with them. When Sonic Generations was released last year, I remember talk from Sonic Team explaining that Generations was something of a bookend or capstone to the entire franchise and that things would be different from there on. I wonder if this is what they meant.
TSSZ is careful to point out that all of this is still in an early exploratory phase (assuming that it's true), but I wanted to share it with you because I found it to be an interesting idea even if I don't quite agree with it on a personal level. Sega is in a perilous position these days, and if they can't make Sonic work as a brand anymore, then I don't see how they can go on (not that's there's much left to go on with now). The company has to do something to remain intact, and the Skylanders model seems as profitable as any other to try (Sonic The Hedgehog Elite probably wouldn't work), but it's a model that risks driving away a portion of the audience. Hopefully what Sega gains outweighs what it stands to lose if this idea moves forward