In the ‘90s the Sonic Vs Mario thing was all about Sega Vs Nintendo games consoles. In brief: newcomer Sonic was fast, cool and edgy while Mario represented Nintendo’s long-standing values of family entertainment. Life was so much easier choosing between zany cartoon characters on consoles costing 150 quid. Far more straightforward than knowing if HDMI beats component, whether Blu-ray beats HD DVD and if it really is a shame that your telly only goes up to 1080i instead of 1080p. Earth to Sony and Microsoft!
My takeaway from last week’s announcement is just how smart Nintendo has been to keep its brand on the straight and narrow. Of course Sonic was a revelation that Nintendo didn’t see coming at a time when the Kyoto Corp fancied itself untouchable. But Sega milked that little hedgehog to within an inch of its life, then lost the plot completely. Back when the concept of PlayStation made sense to everyone, Sony trampled all over Sega almost without trying. Perhaps Sony should have objected more strongly to Microsoft eating up its elbow room, but we’ll see about that this Christmas. Meantime Nintendo, having been backed into a corner, has come out fighting – and the rest is recent history.
Sure this Olympic Games stunt is ‘the first time these two renowned stars have appeared together in a game’ but Sonic is already rampant across all platforms including Nintendo. Only Nintendo’s mascot is yet to branch out onto rival consoles. Given Nintendo’s strength and recent genius in the hardware stakes we’ll not be seeing Mario on Xbox or PlayStation for at least another generation.
I’m amazed people still scratch their heads at the runaway success of DS and Wii. Both formats offer something different, but more importantly fun and affordable in a way that appeals to everyone. Sony might have the allure of reaching for the stars, while Microsoft nurtures its FPS underground. Excuse the awful pun, but Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games shows Nintendo on the right track.