Sega has two very different Sonic games on the docket. Sonic Forces, a new 3D Sonic game where players can create their own Sonic personas, and the 2D throwback, Sonic Mania. Both games are targeted at different demographics of Sonic fans, but the success of Sonic Mania could end up determining the direction of future titles.
In an interview with Metro, Sonic Team's Takashi Iizuka spoke candidly about how Sonic Forces and Sonic Mania essentially splits the difference between the many different kinds of Sonic fans.
"The target audience for Sonic Mania is the fans who like the Mega Drive from back in the day. We didn't conduct playstesting with kids for Sonic Mania, since it's not really about what kids think about Mania," said Iizuka. "But for Forces we did conduct broad research and playtesting, and made sure it's accepted by a broader audience, from kids to adults."
The age gap among Sonic fans shouldn't be that much of a surprise. Sega has previously developed games that seemed to bridge the difference between fans of classic, 2D Sonic and 3D Sonic games as seen in titles like Sonic Generations (2011). However, Iizuka did reveal that Mania could signal a shift in focus for Sega if the game succeeds.
"[T]he surprising thing about Mania is that when we were conducting research, there's like a voice from the kids that they actually like pixlated and 2D Sonic too," Iizuka revealed." "In the past two decades Sonic games have been trying to target a broader audience from kids to adults… But for Mania it's kind of like a new approach. To target specifically 2D fans. So we don’t know whether it’ll be accepted positively in the market. We’ll find out after the game’s released, and we can figure out the direction of future titles after seeing the reaction."
Sonic Mania is developed by retro Sonic lover and porter Christian Whitehead. Alongside a gorgeous reveal trailer, Sonic Mania is specifically designed for 2D Sonic fans. However, a well designed game can overcome a lot of different player bases. If Sonic Mania ends up selling well, it's not too hard to see how Mania could pave the way for future Sonic games.