Why the Sonic-Mario game DOES matter

O, Blake. You are wise beyond your years, but on the upcoming Mario & Sonic at the Olympics title you are just out to lunch. And I thought Denver, not Salt Lake, was the Mile High City. But I digress…

Here’s why you’re wrong (and I’m going to go to the dark side and have Matt Casamassina help me on this one):

1. It’s not 1995, but it is 2007. Times have changed, that’s for sure. Mario is arguably on the up-and-up, while Sonic is on life support. But the blue guy’s eyes are fluttering with a little life after the Secret Rings. Mario alone makes this game a profitable one, Sonic just ices the cake (as long as he has no speaking roles whatsoever).

2. SEGA, in its twilight, is the developer. True, SEGA is the automobile in this development relationship, but Shigeru Miyamoto is the driver, and Mario is not the kind of icon I can honestly see Nintendo throwing to the wolves simply for SEGA’s sake. I imagine Miyamoto and his staff will have the ultimate say in what stays or goes in this title. The character reputations at stake here are too important to sacrifice for a quick buck. It’s also SEGA’s sports division, NOT Team Sonic.

3. Timing is RIGHT. Like the Wii launch itself, the release of this title during a maelstrom of competitor activity (Halo 3, Metal Gear Solid 4) is precisely what needs to happen. Did the PS3 impact Wii sales at all? Its games? Not really. That’s because, as is with all of Nintendo’s strategic decisions from here on out, the competition doesn’t matter because it is irrelevant. It’s the blender competing with the airplane analogy I made the other day. People buying Halo 3 are of no concern to Nintendo or SEGA with this title. People who are of concern are guys like me who got a Nintendo in 1986 and lived through the infamous SEGA-Nintendo wars of the 1990’s. This game will succeed or fail based on its own merits, unaffected by the wild success of Halo or Metal Gear.

4. Game mascots are here for-ev-er. New Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart DS, and the veritable orgy of media hype surrounding Super Mario Galaxy beg to differ with Blake’s point that mascots are pale shadows of their former selves. And while Zelda is losing popularity in Japan, I’d never have considered Link and company as much of a *true* mascot as Mario — because you can really have only one mascot. Today, when something Mario ships, Nintendo can almost predict to within 100 units how many units are going to sell (as long as it’s first party developed — what the heck happened with 3v3 basketball!?).

5. People cared about who was faster until the fatter guy kicked the blue guy’s ass. True, Miyamoto was doing his marketing best to sell units when he said ““Now that [Mario and Sonic] have been given the perfect opportunity to meet at the Olympic Games, we may finally learn who is actually faster.” But, people don’t care about who’s faster today because Mario already won the race. And handily. It’s fair to say people don’t care who’s faster, but it’s not fair to say they won’t care about this game. I think people will start to care very much so when they see a Wii Sports-Olympic Games mash up starring Mario and Sonic. That level of interaction, combined with two very memorable and nostalgic characters? GOLD, Jerry, gold.

6. BONUS ROUND: “Some gamers also seem to have missed out on the significance of this announcement. Nintendo and SEGA are actively working together on a cross-license product. Do you honestly believe that Sonic won’t be in Super Smash Bros. Brawl at this point? Of course he will! It would be an injustice if the mascot wasn’t.” (Matt Casamassina)