Managing Asia

Managing Asia

Sonic the Hedgehog is set to make a comeback — this time in a movie

Key Points
  • A movie focusing on Sonic the Hedgehog is set to be released at the end of 2019.
  • The project is part of Sega Sammy Holdings' efforts to revive its "Sonic the Hedgehog" franchise.
  • The company has a March 2020 operating profit target of 75 billion yen.
Sega wants to bring Sonic the Hedgehog to the next level

Sonic the Hedgehog, the iconic Sega game character, is set to soon make his comeback in a big way.

The blue hedgehog, who derived his name from the speed abilities he possesses, will be starring in a Sonic-focused movie — a partnership between Paramount Pictures and Sega — that is slated for release between Nov. 15 and Dec. 19 next year.

"We can bring Sonic to the next level and not only bring the Sonic game to existing fans, but we try to grow our fan base worldwide," Haruki Satomi, the president of Sega Sammy Holdings, told CNBC's Christine Tan.

The project is part of Sega's efforts to revive "Sonic the Hedgehog," one of the company's most recognizable franchises.

An earlier attempt to turn around Sega Sammy Holdings, the result of a merger between Sega and Sammy in 2004, had proven less than successful.

"Several years ago when we launched a Sonic game, the reception was very bad. There was a site called Metacritic that aggregates the critics and scores games from one to 100, and at that time, the Sonic game got 30 out of 100," Satomi said, referring to the 2006 release of "Sonic the Hedgehog."

Satomi said he felt as though the company had disappointed its fan base at the time, but sounded upbeat on Sonic's prospects, adding that lessons learned from the past flop included developing an openness to feedback.

"Sega is a very known company, many people on the website email or Facebook message asking me to make this kind of game, or please bring back this title again, or please improve the quality of this title again, so I try to answer those questions and requests," he said.

Satomi also highlighted how two titles released last year, "Sonic Mania" and "Sonic Forces," had seen more positive receptions and strong sales.

And despite a history of rivalry between Sega and Nintendo, another pioneering Japanese name in the gaming industry, it appears as though Sonic and Nintendo mascot Mario have buried the hatchet.

Both characters, among a variety of other characters from the companies, appear together in a series of crossover games, most recently "Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games."

"I think there is a possibility of beating Mario, but you know, Mario and Sonic used to be big rivals who competed against each other, but now we have become friends," Satomi said, adding that the two were "teaming up to entertain our fans."

Ahead, the entertainment company, which has branched into the casino resorts business, has a target of 75 billion yen in operating profit for the financial year ending in March 2020. It is also targeting 500 billion yen ($4.56 billion) in sales.